The history of Giglio Island
From Porto S. Stefano, it is one hour’s ferry ride to Isola del Giglio. Isola del Giglio, with a population of 1000 scattered over a surface of 22 km2, includes sites of fascinating and uncontaminated beauty, such as the golden beaches, the small secluded creeks, the clear seas and the Mediterranean shrub colours. Some of the creeks and beaches, for exampleArenella and Cannelle, can be reached by car; some others, like Caldane, on foot or by boat, which will also take you on a tour of the island. The imposing Medici tower, with the faraglione (stack), watch over the Campese beach, with its fascinating sunsets. This is the heart of the tourist offer, the largest and best equipped beach on the island. Its exposure to the west means that it is light until late in the evening, when the sunrays disappear behind Isola di Montecristo. Its clear and crystalline waters, rich in marine flora and fauna, make the seabed of Giglio among the most beautiful in the Mediterranean. Divers can venture through posidonia meadows, rocky caves coloured by sea anemone, meeting shoals of sea-bream, sheepshead, croakers.
The diving centres are open all the year round, offering specialised courses. The old customs and traditions on Isola del Giglio still survive: the fishing methods are still the same, baskets and fruit-drying racks (cesti) are woven by hand, the famous "Ansonico" wine grapes are produced, and also through healthy home cooking, tribute is paid to nature which has left its mark everywhere.
For walking enthusiasts, "Giglio" offers enchanting paths through pine, holm oak woods and Mediterranean shrub full of colours and perfumes. The island has been inhabited since the Iron Age. Later on it probably became an Etruscan military base and, also under the Roman domination, it had a strategic position in the Tyrrhenian Sea. Just outside the village of Giglio Porto, not far below sea level, you will find the remains of the Roman Domizi Enobarbi villa: it is a large area which includes a sea tank for fish farming, perimeter walls and mosaics; the whole area is known as 'I castellari di Giglio Porto'. In subsequent periods it was ruled by several noble families from central Italy and, from 1264, by the Pisa government which then transferred it to the Medici. In the Middle Ages it was controlled by the Aldobrandeschi family, then by the Commune of Perugia. It was included among the Pisa properties from 1264 to1406, then it was transferred to Florence.
In 1544, the pirate Khayr al-Din, also known as Red Beard, ransacked the island, killed all those who opposed him and deported as slaves more than 700 Giglio inhabitants. Following this bloodthirsty incursion, the Medici family repopulated the island with people from the Siena area. The Saracen attacks continued until 1799