A wild pearl in the Mediterranean: trekking and boat trip itineraries to discover the uncontaminated nature of Capraia

Of the seven pearls of the Tyrrhenian that are under the protection of the National Park of the Tuscan Archipelago, Capraia is without a doubt the wildest and the first nucleus of the park itself: dominated by Mediterranean scrubland, its virgin cliffs are marked by a single, tiny village with few houses and a small port. Nature reigns supreme, with its rare flora and fauna.

Until recently, Capraia had long been used as a prison island: a fact that limited human influence and construction thereby increasing the charm of the place. The buildings of the former Penal Colony today make up a heritage of buildings recognised as “common property”, now accessible to local inhabitants and tourists. Along the panoramic road that leaves the port you can visit the area coasting the crystalline waters of the sea.

Edifici abbandonati dell’ex Colonia Penale.

Edifici abbandonati dell’ex Colonia Penale.

Lovers of marine beauty will be spoilt for choice by the experiences offered by the island: near the town, you can access the sea in four different ways to go diving, and boat trips leave the port every day. Navigating the coast you can see the falesie: these spectacular crags are found inside the cliffs, home to a rich variety of fish species. But don’t forget to take time out for a dip in the prettiest coves. 

For the more adventurous amongst you, Capraia is at its best when visited on foot. Its wildest side can be explored following the itineraries outside of the town, each one on a discovery of a different corner of paradise, further exalted by clear views of Elba Island and Corsica. 

Corsica all’orizzonte.

Corsica all’orizzonte.

  • Cala dello Zurletto 

Around twenty minutes walking, this is a very easy excursion passing through typical Mediterranean scrubland. From the centre of the town, we walk towards the Forte di San Giorgio: overlooking the sea, this spectacular castle was built in 1540 by the Republic of Genoa. Continuing, we pass the helipad until we arrive at a fork in the path: to the left we reach Bellavista, a natural terrace overlooking the cliff; to the right there is a short climb and then we descend to the cove where we can enjoy a regenerating swim in the green-blue waters.  

  • Former Penal Colony  

This path is of intermediary level and starts from the port: passing alongside the Church dell’Assunta, we leave the inhabited centre to climb along an asphalted road that eventually becomes an easily seen, wide dirt track. Climbing, each bend in the path gives us yet another, magnificent view. We soon reach the arch that used to lead to the prison and pass the abandoned buildings of the colony; the peace and perfumes of the sea contrast with the ruins and echoes of the past condemned. Feelings of freedom and confinement fuse together in this unique atmosphere. Along the path we can spot various species of birds: the perfect place for birdwatchers.  

  • Punta dello Zenobito 

From the town square, we pass the church of San Nicola on the right taking the ancient mule track (dating back to 1545) which used to connect the inhabited centre with the Zenobite Tower. This itinerary is challenging due to its length, climb, sun exposure and the final, uneven track. After around three hours’ walk, we reach the Zenobite Tower, a watchtower built in 1545 on the chimney of one of the island’s two ancient volcanoes. Here we can look over the Cala Rossa, so-called for the volcanic rock of which it is made. A breath-taking scene over the sea and times gone by, embraced within a wild and incredible nature.  

Return itinerary Cala dello Zurletto 

Length of route: approx. 2.0 km 

Climb: 80 metres 

Difficulty level: easy 

Means: by foot 

Departure point: Google Maps   

Return itinerary Ex Colonia Penale  

Length of route: approx. 10.00 km 

Climb: 300 metres 

Difficulty level: average 

Means: by foot 

Departure point: Google Maps  

Return itinerary Punta dello Zenobito 

Length of route: approx. 16 km 

Climb: 800 metres 

Difficulty level: challenging 

Means: by foot 

Departure point: Google Maps  

Recommended equipment: trekking shoes, water bottle of 1.5l or more, rucksack with approx. 20 litre capacity. 

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