Location: North-East Italy, Liguria, Municipality of Porto Venere
Number of inhabitants: Yearly: 25
Protected island: yes
Terrestrial protection status: World Natural and Cultural Heritage of UNESCO, Regional Natural Park of Porto Venere
Palmaria Island has been a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1997, on the eastern limit of the Cinque Terre Park. It is the only inhabited island in Liguria. Part of Palmaria is wild, and known for its trekking trails, while the other part is home to military fortifications (some are still used). It belongs to the municipality of Portovenere, in the province of La Spezia.
The island of Palmaria is separated from the mainland (Portovenere) by a narrow stretch of sea. The tourist connections are daily and frequent (from Lerici, La Spezia, or Portovenere – crossing lasts 5-10 min). The coastlines visible from Portovenere and the Gulf of La Spezia are the most anthropised (seaside resorts – public or reserved for navy members – residences, etc.). The island west coast is open to the sea and is more preserved. It is characterised by high cliffs punctuated by caves (in particular Grotta Azzura and Grotte dei Colombi).
Part of the island is exclusively military and inaccessible to the public. From this long military presence, there are old buildings such as Fort Cavour, Fort Umberto I and blockhouses of the Second World War.
In the cliffs, there are several caves, some of which were used for the extraction of black marble with golden streaks. In the caves of Colombi, there are rock paintings and other remains of the Neolithic, attesting of the human presence on the island for more than five thousand years.
The island is famous for its aquaculture activity and traditional knowledge of mussel farming. There is also a unique hotel-restaurant, which welcomes tourists throughout the year.
Due to the small size of the island, there are only small mammals such as bats (rhinolophes and pipistrelles) and small reptiles such as the European leaf-toed gecko.
Bird populations are very diverse, with nesting birds, migratory birds and raptors. We can observe bee-eaters, peregrine falcons (Falco peregrinus), red-legged partridges (Alectoris rufa), gulls (Larus argentatus, Larus michahellis), blue rock thrushs (Monticola solitarius) and common shags (Phalacrocorax aristotelis).
The pines, the holm oak, the pubescent oak, the mastic, the strawberry tree, the cistus (Cistus monspeliensis, Cistus salviifolius and Cistus incanus), the so-called Spanish broom (Spartium junceum) make up the vegetation of the island. Endemic plants can also be found in Liguria (such as centauries cineraria veneris and aplolepa lunensis) or rare plants in Liguria (such as Serapias neglecta and Cistus incanu).
Palmaria has a rich natural and cultural heritage that needs to be highlighted. This is why the island joined the European ISOS project, and in this context intends to set up educational spaces in Fort Umberto I about Palmaria fauna, flora, environment and gastronomic heritage. Enhancing the access to the fort is also part of the priorities. In addition, a feasibility study for saving water, energy and waste management is underway in this same context.