When summer comes we feel it in the air. After the cloudy winter months, the sun shines and the temperature gets warmer. While wheatfields turn from green to yellow colors, the call of the sea is strong on us living by the coast. The crystal clear waters of Elba Island in Tuscany are the perfect spot to take a bath and enjoy hours of well-deserved relaxation. Considering that this gem of the Tuscan Archipelago is not only beach and sunbeds, we selected a list of things to do on Elba Island in Italy.
For us, it is always great to go back to Elba Island. This island reminds us of our cheerful youth when we jumped on the ferry with our friends. No matter if it was for a week or just a weekend! Only one hour on the boat separated us from this little paradise, its amazingly clear waters, and lush nature.
Where is Elba Island?
The Elba Island is part of the Tuscany region. It is the most famous island of the Tuscan Archipelago that includes other six islands: Capraia, Gorgona, Pianosa, Giglio, Giannutri, and Montecristo.
On beautiful days when the sky is clear, looking at the sea from the Tuscan coast, you see the profiles of these islands over the horizon. That of Elba is the biggest and it doesn’t even seem too far away. From the town of Piombino, Elba is so close that it almost feels like you can touch it with one hand.
Elba Italy Map
How to get to Elba Island?
You get to Elba Island from the port of Piombino on the mainland. Portoferraio is the main port on the island. Surfing the web you can find the best deals for the ferry from Piombino to Portoferraio. But there are a few lines to Cavo and Rio Marina too.
A good base on Elba Island is the lovely village of Capoliveri. You can choose your accommodation here and move around the island by car. No matter where you are on the island, there will always be a beach or small bay near you to relax.
However, Elba Island is not only beach life. You can hike if you want and if it’s not too hot. And discover a bit more of the history of Elba. This is the island where Napoleon spent his exile.
7 things to do on the Elba Island: our selection
Rest in the sun at the beach
There are so many incredible beaches to visit that it would take two weeks to try a different place every day. We will dedicate a blog post only to them. You can choose between the wonderful white pebble beaches of Capo Bianco and Le Ghiaie near Portoferraio, the golden sandy beach of La Biodola, and the long-equipped Lacona Beach. Cavoli Beach is a favorite for young people looking for fun and music. To follow, we talk a bit about two of our favorite ones, the wild Pomonte Beach and Fetovaia Beach.
1. Discovering the wreck at Pomonte Beach
Pomonte Beach is one of the wild spots of Elba Island. To reach this beach, I remember that from the church of the village, we have to follow the main road, and once there, park the car in one of the free parking 60 meters away from the beach. Pomonte beach is a lovely tiny pebble beach with crystal clear water. It is a quiet place to relax, where is also possible to rent a sunbed and a sun umbrella. Our suggestion is to arrive early in the morning to take place.
It is perfect if you love snorkeling or immersion too. It is possible to admire the submarine fauna, and the wreck of a ship called “Elviscot” that, since 1972, lay on the white sea bottom at only 200 meters from the beach. I remember that, when I went there years ago, the East wind was blowing and some guys were surfing. I also have the memory of an intense moment admiring the sunset facing the silhouette of Corsica, France’s largest island, on the horizon.
2. Paddleboat at Fetovaia, a beach perfect for families
Fetovaia Beach is one of the most beautiful beaches of Elba Island, located not far from the village of Marina di Campo. Nestled in a small natural cove, Fetovaia is a golden sandy beach with watercolors that go between turquoise and sapphire. It is possible to add moments of relaxation at the beach, with excursions in paddleboats, or with walks along the long promontory surrounded by the wild Mediterranean scrub.
If you are traveling with kids, this beach is perfect because the water is shallow and calm. The sea is rough only if southern winds such as Libeccio or Scirocco are blowing. So you do not have to be worried about them while they are playing in the water. The beach has facilities like a bar and restaurant, paddleboard rental, and is pet-friendly too.
The only inconvenience is that especially in July and August, it is one of the most crowded beaches of Elba Island, but once plunged into this marvelous water, I am sure you will forget about it.
Walking into the history of Elba Island
3. Visit the Fortress of Volterraio
Being fascinated by castles and legends of knights and old families, I would visit the Fortress of Volterraio. You have to drive to Rio nell’Elba, and from there, with a nice walk reach the castle, which is the most ancient building on Elba Island, and its origins date back to the Etruscan civilization.
Its name may come from the Etruscan term “Vultur” (Vulture); if you are a fan of the Twilight Saga, this term is probably familiar to you. In 1281, Pisa decided to use the fortress for defensive reasons investing enormous resources for its expansion. Thanks to this important reinforcement, the Turkish pirates never conquered the castle during their several incursions on Elba Island.
4. Villa San Martino, an eye on Napoleon’s life
The historical figure of Napoleon always had a great appeal to me since the time of elementary school, for his role during the French Revolutionary Wars, and for becoming in a short time a great conqueror thanks to his strategic skills. Therefore we won’t miss for any reason a visit to the places where he lived on Elba Island as Villa San Martino and the Villa dei Mulini.
Located in the countryside of Elba Island the neoclassical Villa San Martino, made of a golden color stone hailing from Elba Island, has a fascinating history, especially for its owner Napoleon Bonaparte. He used to rest here in the coolest hours of the day, and often he enjoyed the company of noble ladies and peasants of the gentle sex. He wanted this two-storey house with sober architecture as his summer residence, and his sister Paolina lent him the money to buy it. Napoleon Bonaparte lived here in exile for only nine months, from 4 May 1814 to 26 February 1815. He was entitled Prince and the Elba Island became for the first time the center of European political affairs. He invested money in modernizing the island, financing the construction of a road system, introducing administrative decrees, and sustaining the rise of the industries.
The Egyptian Room
At the entrance of the villa, the statue of Galatea welcomes the visitor. The Italian artist Canova made this masterpiece by choosing Mrs. Paolina Bonaparte Borghese as a model. A must-see in this astonishing villa is the Egyptian room on the second floor, and its walls decorated with trompe l’oeil representing the Egyptian campaign. Inside the Egyptian room, it is also possible to admire an octagonal basin containing papyrus plants.
The Room of the Love Knot
In the room of the Love Knot, used at that time as a dining room, look up to the ceiling and appreciate the beautiful frescos representing the love between Napoleon and Marie Louise, symbolized by two doves flying away that are tying a knot of love. We will also have a look at the Demidoff Gallery. In 1851, the Russian prince Anatolio Demidoff, husband of Matilde of Monfort, Napoleon’s nephew, decided to buy the villa. He financed the building of a gallery to conserve his astounding Napoleonic gallery, and to satisfy his pleasure as an art collector.
To celebrate his devotion to Napoleon, the gallery was decorated with Napoleonic symbols such as the imperial eagle, the three bees, and the initial “N”. It hosted also another famous sculpture, the Paolina Bath, with the well-known marble bathtub, the imperial library, and other decorations representing the Egyptian campaign. Unfortunately, this first real Napoleonic museum of the world was closed at the death of Anatolio in 1871, and all the collection was sold.
Since 1984 the gallery has been used as an exhibition space housing several prints of the Napoleonic Era coming from many private collections, and temporary historical exhibits.
5. Villa dei Mulini, the town dwelling of Napoleon’s court
The city residence of Napoleon on Elba Island is set on Portoferraio promontory, between Forte Falcone and Forte Sella. It takes his name from the several Mulini (windmills) settled here in the olden days. The reason for using this villa as his preferred residence was the strategic overlooking position above the town and the sea. From the panoramic terrace, he could observe the boats entering the port and even admire a wonderful landscape.
During his stay, Napoleon recreated a few times the splendor of his French court. He made a favor to host his mother and his sister Paolina that, otherwise they would never have come to Elba. Nowadays the villa houses memorabilia and furniture from the Napoleonic Era. A special mention goes to the library that Napoleon brought with him during his exile. It includes some precious Voltaire, La Fontaine, and Plutarco. and he donated it to the town of Portoferraio.
Experience the Mediterranean scrub
6. Hike the Capanne Mount
If you love hiking, we suggest reaching the peak of Capanne Mount, which is a fascinating challenge being one of the highest points of the entire Island with its 1019 meters above sea level. Walking along the trails that lead to the peak you will discover the beautiful Mediterranean scrub and its unique scent.
The Monte Capanne is also a perfect environment for several plants and animals. Here you can catch sight of wild boars or mouflons.
If you cannot walk too much, or you are too lazy to move, do not worry, in just 14 minutes the cable car drops you on the top. This lookout is the ideal spot to admire the wonderful landscape of Elba Island from three sides and a good place to take great panoramic shots of the island and the Mediterranean Sea.
Discover the wildlife of Elba Island sea
7. Elba Aquarium and Wildlife Museum
If you have time, take a look also at the little Elba Aquarium located in Marina di Campo, in the Southwest of the island.
More than 80 tanks, filled with 250.000 liters of seawater, host about 150 different species of Mediterranean marine organisms, making it one of the most complete current Mediterranean aquariums. The reason why we think that the Aquarium is well worth a visit is that tanks are handmade with artificial and natural materials to accurately reproduce the habitat of each species of the Mare Nostrum and of the Tuscan Archipelago.
You will probably lose the perception of time admiring sharks, fishes, turtles, crustaceans and mollusks, marbled newts, starfishes, and sea urchins. We guess that sea lovers cannot miss a visit. We also think it might be interesting both for adults and children. They can learn how to recognize, appreciate, and protect sea life.
Where to Sleep on Elba Island
The island is relatively small and easy to explore by car. Wherever you decide to stay, the distances between places are very short. To follow you find info about locations where to book your Elba Italy Hotels.
Portoferraio is the port where most of the ferries dock. It can be a good base for everyone who doesn’t have a car. You can easily reach the beaches of Le Ghiaie and Le Viste, and get public transportation to explore the rest of the island.
Marina di Campo
Marina di Campo has the advantage of having the beach within easy walking distance. It is then one of the favorites for families with kids. There is also a good choice of bars, restaurants, and shops. So it is a good base for everyone who loves a bit of nightlife after sunset. Every Wednesday along the waterfront the street market takes place. Not far from Marina di Campo is the famous beach of Fetovaia.
Capoliveri is, in our opinion, the loveliest town on the island. It is on the top of a small hill and is quite lively at night. The main square is like a terrace with a sea view. Almost every summer night hosts events, entertainment, and music concerts.
Marciana Marina is the smallest village of Elba in the northwestern part of the island. There is a lovely promenade along the central pebble beach. This is the perfect shore if you don’t want to move around the island. If you don’t like the sand and prefer to rest in the sun on the rocks, facing the sea, on the right you will find the Scogliera del Cotone.
The fishermen’s village of Porto Azzurro develops at the foot of the fortress of San Giacomo. It was built in the early 1600s at the behest of the Spanish. On the seafront, dine in one of the exclusive restaurants on stilts. Stroll around the tourist harbor, you can admire majestic yachts during summertime and small fishing boats in winter.
So, are you ready to spend an amazing summer holiday in Tuscany on Elba Island? Have you already been on the island? Would you like to share your impressions about this fantastic place, or suggest some other things to do on Elba Island? Leave a comment below.