Colorado kids Petra (10) and Nyah (8) are some of the most well traveled kids I know. Petra, born in Lima, Peru, has clocked up thousands of travel miles in her short life, while Honduras-born Nyah has visited nine countries and six continents with her sister.

So, it seemed only natural that I ask these two travel bugs to show me around one of their favorite destinations in the world, Italy’s Giglio Island. Recently I asked them: What should I do if I’ve only got a weekend in this 21-square kilometre paradise? Here’s what they told me.

1. Jump off Turtle Rock at Arenella Beach

[Nyah] The first thing you do after getting off the ferry at Porto is jump into your bathing suit and go to Arenella Beach. It’s our favorite beach on Giglio. We go by car. But you can walk from the village. Watch out though, it’s mostly uphill and in the summer the walk is super hot! Our papà grew up in Florence. He’s come to Arenella nearly every summer since he was small. Now, we come here every year as a family.

So, yes, get in your swimsuit, grab a snorkel and mask and jump in the amazing clear waters of Arenella. Have you ever seen such clear sea water? You don’t have to swim far out to get to Turtle Rock. It’s actually huge. Just look for the foot holes and climbing rope – and up you go. We climb up to a well-worn diving point and jump from there: over-and-over. It’s awesome.

Giglio Island beaches. Italy. FWT Magazine.

My hosts, Nyah and Petra at Arenella, the third largest beach on Giglio Island. Located on the east coast just north of Giglio’s main harbour, Arenella’s services include a bar, boat rental, water taxi and a large granite rock called Turtle Rock, which serves as a natural diving off point (see Turtle Rock in the background) (c) Jacqui Gibson.

2. Eat gelato in Porto

[Petra] You can get ice cream and snacks from the store at Arenella, but we love the gelato in Porto best. I love fiore di latte and chocolato. Nyah likes mango and pana cotta e caramella. But Porto also has delicious shaved ice made with fresh fruit. You can’t beat the fresh nectarines here on Giglio. Mom always buys a huge bag from the Porto market – and then eats the lot! It’s best to walk to Porto from Arenella in the morning before it gets too hot (from our nonno’s summer house, it’s downhill most the way) and then catch the bus back for about six euro.

Giglio Island, Italy. FWT Magazine.

The gelato from Porto is good! Porto, Giglio’s only port, has a small marina and alleyways full of eateries (c) Jacqui Gibson.

3. Cartwheel at the castello on the hill

[Nyah] Giglio has a huge old castello on the hill. People still live there. It’s amazing – super old and all made of rock. It’s got high stone walls. There are places to eat and little alleyway shops. Papà says he used to get up to a lot of mischief in the castello when he was young. I think teenagers used to have parties there. But for me, it’s just a great place to look around and a cool place to do cartwheels.

Giglio Castello, Italy. FWT Magazine.

Nyah mid-cartwheel at Giglio Castle, a medieval fortress dating back to the 12th century. It’s located on the hilltop between Porto and Campese villages (c) Jacqui Gibson.

4. Visit Porto marina

[Petra] Summer on Giglio is really hot. So it’s nice to come down to the marina in Porto and catch the sea breeze. We like to sit on the wharf and look out to sea. Sometimes I think about that ship wreck a few years ago. A big cruise liner ran aground. There’s not much sign of it now. But I remember feeling really sad when Papà told me about a little girl my age who drowned because she couldn’t swim.

Giglio Island, Italy. FWT Magazine.

Porto wharf, looking over the Tyrrhenian Sea where the cruise ship, Costa Concordia, struck a rock and sank in January, 2012 (c) Jacqui Gibson.

5. Drive around the island

[Nyah] I like it when we jump in the car and go for a ride with the windows down. Visitors should do that too. There are lots of grapevines and beehives if you like that sort of thing. We’ve seen snakes on the road and sea urchins in the sea. This year I saw two sea stars in the water at Arenella. Everyone’s friendly on Giglio. We know the locals and this year I met a nice friend, Stella, from Germany. Probably the best thing is the view of the ocean from way up high on the roadside. You just look out and it seems to go on forever. I love the way the blue, blue sea sparkles in the sun.

Photo: Giglio castello dates back to the Middle Ages (c) Jacqui Gibson. FWT Magazine.

Photo: Giglio Castello is accessible from the road, located on the hilltop between Porto and Campese villages (c) Jacqui Gibson.

If you go

  • Giglio Island is in Tuscany, approximately 185 kilometres from Florence and 160 kilometres from Rome.
  • To reach Giglio Island, take a ferry (either the Toremar or Maregiglio) from Porto Santo Stefano.
  • The nearest train station is Orbetelo, which connects to Porto Santo Stefano by Tiemme Spa line buses.

Porto, Giglio Island. FWT Magazine.

Photo: Porto, Giglio Island. From Porto it’s possible to take a boat ride, hire a scooter or car or take the bus to Giglio castle or the popular resort village of Campese (c) Jacqui Gibson.


Giglio Island, Italy. FWT Magazine.

Photo: Market shopping, Giglio Island, Italy (c) Jacqui Gibson.