Author: marco annunziata
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Capraia Capraia Island, Italy
The island of Capraia is part of the Tuscan Archipelago. Its whole territory, with the only exception of the village and the area that was formerly part of the penal colony, has now been comprised in the National Park. It is situated at 65 Km from Livorno, the municipality that administers it, at 55 Km from Piombino and at 31 Km from Capo Corso (Corsica).
It covers an area of 19.26 square kilometres and is, for size, the third island of the Tuscan Archipelago. It can be reached from Livorno (2,5 hours) and is connected by regular daily ferries.
This island of volcanic origins emerged in the Tertiary Age. It has no level ground, but has a wild nature; it is divided by a mountain chain that raises up to 447 metres with Mount Castello and has indented and steep coasts with several grottoes.
The village of Capraia stands on a promontory that overlooks the harbour bay. It has typical Mediterranean characteristics with small and low white houses.
The most important tourist attraction of the island of Capraia is the small lake called Stagnone at 321 metres of altitude. This is a natural basin of fresh water that covers an area of 5,000 square metres with a depth below one metre. For many years, people believed that this lake covered the large crater of an extinct volcano.
The particularly mild climatic conditions allow the island to be visited all the year round. Motorised vehicles are not allowed to circulate in summer, though there is a regular public bus service connecting the port and the village. The local co-operative "Parco Naturale Isola di Capraia" organises boat trips and farm holidays.
The seafaring Greeks were the first to land there and gave the island the name of Aegylon, the land of goats. The Phoenicians, Etruscans and Romans appeared there in subsequent eras, creating the first human settlements. The historic remains from these settlements are collected in the Tower in the Port of Capraia. After the fall of the Roman empire, the island was left deserted, especially as a result of the invasions by pirates. And so, in the early centuries of Christianity, it became place chosen by hermits and anchorites. It was successively conquered by Saracens, Pisans and Genoese, who in the sixteenth century built, at a sheer height above the sea, the Forte San Giorgio. In 1873, a third of the surface of the island was used as an agricultural penal colony and made out of bounds to the rest of the population. The colony was closed down in September 1986, thus opening up the entire surface.
Other places of historic and cultural interest are the church of the Assunta, the church of St.Nicola and the Sacred Heart of Jesus, the church and convent of St.Antonio, the church of St.Stefano alla Piana, the Torre dello Zenobito and the Torre della Teglia.Torre del Porto is placed at the entrance of the island of Capraia, this construction is built on a circular base. It was built in 1516 by the Genoese for defence and as a look-out post for Turkish pirates and is still well preserved.
There are no "beaches" as such on the island of Capraia: there is only one small beach to be found along the wonderfully rocky coast and among the small rocky bays. This is Cala Mortola which can only be reached by sea. For those who wish to go there are two agencies that provide a boat-taxi service. Other accessible points for bathing are right below the castle, below the port tower and below the lighthouse. You can also swim from the two piers in the port, where the water is very clean, and also in the bay of Cala dello Zurletto. The Natural Park of theTuscan Archipelago was set up following a presidential decree in 1996 and it includes almost the whole of Capraia.
It is to be noted that apart from the stretch between Punta di Porto Vecchio and Punta della Fica, speargun fishing is not allowed; between Punta del Trattoio and Punta del Manzo both transitting and landing are prohibited, since it is a totally protected area and is to be repopulated with wildlife.
The same is true for the section of pathway between the traffic light and Torre dello Zenobito.