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Monte Cristo’s treasure island unlocks the door to tourism

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Mar 24, 2008

The secluded and mysterious island where the Count of Monte Cristo found buried treasure in the famous novel by Alexandre Dumas is to be opened to the public.

The 10sq km, diamond-shaped island in the Tyrrhenian Sea, between the Italian mainland and Corsica, is an uninhabited, state-protected nature reserve and bird sanctuary, which can be visited only by academics and researchers who apply for special permission. No private boats can moor at the island and swimming in its waters is banned.

Montecristo, which is just south of the island of Elba, has mountains rising to 650m (2,133ft), an 18th-century villa and the romantic ruins of a 13th-century monastery that was abandoned in 1553 after it was plundered by pirates.

The Tuscan Archipelago Parks Commission, which manages the seven islands of the archipelago, has said that it will now allow 1,000 visitors a year to join visits guided by the Forestry Corps to Montecristo, Pianosa and Giannutri.

Mario Tozzi, head of the commission, said that visitors, who can apply to join the tours online, would have to attend a day-long course on environmental education. He said that Montecristo was an open-air museum of nature. “Those who visit it must be educated enough to understand what treasures they are being allowed to see.”

He said that the move was part of a policy of opening up reserves to “environmentally compatible and sustainable tourism”, and the numbers might be increased if it was successful.

The island was made famous by The Count of Monte Cristo, an adventure novel written by Dumas in 1846. In the novel Edmond Dantès, a dashing young sailor, is wrongfully imprisoned in the island fortress of Château d’If in the Bay of Marseilles and is robbed of Mercédès, his bride, by his jealous rival Fernand Mondego. Dantès escapes and joins fellow prisoner the Abbé Faria, an Italian priest who reveals to him the location of treasure on Montecristo. After Abbé Faria dies, Dantès reinvents himself as the Count of Monte Cristo, a mysterious and wealthy aristocrat. He then takes revenge on those who wronged him, including Mondego.

Dumas is said to have been enchanted by the isolated beauty and “smell of thyme and broom” in Montecristo.

The Count of Monte Cristo has been adapted for cinema and television several times. The first adaptation was a silent film version made in 1908. Recent versions include a television series featuring Gérard Depardieu and Ornella Muti, and a film directed by Kevin Reynolds in 2002, in which James Cavieziel played the Count.

Monte Cristo’s treasure island unlocks the door to tourism

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