Explore the island of Elba in Tuscany, Italy
When people think of Tuscany, they think of Florence and the towns of Pisa, but this small island is only 28 kilometers long and 19 kilometers wide. The well-preserved medieval village sits on rolling hills above the sea, like Additional benefits brought by the mini beach. Where to stay in elba tripline
Napoleon on Elba
2019 is the 250th anniversary of Napoleon’s birth. He spent one of those years among the exiles, wandering on the island of Elba. He was the first chance to escape, but he must have left his mark.
There are Napoleon beer, Napoleon fountain, Napoleon seat, Napoleon stairs, you can visit the villa where he spent time. British tourists in the 19th century were the first to travel here, but the scenery on the island is more than the relics of the dead emperor.
It takes about an hour by ferry from the port of Piombino in southern Tuscany to the charming capital Portoferraio. It was founded in 1548 by Cosimo de’Medici, who built this impressive fortress, towering above the port. He just came here to make money, especially the rich iron ore mines, which have been mined since the Etruscan era and are the oldest mines in the world.
In summer, the island is full of beach lovers, but in late April, when the spring flowers bloom, the island is an ideal place for walking and cycling tours. I got one of the latest electric bikes with big fat tires, and then set off from the charming town of Capoliveri to explore the east of the island.
The huge caste mines of Valone frighten the landscape, there is a museum, and guided tours of underground galleries are also available. Mining ended in the early 1980s and nature is taking over. The railway is already occupied, and they can easily ride bicycles and travel on the cliffs by the sea. As I passed the rusty equipment and the huge stepped hillside where the ore was dug out, the pyrite nuggets (“fool’s gold”) shone in the sun.
In the north, the town of Rio Marina overlooks the Pitrait Strait and faces the Tuscan coast. For thousands of years, its economy was based entirely on the mining and transportation of iron ore. The harbour dominated by Appiani or Clock Tower obscures the town’s beaches, and iron oxide leaches from the sand to create a sharp contrast.
The center of the island is Monte Capanne (Monte Capanne), the highest point is 1019m. A unique cable car is basically just an exposed basket. It takes two people to stand up before slowly climbing to the top of the mountain. When I reached the top of the mountain, although it was cold and windy, the beauty of the entire island was still beautiful.
I walked down the hill along the village of Poggio, and then passed the Madonna del Monte church and its hermit. Before Napoleon used it in secret contact with his Polish mistress Maria Walewska in the summer of 1814, the locals discovered this and he had to send her away.
Further on, the end of the road is the village of Marciana, dominated by the 12th century Fortezza Pisano, which was once the site of the island’s mint and foundry. The steep streets are too narrow for cars, a network of stone steps runs through the arches and the belvedere, and the houses are beautifully decorated with flowers and climbing plants. I stopped for a chestnut beer at Bar la Porta outside the main entrance.
The western part of the island is completely wild, with steep cliffs descending to the lush sea, broken by small rock bays and rocky beaches. The hillside is covered with dense mosquitoes, dotted with golden broom flowers. Starting from Fetovaia and heading south, it is the best beach on the archipelago. The sandy beach of Marina di Campo stretches for 1.4 kilometers and is lined with hotels and camping grounds.
The West of the island is altogether wilder, with steep cliffs descending to an active sea, choppy by tiny coves with stony beaches. The hillside is roofed in heavily scented maquis, dotted with golden yellow broom flowers. Further south, starting in Fetovaia, are the islands best beaches, with the 1.4 km stretch of sand at Marina di Campo lined with hotels and campsites, heaving within the summer.
Before I take the ferry back to the mainland, there’s time to explore Portoferraio, its harbour dominated by the 2 forts of Forte Falcone and therefore the pink Forte Stella. From the central square of Piazza Cavour, I climb up the wide Scalinata Medici, 140 misshapen stone steps leading up to the forts and therefore the Villa dei Mulini, the house of Napoleon.
This was where he lived for his nine month exile and he choose the location so he could keep an eye fixed on the ships coming into the bay.
Inside is his grand ballroom, study, and room with the Elban flag on one wall. The bedroom contains the first furniture and therefore the library still has his collection of over two thousand books. As I wander through the terraced gardens I can’t help thinking that Napoleon made an enormous mistake in abandoning this excellent island. in any case he was defeated at Waterloo, barely over 100 days later, and spent the remainder of his life in Saint Helena, a far less attractive option.
FLY: British Airways has regular flights from London Heathrow to Florence and Pisa, from where there are bus transfers within the summer
STAY: Villaggio Innamorata, near Capoliveri, has rooms overlooking the ocean and beach.
SHOP: Elba Magna, in Capoliveri, may be a good place to shop for local products.
EAT: Ristorante Mickey Mouse serves traditional Elba Dishes.
Agriturismo Montefabbrello grows its own organic vegetables, makes wine, vegetable oil and pasta and also has rooms.
Bitta 20, within the harbour at Portoferraio, serves excellent fish.
Car hire on the island is dear and a far better bet is to rent from Pisa airport.
MORE INFO: Visit Elba has information about the island.
LOUNGE PASS: Add a touch VIP luxury with an Airport Lounge Pass. Check for cheapest flight tickets to elba