Tiny Tuscan island turning out top tipple

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Last Updated: 10/01/2017  

Gorgona is the northernmost of the islands of the coast of Tuscany and is located between Livorno and the Island of Corsica. Covered in Mediterranean scrub, pine trees and holm oaks, this tiny island is barely two miles long and is valued for an abundance of animal wildlife, especially marine birds and, due to its isolation, a monastery was founded there in the middle ages. The monks left in 1425 and the island later became home to fishing families from the Garfagnana who caught and cured anchovies. Subsequently, in 1869, the abandoned monastery buildings were transformed into an experimental agricultural penal colony. Since then prisoners have grown crops, raised animals and basically learnt whatever trades necessary for the up-keep of the farm and the buildings in which they reside. In the past many Italian islands have been used as jails for both political prisoners and common criminals but Gorgogna is one of the few still in operation. In 2012 the Department of Justice approved and financed the "Progetto Granducato" which invited private investors to set-up enterprises in Gorgogna with the aim of giving the 80 or so prisoners professional training and real job opportunities. The first company to set up a business agreement with the prison's management was the world-famous wine producer Frescobaldi who have been producing wine at their Tuscan estates for centuries and who boast Henry VIII, a number of popes and renaissance sculptor Donatello amongst their past customers. The prisoners have been given the benefit of centuries of experience and the investment made by one of Italy’s oldest and most respected wine producers has enabled them to produce their own wine called Frescobaldi per Gorgogna which has been deemed good enough to be given a DOC appellation and goes on sale this month. The prisoners also produce extra virgin olive oil and cheese.