The Friuli Islands – The Château d’If


The Frioul Archipelago, its islands and its castle of iF

The highest point of the Friuli Archipelago is only about 87 meters from the sea level.

To discover all the treasures of the Phocaean city, you have only to choose other choices than to take off. After your half hour from the old port (Quai de la fraternité, 13001 Marseille), you can enjoy the beautiful setting that offer the islands of If to you, Ratonneau and Pomègues, which together form the entire archipelago of Friuli .

According to the archaeological findings, of bones among others, the scientific community supposes that these islands were attached to the continent. This may be why the Friuli archipelago is like a piece of creeks adrift.

If Castle in Friuli

If Castle in Friuli


The history of these islands is an intimate link with that of the city. It begins with the arrival of Greek sailors who founded the city Massalia, in the sixth century BC. During the Roman invasion (49 BC), it was off these islands that Julius Caesar set the anchor to besiege the city.

Outpost of the city, the archipelago of Frioul was repeatedly the scene of assaults of French or foreign fleets invade Massalia. The Florentines even managed to settle on the island of Pomègues at the end of the 16th century.

During the epidemics of plague that hit Marseille very violently and this, on several occasions, the archipelago of Friuli is transformed into a quarantine zone. The ships and their contaminated goods docked on the architecture, thus being well away from the shore, avoiding that the plague does more damage than it had already done

It was in the nineteenth century that was linked to a dike, the two islands of Pomègues and Ratonneau (which was the current port of the island), and which was built at the hospital Caroline. This is was built to accommodate and isolate ships and their passengers arriving in Marseille and suspected of taking with them, especially yellow fever. This beautiful building whose look is reminiscent of the ancient origins of the city was permanently closed in the middle of the twentieth century. It is today a pleasant place to walk open to all visitors.

At the end of the 20th century, the Friuli archipelago became a military stronghold. Military constructions are linked together and access is forbidden. The islands become the property of national defense ministry. During the Second World War, the islands are requisitioned by the German army. Many Marseille’s people, forced by the Service du Travail Obligatoire, participate in the construction of new facilities or the fortification of existing ones..

In 1970, Marseille recovers its rights on the archipelago of Friuli which becomes the 111th district of Marseille, attached to the 7th district. The city built in 1974 a village, Port-Friuli and private homes. From then on, it becomes a privileged place of tourism, dear to the heart of the Marseilles, with its rich history and its preserved environment.

Built, invaded, resumed, requisitioned; the archipelago is finally, in the image of our beautiful city, a place where the influences mingle, because like it; it has been the place of many lusts.

Beach and coves of Friuli

Beach and coves of Friuli (c) beachesTV


Landmark of fishermen, divers and hikers, Friuli is a pleasant place where nature and history mingle. The island offers its visitors two sandy beaches (St Estève and Morgiret). You are already ready to pay for your panales of sandals tropéziennes, for the baskets, you will find while pacing the coasts, small coves or calanques which are intact; as if the man had never set foot. Home to some animal and plant species endemic to Provence, the preservation of the archipelago is under the authority of the national park of creeks. If you are attentive, you may see between the thyme and valerian beds, some rare and protected species, birds or reptiles among others.

Since sports shoes are strung, why not take advantage of the magnificent panoramas and the 360 ° vision offered by the archipelago by a short hike. A walk accessible to all during the half-day allows you to go around the island. Spring and autumn are the best to enjoy the sun without suffering heat.

In season, the island also offers a wide range of water activities such as diving, boat rentals, canoes, etc. If you are not sailors in the soul and well be! There are other fun and original ways to discover the island. Let yourself be tempted by a visit of the island by scooter or electric bike for example, or even a guided tour at sea.

You will have the opportunity to stop at a restaurant on the island to enjoy a fresh fish from the local fishing. Speaking of fish, on the island of Pomègues is an aquaculture farm raising wolves (bars), which was the first in the world to be recognized organic farm. You can also, weather permitting, which is not uncommon in Marseille, take a cooler and hunt for the perfect spot to sit and have a picnic.

In short, whether you are sporty, idlers, nature lovers and the sea, or simply want to put your eyes on it; you have just found a place to make a detour during your next vacation in Marseille.


The need to preserve the island and its environment requires the city to regulate the behavior and attitudes to adopt on the island. Dogs are allowed on leash, any form of camping is prohibited. It is of course strictly forbiden to make a fire, because arid vegetation increases the risk of fires. Any activity that can harm the fauna and flora is forbidden such as picking for example but also cycling off the road. These are small things that are not much if it allows us to preserve this little oasis.

IF Castle Marseille (c) Marseille Tourism

IF Castle Marseille (c) Marseille Tourism


The Isle of If enters history as Julius Caesar anchors its fleet in anticipation of the invasion of the ancient city of Massalia. In 1516, the rocky island welcomes for a few weeks a rhinoceros brought back from India that King Manuel I of Portugal wants to offer to Pope Leo X. The animal then unknown in Europe stirs the curiosity of all the inhabitants who hastened to to go to admire it. François I, with his victory in Marignan, visited the island, attracted by the echo of the presence of the rhinoceros. It dwells more to tell the truth, on the strategic potential of the island than on its mysterious inhabitant.

Following this visit, he ordered that a protected harbor and an impregnable fortress be built on the island. Its construction began in 1524, the last stone was laid 7 years later, in 1531. This fortress that the king wanted it impregnable. Expressing her wish, history made no one ever manage to take it.

Very quickly, the building acts as a state prison (from 1580). Protestants and Republicans are thrown in mass in his dungeons. On the ground floor, the prisoners were piling up in small cells. The deplorable hygienic conditions leave only 9 months of life expectancy to the prisoners. In 1852, following the coup d’état, more than 300 inmates will tighten in these unhealthy cells. That said, to the famous prisoners, the fortress offers decent conditions of life. It was possible to rent on the first floor a “passable room”. These cells reserved for the most fortunate people had a window, and even a fireplace.

IF Castle in the Friuli Islands

IF Castle in the Friuli Islands

The most famous prisoner of the prison period of the building is undoubtedly the Abbot Faria, whom Alexander DUMAS immortalizes in the count of Monte-Cristo. Among the many characters who have stayed or would have stayed in this prison, the Marquis de Sade, the man with the iron mask, Philippe de Lorraine (brother of Louis XIV), or the Chevalier Anselme.

What is certain is that the masterpiece of DUMAS, translated into the languages ​​of the whole world, has brought to light the castle of If and its history.

“Dantes crossed the redoubtable threshold, and the door closed noisily behind him. He breathed another air, a mephitic and heavy air: he was in prison “. Count of Monte Cristo, Alexandre DUMAS, 1844.

The Château d’If will welcome its last residents, prisoners of Alsace and Lorraine civil war in 1914.

Finally, the castle of If is a site where History and myths intertwine to make it today one of the most visited monuments of Marseille. Classified as a historic monument since 1926, it now attracts 100,000 visitors every year.

The site offers tours, free or accompanied by a guide in several languages. For your visit of the castle of If count between 1h and 1h30 of time.

Port of Frioul, Marseille

Port of Frioul, Marseille


[Price including tax / per person]

Transportation by shuttle boat Return 2 Islands: 16,80 €

Free visit of the castle IF: 6,00 €

Lunch Restaurant Le Frioulais: Organic Wolf of Friuli = 21,00 €

Ecobalade (difficulty to choose): XXX € (or price of the guidebook on sale at the ferry terminal)

For a little less than 44 € you can enjoy a day of relaxation on the islands of Friuli, you cultivate, you will be full of the view and full of taste buds. Of course you can plan an equally unforgettable day with a lower budget. You can easily replace the restaurant with a picnic. Please note that reduced rates are provided for groups and families (4 people).



Schedules of the maritime shuttles

Château d’If: Information, prices, visits


The Mediterranean coast shelters on its shores many islands which each have their typicity and in which one finds however this same wild and preserved side.

 The splendid golden islands

The evocative name which consists of the islands of Porquerolles, Port-Cros and the island of the Levant is quite indicative of the charm of these islands. From Hyères Les Palmiers, these islands and especially that of Porquerolles offer a vegetation high enough to find a little cool even in case of hot weather.

The Paul Ricard Islands

From the port of Bandol or Sanary sur Mer, the islands of Bendor and Embiez, are a real little paradise. Everything is a tribute to the famous entrepreneur who bought these islands in order to benefit the greatest number. On the island of Embiez, is the Paul Ricard oceanographic institute, very informative about the underwater riches of the Mediterranean.

The Lerins Islands

In the maritime Alps, the islands of Saint Marguerite and Saint Honorat, are the pride of the Cannes. The history of Saint Margaret is not unlike that of the castle of If.

All these islands are an integral part of our heritage and are each related to the history of the territory on which they depend, and their iconic characters.



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1 Comment
  1. Elpida Cyprus

    Love the article. I want to talk. Please contact me by email divingcyprus[at]gmail[dot]com


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