Elba is a small island located in the Tuscan archipelago (and is part of the region). It is not famous like Sicily or Sardinia, which are the largest islands of Italy, but is magnificent. It is lapped by pristine turquoise waters perfect to swim in during the summer.
Being a spot off the beaten path has its (many) advantages. One of them is the lack of tourists. Elba is not a typical tourist destination, so you’ll not find hordes of people or lines and crowds like in other Mediterranean islands. Elba is mostly frequented by Tuscany residents and, if you want to avoid them too, book a trip in Spring or early Autumn to enjoy the silence.
Being an island, Elba has several fish restaurants. Every morning, fishermen go offshore and fish all day. Then, in the late afternoon, they bring their catch to the restaurants of the islands. Don’t forget to order cozze alla marinara, linguine allo scoglio and calamari alla griglia.
Elba is home to a small but very beautiful aquarium. It is not as famous as the Oceanografic of Valencia or Acquario di Genova, but it’s a nice place to spend few hours. We strongly recommend visiting if you are traveling with kids!
Sports enthusiasts need to know that Elba is the ideal location for them as well. They will find hiking, biking, kayaking and trekking. Lazier visitors can spend their days on the beaches relaxing.
Diving in Elba is one of the coolest things you can do; the water is some of the cleanest in Italy, and you can even snorkel to admire the colours, fish and natural views under water. One of the best places to go to dive is Formiche della Zanca, where caves and cavities give a rare and colourful spectacle of Mediterranean flora and fauna.
Like many other places in Tuscany, Elba has been linked to the Medici family. Cosimo de’ Medici imagined a city, Cosmopoli, dedicated to him; it was founded by the architects Giovanni Camerini and Bernardo Buontalenti. A sign of the Medici domination is still visible today in Forte Falcone, an imposing fortress in Porto Ferraio appearing to welcome those about to set foot on the island.
The island is home to many historical hamlets that have remained unchanged and remind one of a unique tradition of flavours and colours. To know more about its history Portoferraio is well worth a visit, with its interesting history seeping from the streets and walls of the old town.
Only few people know that Elba is connected to Napoleon. He has been an extremely important character for the island, which still celebrates him and preserves his major works, such as villas, theatres, museums and houses. One of the best examples of this is Villa dei Mulini, an ancient Medici villa refurbished and redesigned by Napoleon.
Except for Napoleon, also Alexandre Dumas was in Elba in the mid-19th century; the island of Monte Cristo is just off Elba – visible but, because a nature reserve, not visitable. Also Paul Klee was there, sketching, and, in 1947, Dylan Thomas landed in the mining area of Rio Marina and defined Elba the most beautiful island of the Mediterranean.
Elba is very rich in iron, and its mines are renowned. A visit to the Calamita mines in Capoliveri is strongly recommended. The history of these mines goes back thousands of years, from the Etruscan-era to 1980, when they were closed. Iron has always been the main resource of the town and made the island a central point of the Mediterranean trade routes. A descent down into the Ginevro mine is a must: It is the only underground mine on the island that is still accessible.
One of the most romantic things you can do in Elba Island is to admire the sunset with your partner. The island offers spectacular views over the Tyrrenean Sea, especially in the summer months when the sky is coloured with shades of red, orange and yellow.