by Maria E. Bellini
ABOUT THE AREA:
The magical island of Capraia lies some 60k off the Tuscan coast. A relaxing ferry ride of just under three hours, will take you from Livorno, to this sparkling gem of an island that forms part of the seven islands that make up Tuscan Archipelago: Elba, Giglio, Giannutri, Pianosa, Montecristo, Gorgona and Capraia.
There are just two villages on the whole island, the minuscule harbour of Capraia Porto and the ‘main’ village of Capraia Paese. This means there’s not much need for roads, and the only one is in fact just 800 metres long and connects the island’s two villages.
Capraia is a tiny island indeed, at roughly 8 km long and 4 km wide, and with only between 300 to 400 people living there full time, it’s uncrowded hills offers some great walking and running opportunities.
Invaded throughout the centuries, this island has been home to Pirates, Phoenecians, Greeks, Etruscans, Romans, and Monks. It also served as a penal colony from 1873 until closure in 1986 when the area became a National Park – The Parco Nazionale Arcipelago Toscano – which thankfully has managed to limit property development across the island.
This is the only island in the Tuscan Archipelago that is of volcanic origin. A rustic, rugged landscape, hilly, with steep inclines, and plenty of rocky coves. Cliffs dominate the shoreline, so don’t expect to find sandy beaches! The highest point in the island is a moderate 445 mt at Monte Castello.
Over 650 types of flora have been recorded in Capraia. Terrain is covered mainly by the waist high distinctively balsamic perfumed mediterranean shrubbery, known as “macchia mediterranea” or maquis shrubland. There is not much woodland, just the occasional cluster of trees. So be prepared that in the summer months, you will not find much shade.
Animals include mouflon, the wild rabbit and the non-venomous western whip snake.
Capraia also offers plenty of opportunities for bird watching, with the island being a natural bridge connecting continental Europe to Africa during migration.
You can also enjoy watching the sea life in the clear, undisturbed sea waters with snorkeling and diving activities.
OPPORTUNITIES FOR WALKS/RUNS:
Other than the 800 metre long main road, the only roads to be found on the Island of Capraia are paths, trails, and mule tracks. This really is an island perfect for walkers and runners. We’ve outlined a medium walking route here.
Capraia is also recommended as a good place for solo travellers, as it’s considered a safe destination.
Routes are waymarked and well laid out, and free maps are available from tourist offices. As routes are relatively short, this makes it easier for eventual last-minute planning.
With three nights in Capraia, you will be able to get in plenty of walks and runs, without missing out on more leisurely activities like a dip in the sea.
The best time to go is from March to October, but beware that summer months can become very hot indeed, and as there’s not much shade, take plenty of sun block, a hat, and always remember to bring water on your walks or runs.
TRAIL RUNNING RACES IN THE AREA:
Capraia Rock Trail – March
24 km 1400 D+
GETTING TO CAPRAIA:
A daily ferry service from Livorno operated by Toremar – timetables may vary
Official site National Park – in Italian
Parks.it – in English
Maria Elisabetta Bellini is Italyontrail.com’s founder, born in the U.K, she came to running whilst living in Italy, where she still lives and trains. Never ceasing to marvel at what’s at the summit of a hill, or around the bend along the trail, she loves using trail running as a means to explore nature, contemplation and Italy.