Like the prisoners who used to call the island home, you won't be set free to roam Pianosa on your own. The national park restricts the number of daily visitors to 100, all of whom must be accompanied by licensed park guides.

The first thing you'll see upon arrival is Pianosa's port, where you are greeted by a picturesque collection of 19th-century buildings in their weathered pastel mantles. In town, the main sights are the dominating Forte Teglia (erected by Napoleon), bleak prison structures, defunct for just over a decade, and tunnels of 4th-century-A.D. Christian catacombs, where 700 tombs have been excavated thus far. In the center of the island are the extensive ruins of a Roman villa attributed to Agrippa, who was exiled here in the 1st century A.D. On the western coast of Pianosa, Cala della Botte is home to a unique grotto called Lavanderia Vecchia (The Old Laundry), which has a freshwater spring that the ancient Romans seem to have exploited.

On the natural side of things, your tour guide is sure to catalog the various plants that grow on Pianosa, which is surprisingly fertile considering its severe-looking limestone underpinnings. Even Napoleon recognized this fecundity and planted 1,000 olive trees on Pianosa, 300 of which are still alive and firmly rooted in the calcareous soil. The limestone of Pianosa is also littered with fossils of animals that no longer live here (bears, horses, and deer), evidence that the island once belonged to the mainland.

All tours, after the requisite circuit of the island's historic and naturalistic points of interests, permit visitors to swim at the only beach where swimming is permitted, Cala Giovanna, near the port and the island's sole bar/restaurant (a very simple affair serving lunch only). Cala Giovanna is a narrow but sugar-white stretch of sand caressed by calm, turquoise waters, ideal for a dip before saying goodbye to the "raft."

Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.