Pianosa, among the islands of the Tuscan Archipelago, is the closest to the Island of Elba and is part of the Municipality of Campo nell’Elba. It owes its name, Pianosa, to the ancient Planasia, to the characteristic that most distinguishes it, that is the fact of having an almost totally flat territory. In fact, its greatest elevation reaches only 29 meters above sea level.
The rocks are of sedimentary origin and stretches of rocky coast alternate with sandy ones.
The existence of the maximum-security prison until 1997 made the island practically inaccessible. With the closure of the prison, the island then passed to the management of the Park Authority which organized a contingent use to preserve its biodiversity on land and sea; this has made it possible to maintain much of the island’s natural heritage unchanged.
The vegetation that covers Pianosa is a typical Mediterranean scrub of Phoenician juniper, rosemary, mastic, rock rose and spazzaforno, a rare shrub that loves poor and mainly rocky soils.
The island’s fauna is mainly represented by small mammals, but among the animals it is not difficult to see the red partridge, the hoopoe and numerous pheasants probably introduced with the penitentiary activity.
About thirty seabirds’ nest in Pianosa. Some of these are the very rare Corsican gull, the lesser and greater shearwater, which reproduces only in some Tuscan islands and the peregrine falcon, very rare in Italy, which nests on cliffs and on inaccessible rocky ridges.
The seabed around the island is certainly among the richest and most pristine, thanks to the inaccessibility due to the presence of the prison first and later to the subsequent protection of the Tuscan Archipelago National Park.
Today it is the ideal habitat for posidonia meadows and for the numerous species that find shelter here: salpe, snapper, mullet, white bream, lobster, amberjack and grouper or that choose the shallow seabed for reproduction, such as spider crab.
Off Pianosa it is possible to spot dolphins, Caretta Caret turtles, while rare are the encounters, as in the rest of the Tuscan Archipelago, of the monk seal.
Pianosa Isola prison
The penal colony in Pianosa was established in 1856 and became a maximum-security prison in 1968. From 1931 to 1935 the future President of the Republic Sandro Pertini was also detained on the island, imprisoned for political reasons.
People belonging to terrorist organizations were initially detained in the structure and, following the attacks of Falcone and Borsellino, the government decided to confine dangerous members of the mafia.
The closing of the definitive prison took place in 2011.
Since the closure of the prison, the Park has tried to promote the use of the island by promoting visits with guides, organizing events, photographic exhibitions, excursions and other initiatives.
Now the island can be visited on foot, by bus, by carriage and by mountain bike, to discover ancient Roman ruins and catacombs surrounded by nature covered, if the season permits, with yellow, pink and white blooms.
The new Casa del Parco in Villa Literno was inaugurated, revived as a guesthouse for researchers, but where it is also possible to receive information on the natural and historical-architectural heritage of Pianosa.
Furthermore, since the summer of 2013, the Park has opened on an experimental basis the possibility of diving in Pianosa with diving accredited by the Park. The underwater use is restricted and regulated, but it allows, for the first time, to discover the richness of underwater biodiversity of one of the most pristine depths of the Mediterranean Sea.