When summer comes we feel it in the air. After the cloudy winter months, the sun shines and the temperature gets warmer. Wheat fields turn from green to yellow colors, and the call of the sea is strong on us living by the coast. The crystal clear waters of the Elba Island in Tuscany are the perfect spot to take a bath and enjoy hours of well-deserved relax. Considering that this gem of the Tuscan Archipelago is not only beach and sun beds, we selected a list of things to do on the Elba Island.
For both of us, it is always great to go back to Elba Island. This island reminds us to our cheerful youth when we used to jump on the ferry with with our friends. Doesn’t matter if was for an entire week or just a weekend! Only one hour on the boat separated us from this little paradise made of amazingly clear waters and a lush nature.
The Elba Island is the biggest and most famous of the seven Islands of the Tuscan Archipelago. Every year it hosts thousands of tourists, although there is always a beach, a little gulf, or a path to hike where finding peace and relax. Surfing the web looking for the best deal to reach the Elba Island, we found a good price for the ferry from Piombino to Portoferraio, the main port of the island, and we also found out some hints to organize our trip.
Our plan is to stay in the lovely village of Capoliveri and then explore the island by car- We would like to relax at the beach, but also discover a bit more of the history of Elba (this is the island where Napoleon was exiled), and if it won’t be too hot, even a bit of hiking.
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 that we would need two weeks trying every day different places. We will dedicate a blog post only to them. Nicola has memories of 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, and Cavoli Beach that is the favorite for young and people looking for fun and music. I think our choice will be 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 sun bed 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 the 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 as bar and restaurant, paddleboards rental, and is pet-friendly too. The only inconvenient is that especially in July and August, it is one of the most crowded beaches of the Elba Island, but once plunged in 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 legend of knights and old families, for sure we will visit the Fortress of Volterraio. We will drive to Rio nell’Elba, and from there, with a nice walk we will reach the castle, which is the most ancient building of the 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 the 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 the elementary school, for his role during the French Revolutionary Wars, and for becoming in a short time a great conqueror thanks his strategic skills. Therefore we won’t miss for any reasons 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 his 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 villa with a 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. At the entrance of the villa, the statue of Galatea welcomes the visitor. The Italian artist Canova made this masterpiece 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. 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 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 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. From 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.
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, because this is 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 will make you discover the charming Mediterranean’ scrub and its unique scent. If you cannot walk too much, or you are too lazy to move, do not worry, in just 14 minutes you can reach the top by cable car. This lookout is the ideal spot to admire the beautiful landscape of the Elba Island from three sides, and we cannot wait to be up there to take great panoramic shots of the island and the Mediterranean Sea. The Monte Capanne is also the perfect environment for several plants and animals, and as matter of fact, here you can catch sights of wild boars or mouflons.
Discover the wildlife of Elba Island sea
7. Elba Aquarium and Wildlife Museum
If we will have time, we would like to have 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’s marine organisms, making it one of the most complete current Mediterranean aquariums. The reason why we think that this Aquarium well worth a visit is that tanks were made by hand with artificial and natural materials to accurately reproduce the habitat of each species of the Mare Nostrum and of the Tuscan Archipelago.
We will probably lose the perception of time admiring sharks, fishes, turtles, crustaceans and mollusks, marbled newts, starfishes and sea urchins. We guess that the lovers of the sea and nature cannot miss a visit, and we 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 join us on this journey to discover the 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 the Elba Island, leave a comment below.