National Park Arcipelago Toscano

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The Sea
In Italy, several large reserves have been established, but the Tuscan Archipelago is the first great Marine Park. It is the most extensive protected area in all European waters. The Park is characterized by a large variety of habitats populated by different forms of life. The great biological diversity of the Archipelago is also due to the variety of the coastline and the seabed; from the beaches of Elba, to the rocky cliffs of western Capraia, a myriad of vegetation and animal species live in every corner of one of the most fascinating natural environments: the sea. In tidal waters, safely stuck on to the rocks, are the limpets "Patella rustica" and "P. caerulea" competing for space with the barnacles "Chthamalus stellatus" and "C. montagui", while on the edges of the tide, the sea anemone "Actinia equina" lives, a good biological indicator of unpolluted waters. Just under the surface the rocks are covered with seaweed, amongst which is Neptuneīs shaving brush "Penicillus capitatus", exclusive to the Archipelago, as well as the unmistakable green monocellular umbrella-shaped seaweed "Acetabularia acetabulum" and the fan-shaped "Padina pavonica". This area is also inhabited by sea-urchins "Paracentrotus lividus" and starfish "Echinaster sepositus", molluscs like the octopus "Octopus vulgaris" and the sea-ears "Haliotis lamellosa" along with multicoloured annelids such as the "Sabella spallanzani".
Near the rocks, where cormorants "Phalacrocorax carbo" and sea crows "P. aristotelis" dry their wings in the sun after fishing, you can see a great many species of fish, swimming lightly on the surface or just below the water, such as the comon ling "Coris julis", the "Thalassoma pavo", the two banded bream "Diplodus vulgaris", the cracker fish "Chromis chromis", the painted camber "Serranus scriba" and the red mullet "Mullus surmuletus". The sandy seabed is covered with authentic submerged forests, the prairies of "Posidonia oceanica", a true green lung of the Mediterranean marine ecosystem. Many species of fish like the salpas and the bogues live, eat and camouflage themselves amongst its ribbon-shaped tufts. You can encounter also the big bivalvular "Pinna nobilis", which is on the increase in the National Park, and the very rare sea horse "Hippocampus hippocampus". One of the most unforgettable experiences is to dive into a sea of incredible yellow, light blue and red colours of one of the most threatened marine species: the coral, which is represented in the Park by the rare red coral "Corallium rubrum". The largest part of underwater life is concentrated here. We can admire walls covered with seaweed and the most colourful sponges, along with the beautiful sea-fans of "Eunicella cavolinii", "E. singularis" and of the "Paramuricea clavata". In the clefts and holes, the lobster "Palinarus elephas", the moray "Muraena helena", the "Scyllarides latus" and the brown grooper "Epinephelus magrinatus" show their faces. With a little patience you can also admire, in their natural environment, the dentex "Dentex dentex", the gilthead bream "Sparus auratus", the bass "Dicentrarchus labrax" and the grouper "Epinephelus marginatus". The Tuscan Archipelago has seas of extraordinary beauty. Fish you usually donīt see like the swordfish "Xiphias gladius", the tunafish "Thunnus thynnus", "Lichia amia" and the moon fish "Mola mola" live there. Our favourite, the dolphins "Delphinus delphis" and the bottle-noses "Tursiops truncatus" often accompany solitary sailors in the cleanest of waters. We are not short of surprises, the rorqual "Balenoptera physalis" and the sperm-whale "Physeter macrocephalus" visit the Archipelago's waters all year round, although it is easier to spot them during the low season - which is another good reason to visit the Archipelago in spring and in autumn. The Park is, therefore, a natural heritage of extraordinary cultural and scientific value even if manīs presence has altered the quality of the natural environment. The beaches no longer seem suitable for the reproduction of the turtle "Caretta caretta", although it has been seen on Pianosa. Whereas the monk-seal "Monachus monachus", now rare in Italian waters, still lives in the deep ravines of the Island of Montecristo.

At Elba Island, there is tourist accommodation available in hotels, farm holiday, farmhouse, residence self-catering accommodation, b&b, rooms for rent, holiday homes, camp sites and tourist villages.