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Although the Tuscan Archipelago's geological history began between approximately two hundred and thirty to two hundred and forty million years ago, the rocks that form the peninsula of Calamita on Elba date from four hundred to five hundred million years ago, and are a fragment of the African continent. Volcanoes have played a leading role in the formation of the Islands of the Archipelago. The volcanic Island of Capraia originated approximately nine million years ago, after a series of eruptions, which are still visible at Cala Rossa, the splendid site of the Tower of Zenobito. Gorgona is formed by metamorphic rocks. Montecristo is entirely granite, as is almost the entire Island of Giglio. The origin of Pianosa is different again; totally flat, it consists of sedimentary rocks and shell formations which contain marine fossils.
The jagged Giannutri is formed entirely by dolomitic-limestone sediments, which have much in common with the nearby Apennine Chain. The Island of Elba is the most interesting from the geological point of view. It is mountainous in the
west with the granite massif of Mt. Capanne, the highest peak of the Archipelago (1018m), and with Cima del Monte and Calamita in the east, where gneiss and marble emerge. The plains of the central area are more densely populated and alluvial, and are made up of clay, sandstone and limestone. The areas of Elba consisting of granites, have to be the result of the rise of two intrusive magmatic forces which cooled down within the earth's crust. The surfacing of the magmatic body in the west resulted in the mountain group Capanne, exposing the splendid crystallization of tourmaline and quartz and aquamarine. The eastern magmatic body has almost entirely remained beneath the surface, covered by schists and limestone. On the eastern side of Elba one finds the famous iron
minerals which greatly affected the history, the economy and the landscape of the Island. The Island of Elba is one of the world's most famous mineral and historic mining sites, "....... not merely the iron soil .......but the entire Island ......is a great mineralogical open-air-museum."(B. Lotti) The oligist and pyrite crystals of Rio, the ilvaite and the magnetite of Calamita, the policromous tourmalines and the beryls of St. Pietro and St. Ilario are all exhibited in the most important Natural History Museums of the world. They are also exhibited in the mineralogy Museums of the Universities of Florence and Pisa as well as in the Tonietti Museum in Rio Marina and the Ricci Museum in Rio dell'Elba alongside numerous other Elban mineralogical examples like: the copper
minerals (azurite, malachite, cuprite and chrysocolla), the iron minerals (hermatite, magnetite, ilvaite, limonite and pyrite) and the pegmatic ones (tourmaline, beryl, quartz and orthoclase) plus other minerals such as garnet, chalks and calcites. Such extraordinary cultural and scientific wealth is being promoted by the Tuscan Archipelago National Park. UNESCO has introduced the Elban mining areas onto the provisional list of geological sites of the World Heritage: "to protect and appreciate such wealth as an inalienable and
unrenewable resource for the tourist activities that constitute the economy of the Archipelago today". Virgil, Strabo Diodoro Siculo and other classical authors have described the activities in the iron mines and granite quarries in the Greek Aethalia and the Roman Ilva times. Up until our day, even
though with changing fortune, the mining activities and granite sites have continued marking, in an unmistakable way, the history and traditions of this small, but wonderful part of the planet.
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.