Guide to Giglio Island – By a Frequent Visitor

Thanks to local Tuscan and Giglio Island expert Suzanne Talenti for this guide to the island!

Dreaming of going to a small island in Tuscany? 

Isola del Giglio (Giglio Island) is breathtaking to behold. It has charming towns, mesmerizing clear water and a dramatic coastline with hidden coves and clean beaches. 

Here’s what you need to know to plan your trip to the island– from someone who knows the island well. Isola del Giglio is very special to my family: my Italian father-in-law grew up on the Giglio, and my husband and I got married there! My in-laws still spend a good part of the year at their house on the island, and I visit regularly.

Here’s my guide to:

  • what makes Giglio Island special
  • whether it’s the right place for you
  • when to go
  • tips for sea and land activities on Giglio Island
  • what to eat and drink
  • where to stay on Isola del Giglio
  • how to get around
  • how to get to Giglio Island

You’ll even learn how to pronounce Giglio like a pro.

Andiamo al Giglio – Let’s go to Giglio Island! 

Visiting with your children? Be sure to read Giglio Island with Kids

Where is Giglio Island?

Giglio Island is a small island off of the southern Tuscan Coast, in the Tyrrhenian sea. It sits just southwest of the Monte Argentario peninsula. 

To get to Giglio Island, you take an hour-long ferry from Porto Santo Stefano, a ferry town on Monte Argentario . 

Porto Santo Stefano is about 190 km southwest of Florence (about 2 ½ hour drive), 200 km southeast of Pisa airport (about a 2 hour 15 minute drive), and 146 km northwest of Rome Fiumicino airport (about a 1 hour 45 minute drive). 

Giglio Island in Italian is Isola del Giglio

The pronunciation of Isola del Giglio is: EE-zoh-lah dehl JEE-lyee-oh

Listen to how to pronounce Isola del Giglio here:

Why Giglio Island is So Special

  • It is 24 km² (9.3 square miles) of striking mountainous terrain, peaking at over 488 m (1600 ft)
  • A blend of unspoilt and cultivated landscapes with Mediterranean shrub, pine forests and vineyards
  • 28 km of jagged granite coastline with small coves and beaches
  • 2 charming villages and 1 beach town
View from above of Giglio Campese, a beach town on Giglio Island. You can see buildings, green hillsides, and the turquoise sea.

Giglio Facts:
Giglio Island is the second largest of 7 islands in the Tuscan Archipelago National Park. It’s part of a protected marine reserve, and is one of only 3 Italian parks on the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN)’s Green List. 

There are 700 species of Mediterranean flora. The sea is host to rich marine life, like extensive Neptune sea grass, coral, and gorgona sea fans. The crystal clear water makes it easy to see the thriving sea life. Migrating whales and dolphins can even be spotted in spring and autumn.

Giglio Island gained worldwide notoriety in 2012 when the huge Costa Concordia cruise ship ran aground in front of the small, quiet port. The disaster lives in the memory Giglio locals, but the wreck has been taken away and the rich marine life flourishes again.

Who Should (or Shouldn’t) Visit Isola del Giglio

Sì! Yes! If you:

  • dream of crystal clear water and spectacular vistas
  • like swimming off the rocks (scogli) as well as beautiful beaches
  • like discovering small coves by boat
  • want breathtaking natural scenery  
  • enjoy hiking
  • like sunsets: watch the sun go down over the sea from Giglio Campese beach.

Skip it if you:

  • want convenience: you can have a perfectly lovely vacation sitting on Campese beach. But Giglio Island’s most spectacular scenery requires effort 
  • want beach clubs with plush facilities and comprehensive amenities like babysitting
  • have limited mobility: Campese is flat and relatively convenient. However, the rest of island is hilly and lacks accessibility
  • are looking for night life or the typical Italian beach scene
Tower at the end of a rocky point on the coast of Giglio Island in Tuscany. Golden sand and turquoise water in front and boats in the sea further out.
Campese beach

When to Visit Giglio Island

Isola del Giglio is not a large island. Its three towns are small, and the few sandy beaches fill up fast. In July and August, when Italians go on vacation for ferragosto, the restaurants and beaches are crowded.

To get a break from the crowds, I recommend visiting Giglio Island in June or September. In July it’s best to go during the week. If you want to enjoy the scenery without necessarily going in the water (hike and visit the island’s small villages), April, May and October are also lovely. 

The Giglio is pretty deserted from November through March, when hotels close their doors for the season. There are only about 1400 residents, so very little is open.

Special Events on Giglio Island Throughout the Year:

  • San Lorenzo (August 10th) – beginning of multi-day celebration of Giglio Porto’s patron saint (San Lorenzo); the Palio Marinaro is a rowboat race – the town’s four neighborhoods (rioni), compete against each other as crowds lining the harbor roar and boisterously cheer them on; fireworks at midnight
  • San Mamiliano (September 15th) – celebration of Giglio Castello’s patron saint (San Mamiliano); religious procession; donkey race; evening dancing of the local dance (quadriglia) in the piazza; fireworks
  • Festa dell’Uva e delle Cantine – Giglio Castello’s tiny wine cellars open their doors for tastings of Giglio Island’s local wine, called ansonaco; also traditional foods to try, and music
  • MusicalGiglio – chamber music festival
  • Il Giglio È Lirica – music festival

What to Do on Giglio Island

Go For a Swim and Enjoy the Beaches

Giglio Island is full of picturesque spots for enjoying the clear water, from tiny coves to a large sandy bay. 

Good To Know: Most of Giglio Island’s beaches are tiny, except for Campese beach. And the majority of beach space is devoted to private beach clubs, where you can rent an umbrella (ombrellone), sun lounger (lettino) and/or beach chair (sdraio) for the day. 

There are also free public beaches, where you don’t have to pay, and you bring your own umbrella and beach chairs. Space is first-come first-serve. 

If you’ve just gotten off the ferry at Giglio Porto, here are the closest places to take a dip:

  • Giglio Porto beaches – Access is free, and there aren’t amenities on the beach, but the town of Giglio Porto is right there, full of bars and restaurants. There are free hoses along the harbor where you can rinse off your feet. Best for: taking a dip right after you get off the ferry, one day on the island, if you’re staying in Giglio Porto and want to take a quick swim, in the morning (shade starts early). Scalettino beach, known by the locals as lo scalettino, is a free sandy beach on the north end of the harbor. Saraceno beach is a tiny cove nestled among the town’s cobblestone streets at the south end of town. It has a miniscule strip of pebbly sand but the setting is one of a kind.

Here are the beaches south of Giglio Porto:

  • Cannelle beach – Sandy, part beach club/part free beach. Soft, fine white sand and water that stays shallow a few meters out. Clear water is fantastic for snorkeling. Pay toilets and showers. Best for: families with small children (the water stays shallow a few meters out), early risers, if you’re staying in Giglio Porto, snorkeling. Access: hilly walk from Giglio Porto, taxi, water taxi, drive (expensive parking). 

  • Caldane beach – Sandy, part beach club/part free beach. Gets packed during the summer, so it’s best to reserve Spiaggia delle Caldane beach club loungers/umbrellas before you arrive. Best for: hiking to the beach, roughing it (no facilities, so bring your own food and water), early risers, if you’re staying in Giglio Porto, snorkeling. Access: hike past Cannelle beach, or water taxi. 

North of Giglio Porto:

  • Arenella beach – Mostly beach club/small free beach. It’s only about 100 meters long. Sandy beach but has rocks on sea bottom which can make it tricky getting in the water. Best for: early risers (gorgeous sunrise), if you’re staying in Giglio Porto, snorkeling. Access: taxi, or big hike from Giglio Porto.  

On the west side of Giglio Island:

  • Campese beach – Giglio Island’s largest beach, it is sandy and flanked by rocky coast. It has beach clubs and free beaches. Best for: families, aperivito and picnic at sunset, accessibility, and amenities. Access: drive, bus or taxi from Giglio Porto. 

Helpful Tip: Have you ever wanted to swim off rocky cliffs into bright blue water? Try the scogli (rocky cliffs) at Scalettino beach, Arenella and Campese. If you like hiking, venture to Punta del Capel Rosso, on the remote southern tip of the island. 

Or, rent a boat and swim off the boat right into the water in one of Giglio’s gorgeous coves that are only reachable by boat, like Cala del Corvo. 

Here’s a map of Giglio’s beaches:

Water Activities

Giglio Island is a scuba diving destination because of excellent visibility and incredible marine life. There are several companies at Giglio Porto and Campese that rent diving equipment and run excursions. 

Because the area is a marine reserve, there are wonderful snorkeling opportunities all around the island.

Most of Giglio Island’s coast can only be reached from the sea. Boating is the only way to see the island’s many special coves and Cala del Corvo, a grotto on the western side of the island. There are boat rental companies at Giglio Porto and Giglio Campese, as well as Caldane and Arenella beaches.  

My favorite way to see the Giglio is a boat trip around the island (called a Giro dell’Isola in Italian). Several boat companies on the island offer these guided trips: definitely book in advance in the summer months! This is an unforgettable experience: a chance to take in the entire coastline and even take a swim in special spots that can only be reached by boat.

It’s not all about motor boats: explore the inlets and coves along the island’s coastline by kayak, just stay aware of the wind and current.

Another fun way to explore the coastline and the bays is on a SUP (stand up paddle board) or in a pedalò (pedal boat). Beach clubs at Giglio Campese, Cannelle and Arenella beaches offer short rentals. 

Explore Giglio’s Towns

Colorful buildings set on the sea in Tuscany. Behind are hills with green low brush. Boats docked.
Giglio Porto

Giglio Porto (harbor) is where the ferry arrives. Giglio’s harbor is picture-perfect, with pastel-colored houses, and green and red lighthouses to welcome you to the island.

Stroll along the harbor front, lined with bars, little shops and restaurants. Walk all the way from one lighthouse to the other, checking out the boats and tucking into small shops for souvenirs on the way. 

Giglio Castello literally means castle. It stands guard on the island’s highest peak. Enjoy the incredible views from up here– on clear days you can see the island of Monte Cristo. Castello is in the association of I Borghi Più Belli d’Italia: Italy’s most beautiful villages. 

Inside the castle walls, get lost in the maze of cobblestone streets. You’ll find bars, restaurants, shops and small piazzas hidden among the winding paths.

Giglio Campese is the town at the island’s largest beach. There are restaurants and stores scattered in various clusters among the houses and along the shore. But this town’s main attraction is the long, wide sandy beach that faces west on the majestic bay.

Good To Know: Cars are not allowed in the small town centers, so you can explore them carefree. 

Read more about Isola del Giglio’s Towns

Hiking on Isola del Giglio

Rocky and dirt hiking path leads through low brush. Hiking sign on left.

The Giglio is a great place for hiking: be prepared for some rough terrain and hills. Some trails wind along the coast while others give you a chance to explore the inland terrain.

You can also walk along the island’s paved roads. They are steep, curvy, and often narrow, but with incredible views at every turn.  

Before there were paved roads on the island, there were the mulattiere (mule paths) for mules carrying loads, as well as people. Today you can hike the steep paths all the way up to the Giglio Castello from Giglio Porto and Giglio Campese.

There are also walks and hikes that lead to the island beaches and swimming spots. For example, from Giglio Porto you can hike to Caldane beach, which is only reachable on foot or by boat. Another spectacular hike goes along Via Panoramica, all the way out to the Capel Rosso lighthouse on the island’s southern tip. 

Helpful Tips: Don’t forget to take enough water, and make sure you wear good shoes! Stop in at the Giglio Island tourist office for a trail map.

Cycling on Giglio Island

There are only about 20 km of paved roads on the Giglio, which connect the three towns: Giglio Porto, Castello and Campese. But the roads are intense and offer one of a kind views.

Get ready for challenging ascents and descents, curves and hairpin turns, and breathtaking vistas. There are also paths for skilled and adventurous mountain bikers. 

Want help on the steep climbs? Try an electric bike. If you’d like to rent one when you get to the island, Eco Bike is right at Giglio Porto. 

What to Eat and Drink on the Giglio

Plate of seafood pasta.

Not surprisingly, seafood and fish are the star of Giglio Island menus! 

On Giglio Island keep an eye out for the following local specialties:

  • Ansonaco – the local wine
  • Panficato – a traditional sweet chewy cake, similar to Christmas panforte from Siena, made with figs, walnuts, honey, wine and grapes
  • Zuppa di pesce – fish stew 

You’ll find the classic dishes popular up and down the Italian coasts, like spaghetti alle vongole (spaghetti with clams), risotto ai frutti di mare (risotto with shellfish), fritto misto (mixed fried seafood: usually calamari and shrimp) and pesce grigliato (grilled fish). 

A pre-dinner aperitif, or aperitivo, is a must on Giglio Island. You’ll see plenty of bright orange aperol spritzes, as well as mojitos.

If you want to grab food for a picnic at the beach, Giglio Island has alimentari (small food shops) in all three towns, where you can get supplies and sandwiches. Our favorite for bread, focaccia, pizza a taglio (takeaway pizza squares) and sandwiches is Panificio di Cristina. There are two stores, one in Giglio Porto and one in Giglio Campese. 

Our favorite spot for a restaurant meal and an evening out is Giglio Porto. Picturesque restaurants line the harbor, and some are even perched above the water where you can look out at the boats while enjoying delicious food. After dinner take a stroll along the harbor, window shop at the cute little stores, and enjoy the one-of-a-kind nighttime ambience.

Here are the restaurants that have become my favorites over the years. They all specialize in fish and seafood. 

  • La Vecchia Pergola is our favorite for antipasti and primi
  • Ristorante Doria is right on the water
  • La Grotta del Pescatore is an intimate setting with great food
  • Terrazza La Guardia at La Guardia Hotel has a fabulous terrace overlooking the water

If you want to have a pre-dinner aperitivo in Giglio Porto, know that it’s bursting with bars overlooking the harbor. It’s hard to go wrong, but our favorites include Bar da Rosa (fun cocktails if you don’t mind loud music) and Ferraro (very nice staff).

In Giglio Castello, my pick is Ristorante da Santi – the restaurant is refined, the food excellent, and the location is breathtaking. You’re on top of the world, with sweeping views and a front row seat at sunset.  If you want to sample ansonaco wine, stop in at winemaker Bibi Graetz’s intimate Bar Balocchi.

In Giglio Campese, have a reliable seafood lunch at La Miniera and sunset aperitivo at Tukul, Lo Scoglio, or Chiringuito.

Craving gelato? Our favorite gelateria is Gelateria Artigianale da Nilo, hidden in a small cobblestone alley in Giglio Porto. It has stood the test of time over the decades my Italian family and I have been going to Giglio Island. 

View of wooden table with people sipping drinks and eating snacks for aperitivo. Bowls of chips and olives and squares of pizza.
Aperitivo at Ferrara in Giglio Porto

Where to Stay on Giglio Island

When deciding where to stay on the Giglio it’s best to keep in mind how close you want to be to a beach, and how you’ll get to the beach (if the beach is a priority).

Accommodation is clustered in the three towns. Here are the pros and cons of each:

  • Giglio Porto: Great for dining out, boat rental, small town beaches. Walk/hike to Cannelle and Caldane beaches. Campese beach is on the other side of the island.
  • Giglio Castello: Stay up high in a castle village with incredible views. Inland and a drive to the beaches.
  • Giglio Campese: You’re right on the island’s largest beach and right in front of the sunset. But Campese is anonymous, built up, and lacks the charm of the island’s other towns.

Giglio Island offers a range of accommodation, from apartments to B&Bs to hotels. Among the island’s truly special and unique accommodation is the Baia del Sole campground on the cliffs overlooking the sea near Campese, Pardini’s Hermitage  (only reachable by boat), and the Faro di Punta Fenaio Resort in a real lighthouse!

For complete recommendations, read Where to Stay on Giglio Island

Getting Around Giglio Island

Scooter, bus and taxi are your best bets if you’re going to Giglio Island for just a few days . Here’s the rundown on all your different options for getting around.

Driving on Giglio Island

Even though I usually don’t recommend bringing a car to the Giglio, driving is the easiest and fastest way to get from town to town. Roads go between Giglio Porto, Cannelle beach, Arenella beach, Giglio Castello and Giglio Campese. 

The problem is parking! It’s a major hassle.

Street parking is extremely limited, especially during the summer. Giglio Castello has a parking lot outside of the castle walls, and Giglio Campese has a decent sized parking lot at the sports field, but parking at Giglio Porto is scarce. At Cannelle and Arenella beaches there is limited parking, for a hefty fee.

Driving on the island is not for the faint of heart–  the roads are narrow in spots, and curvy with hairpin turns (with no guardrail in sight).

The town centers are very small and the best way to see them is on foot. They are closed to traffic. The charming cobblestone streets of Giglio Porto and Giglio Castello are so narrow that cars wouldn’t even be able to get through. 

My rule of thumb is definitely avoid bringing your car during the summer, unless you’ll be staying for at least a week, and your accommodation has designated parking.

In May, June, September and October parking is easier to find. Bringing your car may be worth it, as long as your accommodation has its own parking spots. 

If you bring your car, be sure to reserve the ferry in advance.

You may want to read
Driving in Italy
Renting a Car in Italy
Parking in Italy

People walking down a pedestrian street. Colorful buildings on either side. People in beach clothing.
The small town centers on Giglio Island are pedestrian only

Giglio Island by Scooter or Motorcycle

My favorite way to get around Giglio Island is by motorcycle. It’s the most fun, the easiest and fastest. Nothing else comes close to whizzing up, down and around the island, taking in the breathtaking views from the back of my husband’s bike. 

Not only that, even when cars can’t find a parking spot, there’s always a little corner for a motorcycle or scooter. 

If you bring your own motorcycle or scooter, in the summer I’d recommend reserving the ferry in advance. 

There are many rental agencies at Giglio Porto where you can rent a scooter if you don’t bring your own.

Taking the Bus on Giglio Island

Regular bus service runs between Giglio Island’s three towns all day long during the summer. The route runs from Giglio Porto to Giglio Castello (15 minutes) and then on to Giglio Campese (another 15 minutes), as well as vice versa.

You can buy tickets at the local tabaccheria (tobacco shop), on the AT App, or the Tabnet app.

During the summer the buses fill up quickly and get very hot and crowded. If you get car sick like me, I do not recommend the bus (I’ve had a couple close calls!). 

Taking a Taxi

There are several taxi vans that go between Giglio Porto, Cannelle beach, Arenella beach, Giglio Castello and Giglio Campese. 

I absolutely recommend calling ahead to reserve, since taxis are very busy in the summer. Usually you end up sharing the van with other people. Prices vary depending on the number of passengers and the route, so make sure to find out the fare in advance.

Andrea Ansaldo: + 39 340 8732865
Antonio Blanco: + 39 347 1941888
Ottavio Brizzi: + 39 338 9706950
Adriano Pini: + 39 330 731424

Taking a Taxi Boat

Giglio Island also has taxi boat and shuttle service to the island beaches. Go in person to the boat companies’ information huts at Giglio Porto next to the ferry dock.

Riding a Bike on Giglio Island

Getting around by bike on Giglio Island is not for the faint of heart. It is possible to ride a bike to Cannelle and/or Arenella beach from Giglio Porto, and even all the way to Campese and the Castello. 

However, we’re not talking about a flat, leisurely ride. Only consider it if you’re up for challenging steep climbs, descents and turns– or if you have an e-bike to get you up the hills!

How to Get to Giglio Island

Take the Ferry

MareGiglio and Toremar have frequent, regular ferry service between Porto Santo Stefano (on mainland Italy) and Giglio Porto (on the island). The 18 km trip takes about 1 hour each way. There is service every day of the year (weather permitting). 

To buy your tickets in person, in Porto Santo Stefano head to the ticket office at Piazza Facchinetti 6/7. It sells tickets for both ferry companies.

In Giglio Porto, Maregiglio’s ticket window faces the ferry, while Toremar’s ticket window is adjacent to the ferry. They open just one hour before each scheduled departure of their company’s own ferry.

You can also buy tickets online at Maregiglio and Toremar’s websites. 

I absolutely recommend reserving ahead online if you are:

  • taking your car
  • returning to Porto Santo Stefano on a Sunday afternoon or evening, with or without your car.

In August, you can only bring your car on the ferry if you’re staying on the island for a minimum of 5 days. You must provide a supporting self declaration form.

How to Get to the Ferry in Porto Santo Stefano

By Plane + Car

The nearest airport to Porto Santo Stefano is Rome Fiumicino Airport (FCO), which is about 146 km away from Porto Santo Stefano (about a 1 hour 45 minute drive). The closest other airports, with distances from Porto Santo Stefano, are:

  • Rome Ciampino (CIA), 166 km (2 hr drive)
  • Florence Amerigo Vespucci (FLR), 194 km (2 hr 30 min drive)
  • Pisa International  (PSA), 200 km (2 hr 15 min drive)

If you’re not taking your car with you on the ferry to Giglio Island, there are numerous long term parking lots in Porto Santo Stefano within walking distance to the ferry. 

My family has used Parcheggio Fanciulli, right on the harbor, for decades. Economy Parking is about a 10-minute walk away from the harbor, but has also taken good care of our cars. 

Definitely call ahead to reserve parking, especially in the summer and on weekends. 

By Bus

There is bus service to Porto Santo Stefano from Orbetello-Monte Argentario train station in Orbetello, Tuscany. In the summer buses leave about every 30 minutes, and take about 20 minutes to reach Porto Santo Stefano.

By Train

The town of Orbetello is the closest you can get to the Giglio ferry by train. From Orbetello, take a bus to the ferry in Porto Santo Stefano (see the bus section above). 

To get to Orbetello-Monte Argentario train station from:

  • Rome Termini station: trains leave about 10 times a day, and take about 1 hr 45 minutes
  • Pisa Central station: trains leave about 8 times per day, and take a little over 2 hrs
  • Florence Santa Maria Novella train station: there is frequent daily train service, but you need to change trains at least once.

You can buy train tickets online on the official website of Trenitalia. 

I hope this has helped you plan your visit to Giglio Island!

Suzanne Talenti

Suzanne has been living in Italy for almost two decades. Based in Tuscany with her husband and two children, she uses her BA in Italian and Master’s in Gastronomy to teach about Italian food, culture and language, as well as organize food tours and events. She has over 15 years of teaching experience with students on two continents. Suzanne is always on the lookout for fun, interesting places to explore in Italy, ideally with a stop for yummy local delicacies along the way! You can find her at GettingToKnowItaly.