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Petite Wonders: Ideal Destinations for Small Superyachts

Petite Wonders: Ideal Destinations for Small Superyachts

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Tuscan archipelago


A sparkling constellation nestled between Porto Cervo and Portofino

A sun-drenched necklace of seven islands dangles partway between Corsica and Tuscany. Any owner moored between Antibes and Olbia can meander out in a single day, island-hop at leisure, then cruise home on the same tank of diesel. That’s just as well. Because all the isole sit within the Arcipelago Toscano National Park, sperm whales are more common than marinas. Indeed, there’s only one worth its salt along the 150-kilometre coastline of Elba, the principal island that’s a similar size to Malta or Hvar. And when those 70 berths, including two or three superyacht placements, are tutto completo, that’s it.

Considering the archipelago’s plethora of Roman-era harbours, single-boat anchorages and petite bays, as far as yacht size is concerned, less is more. “When small to medium yachts are designed they have the triangle between the French Riviera, Sardinia and La Spezia in mind”, says Riva’s head of sales, Giordano Pellacani. His latest range, the 90’ Argo, was essentially built for the Tuscan archipelago – and that’s about as big as you’d want to go. Last summer Pellacani cast off from Elba’s antique harbour of Portoferraio.“Italians prefer the morning fish market to harbour restaurants,” he explains. “Grab some lobster, amberjack, grouper or whatever is the catch of the day, then slice it into sushi or stir into pasta.”

Sailing anti-clockwise around Elba allows sailors to escape the crowds. At Capo Sant’Andrea, snorkellers can spot starfish, sunfish and rockfish. Just around Elba’s western tip, the submerged Ogliera rocks punctured the 500-tonne freighter Elviscot, creating an aquarium-style wreck dive from three to 12 metres in depth. A short sail south is Fetovaia beach, where whales occasionally give birth in a deserted bay. “When you visit this area on a weekday, when there are only locals, you appreciate how rich you are not to be in the office,” says Pellacani.

If Elba is seldom visited, Capraia, the archipelago’s second-largest island, is a wilderness. That’s because the eight- kilometre isle flipped from being a penal colony to a national park in 1986. Its mouflons, peregrine falcons and 650 plant species are rarely disturbed by a local population that dips to just 80 in winter. There are no roads; only hiking trails lead up from Capraia’s harbour. The dozen tiny beaches require a swim in from a small yacht anchored 100 metres out.

One could conceivably windsurf the 15 nautical miles across from Capraia to Corsica, but that would do a disservice to Pianosa, the next island south. It was a pirate lair, then a prison island, meaning its snorkel-friendly seas have seldom been fished. Anchors must be dropped far offshore to avoid damaging the Poseidon grass, while onshore visitors are limited to 330 per day.

Ancient Romans preferred Giglio. It offers a petite marina with a 20-metre length limit, plus vineyards made famous during Emperor Nero’s reign. Giglio’s little brother island of Giannutri, a mere 10 nautical miles from Porto Santo Stefano, allows RIB access at Cala Maestra, above which sits a Roman villa complete with mosaic floors and thermal baths.

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