Pianosa

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Coordinates: 42°35′N 10°05′E / 42.583°N 10.083°E / 42.583; 10.083

Pianosa Island
Native name: Isola di Pianosa
Forte Teglia Pianosa (LI)2.jpg
Forte Teglia, Isola di Pianosa
Tuscan archipelago.png
Pianosa and the Tuscan archipelago, Italy
Geography
Location Tyrrhenian Sea
Archipelago Tuscan Archipelago
Area 10.25 km2 (3.96 sq mi)
Length 5.8 km (3.6 mi)
Width 4.5 km (2.8 mi)
Highest elevation 29 m (95 ft)
Country
Italy
Region Tuscany
Province Livorno
Commune Campo nell'Elba
Demographics
Population 10 (as of 2001)
Density 1 /km2 (3 /sq mi)

The small island of Pianosa (Italian pronunciation: [pjaˈnoːsa]), about 10.25 km2 (3.96 sq mi) in area, has a coastal perimeter of 26 km, forms part of Italy's Tuscan Archipelago in the Tyrrhenian Sea.

Geography[edit]

Once named Planasia (plain) because it is flat, its highest point stands at 29 m (95 ft) above sea level. It has a triangular shape, it is placed at 14 km south west of Elba and is frazione of the municipality of Campo nell'Elba. Pianosa is the fifth island of the Tuscan Archipelago for extension and the only to be formed by sedimentary rock of the Neogene and Quaternary; frequent are the fossils as echinoderms, mollusca and bryozoa of the Pliocene. [1]

Flora[edit]

The vegetation consists mainly by Mediterranean species as lentisco, fennel, juniperus, rosemary and pinus halepensis that was introduced on the island in the 1900s.

Fauna[edit]

The animals living on the island are largely small mammals as hedgehog, hare introduced in the 1800s as the phesant and the red-legged partridge; along the coast nest the magpie and the Audouin's gull which are protected by the National Park. The island is a place where the bird migration take a stop along their seasonal movement from North to South. The sea around Pianosa is rich in fish because once the coast was unapproachable while today is not allowed to fish by the National Park regulations. The fish species in the area are: grouper, dory, dentex, moray, crawfish and many others. [2]

History[edit]

The island was first inhabited in the Upper Palaeolithic, the Later Stone Age, but when in 5000 BC the sea level augmented and reached the current, the few inhabitants took refuge on the nearby Scola islet where traces of their stay were found. Fishing tools and ceramic of the Mesolithic were found as well as artefacts in quartz and flint probably coming from Elba.[3] The ancient Romans' Planasia had buildings and was extensively cultivated. It became noted in history when the princeps Augustus banished his grandson and former designated heir Agrippa Postumus there in 6 or 7 AD. [4] Postumus remained there until his execution, made by a murderer sent by Tiberius, around the death of Augustus in 14 AD. Postumus lived in Pianosa at Villa Agrippa which was discovered by abbot Gaetano Chierici in the second part of 1800s and was composed by a theatre, a thermal and marine environments (Bagni di Agrippa) and a Roman villa with black and white mosaic floors with marine mythological decorations.[5] In the 4th century a small Christian community lived in Pianosa and left traces of their presence since excavated the catacombs which are on two levels and are the largest north of Rome; 700 catacombs were discovered which indicates a fair numbers of residents.

Forte del Marchese

Pisa had the island in custody after the victory in a naval battle in those waters occurred in 874. In the Middle Ages the island's ownership was disputed by Pisa and Genoa because of its strategic position. In 1238 Genoa sent troops on the island supposing the inhabitants exercised the piracy; destroyed the village and the fortifications built by the Pisans and made prisoners the 150 inhabitants. Pianosa returned shortly after to Pisa, but Genoa had the supremacy of the Tyrrhenian Sea after the Battle of Meloria. The island came back once under the control of Pisa by an agreement with which had to left it uncultivated and uninhabited, but the pact was not honoured. The Appiano family, who ruled Pisa, gave the island on rent to the family De Leis then to the Landi in 1344. The Appiano sold Pisa to Gian Galeazzo Visconti in 1399 and established the small Principality of Piombino which included Suvereto, Scarlino, Vignale, Populonia and the islands of Elba, Montecristo and Pianosa. The Holy Roman Emperor Charles V of Spain on August 15, 1552 consigned to Cosimo I de' Medici the Principality of Piombino in exchange of a loan of 200,000 scudi. [6]

Pianosa underwent numerous incursions by pirates but the worst of all was that took place in 1553 by a French Turkish fleet commanded by Dragut who wiped out the population, from then on the island changed several times of ownership and was populated only seasonally from farmers coming from Elba to cultivate. On August 27, 1802 Napoleon established that Elba, Capraia, Gorgona, Pianosa, Palmaiola and Montecristo were part of the French territory and in 1805 assigned to his sister Elisa Bonaparte the region of Piombino, Elba and Pianosa that was fortified. On April 9, 1809 the Archipelago returned to the Tuscany which was ruled by the French; a month later Pianosa was attacked by 150 British soldiers arrived aboard of three vessels, they destroyed the tower, captured the French soldiers, sent back to Elba the farmers and left the island desert. Napoleon went to Pianosa from Elba twice, made rebuilt the tower, placed a garrison to defend the island and built some houses to settle the farmers. The Congress of Vienna assigned the Elba and the Tuscan Archipelago to the Grand Duke of Tuscany. Although 18th century documents report that it was once densely wooded, humans and the animals they brought have destroyed the trees on the island, which is now largely grassland except some coastal area. [7]

The penal colony[edit]

Palazzo della Specola

In 1856, Leopold II, Grand Duke of Tuscany established a penal colony in Pianosa because it was considered a perfect place to isolate, segregate and oversee detainees; at the proclamation of the Kingdom of Italy in 1861, there were 149 prisoners on the island. In 1864 a structure able to contain 350 prisoners was built, but in 1872 the island was divided into numerous farms organizing the inmates as small communities; in 1880 there were 960 detainees. The captives cultivated cereals, produced oil and wine as Sangiovese and Procanico, there were poultry, pigs and cattle farms. From 1884 until 1965 Pianosa hosted convicts, coming from all over Italy, affected by tuberculosis because of its healthy climate. At the beginning of the 1900s, the population on the island was 21 civilians, 80 prison guards, 40 soldiers and 800 prisoners. The former President of the Republic of Italy Sandro Pertini became an inmate in 1932 for political reasons. During World war II, on September 17, 1943, Germans troops invaded Pianosa and occupied it; on March 19, 1944 a French commando landed on the island, and after a short firefight left again, taking away 40 prison guards as hostages; the following month an allied bomber attacked the island, killing six people. [8]

In the post war period the colony returned to its original role. A Carabinieri station was established, as was a detachment of Guardia di Finanza and houses were built to accommodate the families of the soldiers. In the 1970s, on order of General Carlo Alberto Dalla Chiesa the former sanatorium named Agrippa Branch, was transformed into a maximum security prison to confine Mafia bosses and terrorists of the Red Brigades, such as Giovanni Senzani, Renato Curcio, Alberto Franceschini and Bruno Seghetti. Under the article 41-bis prison regime, 600 convicts from all over Italy were transferred to Pianosa in May 1977 in only two days by aircraft and helicopters. [9] A reinforced concrete wall, 6 meters high and 3 km long, was built in 1979 to separate the village from the penitentiary. The killing of the judges Giovanni Falcone and Paolo Borsellino in 1992 led to the reopening of the Agrippa Branch under the 41-bis regime and during the night of July 20, fifty five Mafia bosses incarcerated at the Palermo Ucciardone prison, among them Michele Greco, were transferred by military transport aircraft to Pisa Airport and then to Pianosa by helicopters. [10]

The island became an impenetrable and inapproachable fortress until July 17, 1997, when Gaetano Murana, the last 41-bis prison regime detainee, was transferred to another prison; up to this date Pianosa had hosted Mafia bosses like Pippo Calò, Nitto Santapaola and Giovanni Brusca and had become well-known for the brutality inflicted on the prisoners. [11] The Prodi government decided to close the penitentiary definitely on June 28, 1998. Pianosa was evacuated in a single day by the remaining detainees and residents, and only a few guards remained on the island for surveillance. [12] [13]

The Marine protected area[edit]

West coats

Pianosa makes part of the Arcipelago Toscano National Park, which is a Marine protected area, since 1996 in order to preserve its archaeological and environmental heritage until now saved because of its inaccessibility to tourism. The island may be visited daily by 250 tourists but it is not allowed fishing, diving, or anchoring without a special authorization otherwise at 1 mile offshore. During the summer season Pianosa is connected once a week by Toremar from Rio Marina and Piombino, [14] from San Vincenzo by Aquavision twice a week and daily from Marina di Campo. [15] It is possible visit the island only with organized excursions or trekking by bicycle escorted by the Park guides.

Pianosa lighthouse[edit]

Pianosa lighthouse is placed on the east side of the island nearby the village; it entered in service on October 1st, 1865 is still active and operated by Marina Militare identified by the number 2088 E.F. The lighthouse is a two story building surmounted by a white cylindrical tower 19 metres high with balcony and lantern positioned at 42 metres above sea level; it has two white flashes in a 10 seconds period visible at 18 nautical miles of distance.[16] [17]

Geographical landmarks[edit]

  • Bagni di Agrippa
  • Cala dell’Alga
  • Cala Giovanna
  • Cala dei Turchi
  • Cala San Giovanni
  • Cala di Biagio
  • Cala del Bruciato
  • Cala della Ruta
  • Golfo della Botte
  • Porto Romano
  • Punta del Marchese
  • Punta del Grottone
  • Punta Secca
  • Punta Brigantina
  • Punta del Segnale
  • Punta del Libeccio
  • Punta del Pulpito

Namesake in Apulia[edit]

Another island named Pianosa, of the Isole Tremiti archipelago, lies off the Adriatic coast in the Apulia region of southern Italy, north of Monte Gargano.

In fiction[edit]

Joseph Heller's absurdist novel Catch-22 is set on a U.S. Army Air Corps bomber squadron base on Pianosa during World War II. Heller notes in the introduction that Pianosa is obviously too small to "accommodate all the actions described." Heller's Pianosa has a small community of Italian villagers, unlike the real island. "From early May 1944 until December 1944 [Heller] was stationed on the island of Corsica where he flew sixty combat missions in B-25 'Mitchell' bombers with the 488th Bombardment Squadron, 340th Bombardment Group, 57th Bombardment Wing, 12th Air Force."[18]

References[edit]

External links[edit]