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Capraia Island

The third largest island in the Tuscan Archipelago, since 1996 it has been part of the UNESCO National Park and MAB Biosphere Reserve. A Marine Protected Area has been set up in its sea with areas of varying degrees of biological protection. It is also part of the International Cetacean Sanctuary, as it is home to numerous dolphins, fin whales and sperm whales, and, since 2020, the rare monk seal has begun to visit its shores again. It is the smallest municipality in Tuscany and the closest to Corsica: it is 65 km from Livorno, 35 km from Elba and only 31 km from Cape Corso. It is an island of volcanic origin 8 km long (from Punta della Teglia to the north to Punta dello Zenobito to the south) and 4 km wide, with an area of about 20 square km. Along its perimeter of about 30 km, characterized by high and rocky coasts, overlooking the sea, there are coves of harsh beauty. Geologically the island is entirely volcanic, consisting of powerful andesite flows, sometimes associated with tuffs and breccias. Only at Punta dello Zenobito are there basaltic rocks from more recent eruptions.

Capraia Island, located halfway between the Ligurian Sea and the upper Tyrrhenian Sea, is, among the islands of the Tuscan Archipelago, the only one of volcanic origin. Born nine million years ago, it is among the oldest islands in the Mediterranean. Its high coasts overlooking the sea open into numerous bays, coves, ravines and caves originated from stratifications of rocks of multiple colours, and shaped by erosion into ever-changing forms. Its elliptical shape stretches for 8 km from north to south and is characterized by mountainous areas that alternate with small valleys crossed by streams called “vadi”. On the island there is the only natural reservoir of the archipelago, called Stagnone or Laghetto. The island has been inhabited since the Neolithic, frequented by the Etruscans and the earliest navigators, used by the Romans as a naval base to combat Carthaginian and Ligurian piracy and finally chosen by groups of monks as the place of worship. A destination for pirates and corsairs, including the terrible Dragut, in the second half of the 1500s, Genoa made it safer by building the Fortress of San Giorgio and the coastal towers. In 1925 the Municipality of Capraia Isola passed definitively to the province of Livorno. Home to a penal colony until 1986, ten years later it was included in the Tuscan Archipelago National Park with the aim of preserving a unique natural enviroment and promoting tourism and sustainable development.

Although the name Capraia seems to derive from the ancient presence on the island of wild goats, the etymology of the word suggests a reference to its volcanic origin and its harsh and rocky nature, hence the term Aegylon, in Greek “land of goats”, from the Etruscan Karpa meaning rock, which later became Capraria in Latin, Cravaea in Ligurian and Capraghja in the ancient local dialect, a mixture of Corsican dialect with strong Ligurian and Sardinian ties, today unfortunately completely extinct. There have been interesting attempts to recover the ancient idiom with the aim of restoring expressiveness together with a sense of intimacy and belonging.