In the glittering Mediterranean Sea sits a diamond-shaped island shrouded in secrecy: Montecristo. It opens twice a year to the public...but only for a lucky few.
The beautiful island of Montecristo is the fourth largest island of the Tuscan Archipelago (a chain of islands west of Tuscany, Italy including Elba and Capraia) and is about four square miles in size. It has a colorful history full of monks, pirates and saints. The island also serves as the supposed site of a buried treasure in the classic novel, "The Count of Monte Cristo" by Alexandre Dumas.
But what makes it so amazing is that the 5 million-year-old island is virtually untouched, preserving its rich biodiversity; it's home to flora, fauna (like wild goats) and marine life.
It's also extremely exclusive: Only four people live on the island — two groundskeepers and two rotating members of its military police force, according to Lonely Planet. And the island only began granting access to visitors for the first time in 2008. Now outsiders are only allowed just five months a year, and even then, space is extremely limited.
Visitors are welcomed on day passes (which reportedly cost around $60) from Aug. 31 to Oct. 31 and from April 1 to July 5. In an effort to protect Montecristo's environment, a maximum of 1,000 visitors are allowed to visit the island a year (roughly 50 visitors are permitted a day) with 600 spots reserved for students and 400 for adults. Preference reportedly goes to scientific teams and educational trips.
This type of adventure isn't for procrastinators or solo travelers, either: You'll need to plan ahead and get a big group together in order to make this a successful getaway.
"The island is not served by scheduled ferries and therefore those who get authorization to visit must independently find a boat suitable to cover the approximately 40 nautical miles from the mainland," Aurora Ciardelli, a spokeswoman for the Tuscan Archipelago's National Park, told The Local.
"Any individual looking to visit may have to find or convince at least 39 other people to go. Individual applicants who are not organized in groups of at least 40 people may encounter difficulties in organizing the trip," she says.
To get to Tuscany, visitors can fly into Pisa or Florence. To visit Montecristo, travelers can apply for authorization from the government for the coming year (it's too late for this year) and will need to fill out this application by Jan. 31. But be warned: the waitlist reportedly takes years.
"Due to the high demand and the quota number of those admitted to the visit, it is probable that they will have to wait a long time before they can be admitted," the national park website states.
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