Guide to visiting the Island of Elba: beaches, monuments and the most beautiful areas to visit
The Island of Elba is the main island of the Tuscan archipelago which also includes Capraia, Giannutri, Giglio, Gorgona, Montecristo and Pianosa. It is also the third largest island in all of Italy after Sicily and Sardinia.
Elba is a very popular tourist destination for both Italians and foreigners both for its splendid sea and for the numerous activities that can be practiced. The island is also well equipped with accommodation facilities of all types from high-level hotels to solutions suitable for all budgets such as B&Bs, campsites and apartments. Well connected to the mainland thanks to the ferries that depart daily from Piombino to reach Portoferraio, the Island of Elba has a lot to offer and certainly could be the right choice for your summer holidays.
What to do and what to see on the Island of Elba
On the Island of Elba there are so many things to see and do. It may surprise you but on this island there is an impressive concentration of history, architecture, archaeological sites, churches, castles, nature and places of geological interest, such as the abandoned iron mines. There is no shortage of attractions both for those who want to make a cultural trip, and for those who want to go to the sea or immerse themselves in nature and enjoy the spectacular views of the Elbe mountains.
Trekking on the Island of Elba
There are many trekking routes to do on the island. They range from the easiest, suitable even for beginners, to the most demanding ones that require a to be more trained and prepared.
One of the most interesting routes is the one that leads to Monte Capanne, the main relief of the island, which can be reached with a nice walk in nature, among beeches, chestnut trees and Mediterranean scrub. From the top of the mountain you can appreciate all the beauty of the island, with a spectacular view, especially at sunset.
Along the coast there are several paths such as the one that connects Marciana Marina and Sant’Andrea, in the north-western part, and the one from Nisportino beach to Mangani beach known as the “percorso delle Pietre Rosse”. The route from Rio nell’Elba to the Giove fortress as well as the one from San Piero to the Moncione mill and the one from Rio nell’Elba to the Volterraio Castle are also very interesting.
Art and architecture: what to see on the Island of Elba
Villa San Martino
Between 1814 and 1815 Napoleon spent a year in exile on the island of Elba. Obviously he could not fail to leave a sign of his passage starting from the big house he had in the heart of the island: Villa San Martino. It seems that he fell in love with it during a ride and therefore he decided to buy it. After a period of neglect, the villa was bought by the Russian prince Anatolio Demidoff who was responsible for many restoration and embellishment works. The villa has an architecture of great impact and has a solemn facade reminiscent of the temples of the Greco-Roman era. Inside you can visit some very refined rooms such as the Sala egizia and the Sala del nodo d’amore.
Castello del Volterraio
The Castello del Volterraio is located in a dominant position on the homonymous mountain. Built in the 13th century to defend the island, the castle was partially destroyed during an insurrection against the French army in 1798. After that event, the fortress was abandoned but in 2013 some restorations made it possible to save the surviving structures. In addition to its historical importance, the castle is also worth a visit for the extraordinary view it offers.
Fortresses of Portoferraio
In Portoferraio there are some well-preserved fortifications that can be visited. The first is the Forte Falcone which was built starting from 1548 to be completed only in 1701. The fort had both defensive and sighting functions and until recently it was used for military purposes. With its imposing ramparts and its considerable size it dominates the port and the buildings below.
On the end of the Portoferraio promontory, we find the Forte Stella which dates back to the same period as the Forte Falcone. This fort was part of that solid and complex defensive system that the Medici had wanted to protect the island and the city which in fact was practically impregnable.
Another fortification commissioned by the Medici to protect the port of Portoferraio is the Torre della Linguella which was built at the beginning of the sixteenth century. Built directly on the rocks, over the centuries it had various functions: military watchtower, warehouse and even prison. One of the names with which the tower was renamed is linked to this function: Torre Passannante. In fact, between 1879 and 1889 Giovanni Passannante was imprisoned here after he had made an attempt on the life of the King of Italy Umberto I. In the 1930s, Sandro Pertini was also imprisoned in the tower, due to his anti-fascist positions.
Archaeological Museum of Marciana
There are also some very interesting museums on the island of Elba. Among the most important is the Museo civico archeologico di Marciana. Inaugurated in 1968, the museum preserves artifacts found on the island that date back to various eras. In the first room there are the most ancient materials dated between the Paleolithic, the Neolithic, the Bronze Age, and the Archaic Etruscan age. The second room is dedicated to the Etruscans while the third focuses on the Middle Ages. The fourth and last room is finally focused on underwater archeology with the finds found inside some wrecks.
Beaches and sea of the Island of Elba
The Island of Elba has many beaches and shores that are perfectly suited to the most diverse tourist needs and preferences. There are beaches with fine sand and beaches with gravel and pebbles as well as stretches of coast with rocks.
For families with children there are several stretches of sea with sandy beaches and shallow waters such as in Fetovaia, Lacona, Marina di Campo and Procchio. There are several well-equipped bathing establishments, with lifeguards who monitor the coast and many services, as well as large stretches of free beach.
One of the most beautiful beaches is the Biodola beach which is located within a charming bay overlooking the Mediterranean scrub. Its depths are suitable for snorkeling and diving. Capo d’Enfola beach is the only one with an isthmus that connects it to a very suggestive peninsula, with a large parking area where you can rent pedal boats or jet skis. Here there is also an old tonnara which has now been renovated and has become the seat of the Parco Nazionale dell’Arcipelago Toscano (Tuscan Archipelago National Park).
If, on the other hand, you love sheltered and slightly wild beaches, you can choose between Chiessi, Patresi and Capo Sant’Andrea which, among cliffs and sea beds to explore, offer a breathtaking spectacle.