Isola del Giglio (Italian pronunciation: [ˈiːzola del ˈdʒiʎʎo]; English: Giglio Island) is an Italian island and comune situated in the Tyrrhenian Sea, off the coast of Tuscany, and is part of the Province of Grosseto. The island is one of seven that form the Tuscan Archipelago, lying within the Arcipelago Toscano National Park. Giglio means “lily” in Italian, and though the name would appear consistent with the insignia of Medici Florence, it derives from Aegilium, “Goat Island”, a Latin transliteration of the Greek word for “little goat” (Aigýllion).
The island is separated by a 16 km (9.9 mi) stretch of sea from the nearest point of the mainland, the promontory of Monte Argentario. Mainly mountainous, it consists almost entirely of granite, culminating in the Poggio della Pagana (496 m (1,627 ft)). 90% of its surface is covered by Mediterranean vegetation, alternating with large pine forests and numerous vineyards which allow the production of the local “Ansonaco” wine. The coast is 27 km (17 mi) long, made up of rocks, smooth cliffs and several bays: Arenella, Cannelle, Caldane and Campese, the biggest one with its small village of the same name.
The municipality is composed of the islands of Giglio and Giannutri. Three principal settlements are located on the main island:
- Giglio Porto (G. Harbour) is located on the eastern coastal side and hosts the port. It is divided into the quarters of Chiesa, Moletto and Saraceno.
- Giglio Castello (G. Castle) is located upon a hill between the two other localities and is characterized by the majestic walls of a fortress. It is divided into the quarters of Casamatta, Centro, Cisterna and Rocca.
- Giglio Campese is located on the north-western coastal side and is a modern sea resort.
The modern island was formed probably 4.5 to 5 million years ago, and has been inhabited since the Stone Age. Later, it was probably an Etruscan military stronghold. Under the Roman dominion, Aegilium Insula or Igillia Insula it was an important base in the Tyrrhenian Sea, and was cited briefly by Julius Caesar in his De Bello Civili, by Pliny, by Pomponius Mela, and by the fifth-century AD poet Rutilius Claudius Namatianus, who celebrated Igilium’s successful repulse of the Getae and safe harbor for Romans, in a time when Igilium’s slopes were still wooded:
Eminus Igilii silvosa cacumina miror
Quam fraudare nefas laudis honore suae.
Wondering, Igilium’s wooded heights I view
Afar, and must not cheat them of the praise
Due to their fame.—Rutilius, De reditu suo, book i, verse 325
In 805, the island was donated by Charlemagne to the abbey of the Tre Fontane in Rome, and was later successively a possession of the Aldobrandeschi, Pannocchieschi, Caetani, and Orsini families, and of the municipality of Perugia. In 1241, the Sicilian fleet of Emperor Frederick II destroyed a Genoese fleet. From 1264, Isola del Giglio was a Pisan dominion, from which it passed to the Medici family. It suffered several Saracen attacks, which ended only in 1799.
On 14 June 1646, Grand Admiral Jean Armand de Maillé-Brézé was killed at the Battle of Orbetello, at sunset on his flag ship the Grand Saint Louis.
Alongside its history, the island was always renowned for its mineral ore: many columns and buildings in Rome were built with the Gigliese granite.
The island houses the remains of a Roman villa of Domitius Ahenobarbus (1st-2nd century), in the area of Giglio Porto (Giglio port). No traces of the once existing Temple of Diana can be seen now. The church of San Pietro Apostolo in Giglio Castello (Giglio castle) has an ivory crucifix attributed to the sculptor Giambologna.
The island is also the site of an Etruscan shipwreck dating back to the early Iron age, c. 600 BC. The cargo of the ship included copper and lead ingots, iron spits, amphorae and a Corinthian helmet. Even a wooden writing tablet with stylus was preserved. The finds are almost completely lost now.
Isola del Giglio is connected to Tuscany by ferries Toremar and Maregiglio (“sea lily”), departing from Porto Santo Stefano.
In Tuscany, this grape grows on the Monte Argentario coastline, a gorgeous location in lower Tuscany. Some of the well known towns in the area are Manciano, Orbetello and Capalbio. Capalbio is the local hangout of well to do left leaning politicians in Italy. This part of Maremma is not far from Rome. The area is very well known both for its seaside villages, hill towns and ancient Etruscan ruins.