Travel | September 10, 2018 9:00 am

Good Luck Getting Permission to Visit the Italian Island of Montecristo

The novel-famous nature reserve allows 1,000 visitors per year

The isle of Montecristo is not your typical Italian summering destination: bathing is absolutely forbidden, for starters. So is fishing. So is spending the night. Now open to tourists for 10 years, Montecristo is gatekept closely by its Italian overseers.

Why is it so protected? Not because of a hidden cove of treasure for smiting enemies of the Italian aristocracy (it is, after all, the namesake of the Alexander Dumas- and ghostwriter-penned novel). In real life, that treasure has stewarded a number of endangered or rare species that no longer thrive elsewhere in the region: Oak trees that are thousands of years old. Vast swaths of unbothered flora. Rare reptiles and amphibians, even a namesake viper. Italy’s only known wild goats also bleat Montecristo home.

And while the region is incredibly protected due to its inclusion in the Tuscan Archipelago National Park, it’s by no means untouched by man. It was actually a thriving monastic community until the 16th century, and before that, in Roman times, possibly a location used an altar to worship Jupiter. There was a brief stint of meddling in the 1800s that introduced some invasive, beautiful purple shrubs that the stewards are still battling today. And of course, it’s been mined for resources in one way or another throughout much of its history: quarries created, forests felled.

Still, visiting in the here and now is a rather arduous and tricky process. You can fill out this application to request permission to visit, but note that it is in Italian, and as Travel + Leisure points out, you may be waiting up to a year for the determination. The park’s website translates the answer to this question as “it is probable that you will have to wait a long time before you can be admitted.”

The upside is that there are about three months before the next application deadline, January 31st, 2019.  There are currently two seasons open to visitors: April 1st to July 15th, and August 31st to October 31st. Further regulations limit the maximum number of visitors per year to just 1,000: 600 students and 400 adults.

Cross your fingers.

Image via Wikimedia Commons