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The northernmost and smallest of the Tuscan islands, a speck less than a square mile (220 hectares/544 acres) almost due east of Livorno, has one of the most varied ecosystems in the archipelago and is designated in its entirety as parkland of the Parco Nazionale dell'Arcipelago Toscano. But unless you're doing hard time for the Italian State, Gorgona is difficult to visit. The island has been an "agrarian" penal colony since the late 1800s and as such, it's pretty much off-limits to the casual traveler (though a few permits are granted). Even sea traffic must maintain a distance of at least 500m (1,640 ft.) from the shore. While the Tuscan islands of Capraia, Pianosa, and Montecristo were all formerly penal colonies, Gorgona is the last remaining active prison island in Italy.

The only landing site on Gorgona is an inlet on the northeast side of the island called Cala dello Scalo (Landing Cove), also the island's only (pebbly, but clean) beach. Remains of a 19th-century fishing village stand in the notch behind the beach, and some less attractive modern structures are also here. A handful of diehard civilian Gorgonese are constantly petitioning the government to have the penal colony closed. Indeed, it's a very costly prison to run (there are only 50 inmates and about 70 staff), not to mention the logistics difficulties presented by the remote nature of Gorgona.

Far from living a bleak, Alcatraz-like existence, the inmates of Gorgona are pretty much free to roam during the daytime, when they perform work projects all over the island like desalination, power plant maintenance, even fishing.