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.

Overview of Elba Island
Ph. Credits: Daniele Fiaschi

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 in Tuscany. 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, if you look at the sea from the Tuscan coast, you see the profiles of the Tuscan 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 seems as if 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. Anyway, Wherever you are on the island, there will always be a beach or a little gulf 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 but also discover a bit more of the history of Elba. This is the island where Napoleon spent his exile.

Capoliveri village on the Elba Island
View of Capoliveri – Photo Credits: Ed.h

7 things to do on the Elba Island: our personal selection

Rest in the sun at the beach

There are plenty of amazing beaches to go to that you would need 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 nearby Portoferraio, the golden sandy beach of La Biodola, 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 doing 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 had also memories of an intense moment admiring the sunset facing the outline of the Corsica, the biggest French island, at 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 at the 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 as Libeccio or Sirocco 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.

fetovaia beach Elba Island

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 of 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 the 4 May 1814 to the 26 February 1815. He was entitled Prince and the Elba Island became for its 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 as 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 is used as an exhibition space housing several prints of the Napoleonic Era coming from many private collections, and temporary historical exhibits.

Villa San Martino where Napoleone spent his esile on the Tuscan Island
Villa San Martino

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 choice of using this villa as his preferred residence was that the place had a 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 few times the splendor of his French court, to host his mother and his sister Paolina that, otherwise they would never have come to Elba. Nowadays the villa houses memorabilia and furniture of the Napoleonic Era, and the library that Napoleon brought with him during his exile(including some precious Voltaire, La Fontaine, and Plutarco), and that he donated 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. As matter of fact, here you can catch sights 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.

Monte Capanne on Elba Island
View from the Monte Capanne – Photo Credits: Andreas

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 to learn how to recognize, appreciate and protect the sea life.

So, are you ready to spend an amazing summer holiday in Tuscany on Elba Island? If you have already been on this island, and you would like to share your impressions about this fantastic place, or some other things to do on Elba Island, leave a comment below.

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

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 the Le Ghiaie and Le Viste, and get public transportation to explore the rest of the island.

Accommodation in Portoferraio

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.

Accommodation in Marina di Campo

Capoliveri

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 and almost every summer night hosts events, entertainment, and music concerts.

Accommodation in Capoliveri

Marciana Marina

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 which is the perfect shore if you don’t want to move around the island. Facing the sea, on the right you will find the Scogliera del Cotone if you don’t like the sand and prefer to rest in the sun on the rocks.

Accommodation in Marciana Marina

Porto Azzurro

The fishermen’s village of Porto Azzurro develops at the foot of the fortress of San Giacomo, 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.

Accommodation in Porto Azzurro

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Things to do on the Elba Island Cover for Pinterest

40 thoughts on “The Best 7 Things to Do on the Elba Island

  1. Rachel Heller says:

    It’s the historical side of Elba that interests me the most. I’d see those villas, then go snorkeling or diving in the evenings!

  2. Medha Verma Bector says:

    I was wondering where I had heard of Elba Island and then I read your post and remembered – Napoleon’s exile. It seems like an interesting island with a lot of things to do! And the waters look breathtaking as well! Sounds like the perfect place to explore this summer, enjoy 🙂

  3. Jen Yap says:

    Great article and a truly interesting place. Very lovely town with scenic landscapes and amazing history. Definitely, on my top places to visit.

  4. EG Green says:

    Haven’t even heard of Elba before now but it looks amazing. i’d love to walk through that old villa of Napoleon, close my eyes, and imagine it was 200 years earlier.

  5. Milijana says:

    Elba is just one of those perfect Mediterranean vacation destination that everyone should visit once in the lifetime. Luckily I was born on the Adriatic and the Tyrrhenian Sea and Elba are not too far away!

  6. LearningToAdventure says:

    Elba Island looks incredible – bear with me while I add it on to my wishlist!! Your photographs are beautiful. Thanks for sharing.

  7. Jack Krier says:

    Great article 🙂 Thanks for sharing! I went to Elba as a kid and I only remember the beaches, will have to go back to see more:)

  8. Mihaela Drăgan says:

    Honestly, in my ignorance I didn’t even hear about it. Now it is definitely on my bucket list. It looks stunning. Thanks so much for the inspiration.

  9. Luis-TravelSupervisors says:

    Hello! The Island looks amazing! I love the colour of the water!! It would be very interesting to see the wreck of the “Elviscot” . Is it possible to go on your own or is it necessary to go with a “”diving company””?

    About the Capanne Mount , I will take the cable car hahahhhaha.

    Nice post Edoardo!

    • Nicola - My Travel in Tuscany says:

      Hello Luis, we are happy you enjoyed the post. the wreck is only 8-10 meters under the water. You are not obliged to get a guide, but if you are an expert in free diving or scuba diving, for your safety, we suggest to get a guided tour of the wreck.

  10. Linda says:

    Ahhh. Capoliveri where my roots are. Love Elba and have visited my cousins there 3 times. My cousins own The Mandel Club and Cala Dei Peducelli and Villa Rosanna.

  11. Yvonne says:

    Hi,
    Thanks for sharing, Great post, looks very beautiful. I plan on visiting in August with my family. Are there any places to hire bicycles with a guide for a leisurely cycle ride around part of the island and perhaps recommended places for lunch close to the shore? We will be based in Capoliveri.

    • Nicola Bandini says:

      Dear Yvonne, thanks for your comment. I am not living on the island but I am trying to collect good info for your and reply to your requests. I will get back to you very soon.

    • Nicola Bandini says:

      Dear Yvonne, for a guided tour by bike, you can contact “bikecenterelba.it”. For restaurants close to shore I would suggest “da Luciano” in Scaglieri next to Portoferraio and “Borgo Al Cotone” in Marciana Marina. However, the choice is certainly wider and there are lovely restaurants in every town. 🙂

  12. Sharon Cinotti says:

    Hi, we are coming to Italy in March next year and wanted to travel to Elba. Weather good toward the end of March? Would be interested in a tour and a BB to stay at …maybe 1 or 2 days during the week not weekend. Thank you for recommendations and/or information

    • Nicola Bandini says:

      Hey Sharon, thanks for contacting us. March is a bit risky for Elba. Sun may shine with mild temperature but you can also find rain and low temperature. I would suggest a middle season like the end of April, May, or September to avoid the crowd. If you have a car you can tour around the island with no problem and reach all the main attractions and towns. In March not all hotels/BB are open because is still low season so the choice can be limited. For more info about Elba, I suggest you visit the website infoelba.it.

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