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August 31, 2009

Giglio, Italy and Pardini's Hermitage

Pardinis_Hermitage_Giglio_Italy
Pardini's Hermitage in Giglio can only be reached by the sea.
Photo: Pardini's Hermitage

by Ondine Cohane

This past week I continued on my quest for new Italian discoveries (an undertaking that is far from disagreeable, I may add) with a jaunt to Giglio, a small island off the Tuscan coast, the lesser known sister to Elba and an hour ferry ride from Porto Santo Stefano. It's a lovely spot, a mostly mountainous stretch that drops into some of the most beautifully clear water in Italy--when you snorkel you can see about 20 meters below you and the diversity of the fish is a testament to how the Tuscan coast has really campaigned to clean things up in the last few years.

I stayed at Pardini's Hermitage perched on its own little bay above the Tyrrhenian Sea and I loved the vibe of the place; it's old school, eccentric, slightly madcap and bohemian, and somewhere you really feel away from everything despite being only a fifteen minute boat ride from Giglio's main port and having free WiFi access. I was also very impressed by the quality of the food (a delicious pappa al pomodoro soup, just-caught orata, and creamy risotto with fresh seafood) and the overall organic ethos of the place--the homemade vinegar is made with local thyme and other herbs, the olive oil comes from the owners' other farm in Grosseto and the ricotta and yogurt are from the owners' goats just up the hill.

Apart from eating, swimming and snorkeling, reading, visiting the animals on the property's farm (including a donkey named Spartico) and hiking, there wasn't a lot to tempt me away from the area. (Not to mention it is still high season in Italy, which means the main beaches and towns were crawling with people.) I'll save my sightseeing for next spring when the wildflowers are blooming and the island is blissfully empty, though at the Hermitage things already felt that way. Just a couple of words of warning: the place isn't ideal for toddlers (think steep stone paths and drops into the sea off rocks) or people who like a jam-packed itinerary, and don't be alarmed by the Web site, which could do with a bit of an update.

Further reading:
* Ondine on Vernazza, the budget-conscious crowd's Portofino.
* Word of Mouth: The buzz worldwide.

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