A day trip with a twist: The Tuscan prison island where inmates make wine

It’s likely that the freedom of family visits also has an impact on Gorgona’s low reoffending rate. Family members can visit once a week, and here there’s no clear plastic screen or austere visitation room. Gorgona’s low reoffending rate, and several UK-based studies have found links between maintaining family ties and lower reoffending rates. Rebecca James, Senior Project Manager in Criminal Justice at the National Literacy Trust, has seen this link first-hand.

“At the National Literacy Trust, we run Readconnect, a storytelling project which works with authors and facilitators to help men and women in prison use literacy as a way to engage with their children,” James tells me. “It means that they have support when writing, reading over the phone or during visits. It’s a great way of strengthening family ties when they can’t be present in the home environment, and research shows that having good family ties has an impact on reoffending rates too.”

Our tour of Gorgona finished, the inmates serve us lunch and their latest Gorgona Bianco vintage on the sunny terrace outside the penitentiary. They bring us plates of cacciucco (a Tuscan fish stew containing octopus, mussels and shrimp), pistachio cannoli, and vol-au-vents delicately topped with redcurrants. Between courses, they smoke cigarettes and chat to the guards, who seem to be thoroughly enjoying the wine. When we board the boat again, my heart, and belly, are a whole lot fuller.

Anna was a guest of the Frescobaldi family; interaction with the prisoners is not generally permitted. Trips with Parco Arcipelago Toscano are typically in Italian. You can request an English-speaking guide at the time of reservation, but as not all the guides are bilingual, it’s not guaranteed.

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