Villages of the Isola del Giglio
The population of the Isola del Giglio is concentrated in three villages: Giglio Porto, a small picturesque harbour, Giglio Castello, with its medieval fortification on top of a mountain, and Campese, on the western coast, the most popular tourist spot thanks to its wide beache.
The charming town of Giglio Porto, situated on the eastern coast, is a colourful row of houses nestled along a cove between two piers, backed by a terraced hill. Sailing boats reflect on the crystal clear turquoise water of the island's only harbour. A commercial and tourist centre, with its waterfront bustling with people, cars coming and going and its restaurants constructed on stakes over the water, Giglio Porto is perfect for walking along the piers and shopping in the numerous boutiques.
Built by the Romans, it remained unchanged for eighteen centuries until it was expanded in 1796 and subsequently in 1979, following a disastrous storm that destroyed the piers. Signs of the Roman domination are still visible in the ruins of a sumptuous villa, that belonged to the Domizi Enobarbi family, and the eel farm. The Torre Saraceno, built by Ferdinand I in 1596, stands outside the southern pier.
From Giglio Porto a narrow, winding road, surrounded by vineyards, climbs up to Giglio Castello, 405 meters above sea level.
The oldest town on the island has kept its original fortified appearance and is surrounded by high medieval walls and towers. The Rocca Pisana, with its gate dating back to 1300, looms over a maze of narrow streets, arches, dark under-passages, steep flights of steps and old stone houses, crowded on top of one another. The medieval atmosphere is enforced by lazy cats strolling around, potted flowers and washing hanging out to dry between the houses.
Worth visiting are the church of S. Pietro Apostolo, which houses an ivory crucifix by Giambologna and other relics, and the various canteens, where you can taste the strong, local wine, the Ansonco, along with hearty food.
Giglio Campese, the most recently-built town, is now the island's most important tourist spot. Situated on the west coast, it stretches along the largest and most popular sandy beach.
The charming bay of Campese is bordered by the Faraglione (an impressing cliff) on one side, and by an imposing tower built by the Medicis between the seventeenth and the eighteenth century on the other. The tower played an important part in the heroic defeat of the Tunisian pirates in the last ever pirate raid on the island, on November, 18th 1799.
A popular spot for windsurfing and sailing, thanks to its southern winds, the Baia di Campese looks out to the west, on to some of the most spectacular sunsets over the island of Montecristo, Elba and, if weather conditions allow it, even as far as Corsica.