Montecristo Island

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There are many insider tips in Italy. But dream harbors in tiny villages or rustic restaurants are unspectacular when you compare them with the mystical island, which can only be visited twice a year.

An island couldn't be more exclusive: The Montecristo Island belongs to Italy and is located in Tuscany. It is strictly protected, only 1.000 visitors are allowed to visit the island on two different days a year. The mystical History and the biodiversity of the place makes it a special and exciting travel destination.


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Who lives on the island?

Today Montecristo is practically uninhabited and there are only a few workers on the island who take care of the forest. Nature has completely recaptured the island. Until the 16th century the island was home to a community of monks, remains can be found in the monastery of San Mamiliano to this day.

Today you can also visit the cave in which Maximiliano is said to have lived. The only house on the island of Montecristo that now houses the forestry department is the Villa Reale in Cala Maestra, built by an Englishman, in which a small natural history museum was also built. However, a visit is not really necessary as the entire island is one museum for animals and nature.

A vacation on the beach? Not here!

To get to Montecristo you have to fill out an application form and hope that you will be among the few who are allowed to visit the island. Researchers and school groups are the first to receive approval. To get a place you have to be patient and lucky.



Unique nature

The island of Montecristo consists mostly of gray or pink granite and looks something like a pyramid, which gives it a certain grace.

The highest mountains of Montecristo are the Monte Fortezza and the Cima dei Lecci. The very steep coastal cliffs make access to the island difficult and arduous. Only on the western side of the island is there a place where you can moor and get onto the island.

The climatic conditions on the island favored the flourishing of the flora and fauna of many species that were once present throughout the Tuscan archipelago. The nature there consists largely of Mediterranean bush vegetation with heather, rosemary, rock roses and helichrysum and is an important refuge for migratory birds.

As for wildlife, the wild goat is certainly a very good example, naval guides brought it with them in ancient times and nowadays it has optimally adapted to its surroundings. The island is also home to the rare Discoglossus sardus, a rare species of frog of Sardinian-Corsican origin. You feel like you have been transported back to a country before our time.

The island of Montecristo is on the path of many migratory birds and is also home to important sea birds such as the coral gull and the Mediterranean shearling. The island is also home to birds of prey such as the kestrel, the rare golden eagle, and some corvids. It is also home to endemic reptile species such as the yellow-green running snake and the Montecristo snake.

The marine flora and fauna around Montecristo is also very rich. On the seabed of Montecristo there are meadows with neptune grass and sea anemones. Until 40 years ago, the island was the natural habitat of the monk seal, a species that unfortunately is very rare in the Mediterranean. The island is in Pelagos whale sanctuary.

The nature reserve and its use

The entire island of Montecristo and the small offshore islands are nature reserves of zone 1, which protects the islands up to one kilometer out to sea.

The Council of Europe, which has declared the island a biogenetic reserve, has limited the annual number of tourists to 1.000, mainly scientists and nature conservation associations. Of these 1000 visitors, the National Park has been reserving 100 places on Montecristo for some years now for people who live on the Elba-Island dwell.



The story of Montecristo

According to legend, the name Montecristos comes from San Mamiliano. Who, after becoming a prisoner and then a slave, escaped and retired to the island of Montecristo. He lived alone and meditated in a cave called Grotta del Santo and called the island "Mons Christi".

There is also talk of a winged dragon, which guarded the island at Mamiliano's hand but was murdered at some point: At the point where the dragon was defeated in battle, a spring of crystal clear water gushed out.

The island became famous through the novel "The Count of Montecristo*”, which tells the well-known story of a treasure hidden on Montecristo in the monastery of San Mamiliano, built around 1700 by the Benedictine monks. Whether it was ever searched for or whether the treasure was even found cannot be clarified.

Why should i go there?

But the visit is really worth it, because the island of Montecristo has been spared a large part of the tourists to this day. Only four people live there, two conservationists and two officials from the Italian foresters.

The entire island of Montecristo has been declared a nature reserve. During your visit you must always follow the instructions of the local residents who will pick you up at the only pier on the island. Montecristo has strict rules. For example, you can instantly forget about a beach vacation as the coast can only be seen up to a kilometer inland.

Last updated: 06.02.2024

Image courtesy of sansa55 - stock.adobe.com

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