Tuscan Islands 2016 Walking Festival


Through October 9:  TUSCAN ISLANDS WALKING FESTIVAL. Tuscan archipelago. Various outdoor activities. Free participation.

Explore the Tuscan archipelago by walking its many trails, exploring the unique Mediterranean maquis, dense shrub land with oaks, junipers, cedar, myrtle and an abundance of blooming plants and flowers and learning about the characters who left their indelible traces on the islands.

In the Tyrrhenian Sea between Corsica and the Tuscan coast lie seven islands encompassing the Tuscan Archipelago National Park, an area of 150,000 acres. The park comprising Europe’s largest marine preserve protects the flora, fauna and history of this region. Within the park one finds rugged mountains, grassy pastures, oak and chestnut forests, iron-rich hills, prolific birdlife, numerous animals and, of course, the crystal blue waters surrounding the islands.

To best experience this natural island treasure trove, put on hiking boots, take a camera and join one of the activities planned by the Tuscan Walking Festival.  To tempt island adventurers,  below is a sampling of organized excursions:

Thursday, September 29, 9:30 am. “Marciana to Pomonte: Ancient Roads of Communication.” This challenging hike begins in the village of Pomonte, continues up a granite landscape, through chestnut forests with small streams to the ridge overlooking the Pomonte Valley. The route follows an ancient road for shepherds, farmers and travelers—religious, commercial and military. The program includes a shuttle bus back to the Piazza del Chiesa where a local hotel invites participants for a snack. (Difficult, 6 hours. Meet at Piazza del Chiesa in Pomonte, Elba).

Friday, September 30, 4 pm. Follow a seaside walk learning a romantic story and observing the remains of the early 20th century kiln that produced bricks of local limestone. The tale includes the furnace’s enigmatic owner—a La Scala ballerina, a prince and forbidden love. (Easy, 2 hours. Meet at Nisporto parking lot, Rio nell’Elba, Elba).

Saturday, October 1, 10 am. “Giglio’s Aroma of Forest Funghi.” Discover the world of mycology learning about mushrooms, both edible and inedible. Bring a camera and a packed lunch on this adventure beginning in the village of Giglio Castello walking through the macchia shrub land in search of funghi. The tour will return to the town in time for the last ferry or for those remaining on the island, dinner in a local restaurant will feature the mushrooms gathered. (Moderate difficulty, 6 hours. Meet at Piazza Gloriosa, Giglio Castello. Giglio Island can be reached by ferry in an hour from the port of San Stefano on the mainland. For timetable see, www.giglioinfo.it)

Saturday, October 1, 9 am. “Pianosa, Island of Diversity.” Walk on this former penal colony island formed of sedimentary rock and known for its plentiful fossils. Explore plants, animals and fossils on this fully protected island. Excursion ends at dock in time for 5 pm ferry back to Elba. (Easy, 5 hours. Meet at Aquavision ferry ticket office Marina del Campo, Elba. 9 am. Supplemental cost of ferry: €26.90 for non-residents, €8 for residents).

Thursday, October 6, 10 am. Join a nature hike on western Elba. From Patresi the route ascends through chestnut forests to the sanctuary of Madonna del Monte. The sanctuary, known for its pure water spring as well as Napoleon’s secret spot for his trysts with mistress Maria Walewska, also contains Sodoma’s 16th century frescoes. Next the hike visits the ancient burial site of Serraventosa, continuing through the terraced slopes along the coast. On a clear day, views of nearby Corsica and the lush valley below add to the enjoyment. (Moderate difficulty, 5 hours. Meet at the Hotel Belmare, Patresi).

Saturday, October 8, 9:30 am. This walk leaves from the ancient village of Marciana on the island of Elba, travels through the woods to reach the shrine of St. Cerbone. This 6th century saint, exiled to Elba by the Lombards, lived out his days in a nearby cave. Lucky walkers might spot moufflon, wild sheep, on the rocky cliffs.

(Easy, 3 hours. Meet at Casa del Parco, Marciana, Elba).

Sunday, October 9, 10 am. Trek through the oak woods of eastern Elba, observing the autumn vegetation and arriving on the summit of Monte Giove (Mt. Jupiter).   Participants can explore the remains of an ancient fortress. (Moderate difficulty, 3 hours. Meet at Casa del Parco, Rio nell’Elba, Elba).

Participants should wear comfortable, seasonal clothing with hiking boots strongly advised. Sunglasses, hat, sunscreen and a backpack containing sufficient water and snack or lunch for longer hikes recommended. Optional equipment might include a camera, binoculars, walking sticks and a small notebook.

All excursions are free but advance booking is required. For bookings call (056) 590/8231 or email: walking@parcoarcipelago.info including chosen excursion, number of participants and telephone number.

For a complete schedule of events and info on traveling to the islands, see the website: www.tuscanywalkingfestival.it.  (rita kungel)