Elba is the third largest island after Sicily (Sicilia) and Sardinia (Sardegna) in Italy and the largest in the Tuscan archipelago. It belongs to the Toscana region, Livorno County, and is located 10 kilometers from the city of Piombino, separated from it by a strait of the same name. 35 kilometers from the Elbe in the western direction is the island of France, Corsica (Corsica). The central city is Portoferraio, with a local population of approximately 35,000.
Elba is a specially protected natural area and is part of the Tuscan Archipelago National Park. One of the natural attractions is the peak of Monte Capanne, which has a height of 1019 m. From afar, the island makes a vivid impression due to the fantastically indented coasts covered with mounds of dark red, jet black, brownish-brown and bluish-blue colors, scattered along the coast villages of fishermen, ancient fortresses, magnificent sandy and pebble beaches.
The island became famous in the era of antiquity, as the ancient Etruscan tribe discovered iron ore here and built structures for mining and processing. From 480 BC the development of iron deposits was undertaken by the Romans, who also discovered deposits of granite and healing mud.
Both the Etruscans and the Romans engaged in viticulture and winemaking, as evidenced by archaeological finds. It is known that the wine trade on the island flourished during the time of Ancient Rome; Elba is famous for its wines now.
After the collapse of the Roman Empire, the predatory and destructive attacks of the Saracen and barbarian tribes brought Elba into decline. In the era of the early Middle Ages, in the XI century, the rulers of the city of Pisa joined their possessions. In 1399, the island was acquired by the ruler of the city of Piombino by the name of Appiani, and Elba belonged to his family for almost two hundred years.
From 1546 to 1577, part of the island belonged to Cosimo I de Medici, who built the Cosmopoli citadel in Portoferraio on the Elbe. Then, until 1603, the island was again ruled by the Appiani family. Since 1603, Elba has been in the possession of the Spanish king Philip II (Felipe II), due to which two more fortresses appeared. Since 1802, the Elbe becomes the territory of France.
The famous page in the history of Elba is a stay on the island since 1814 in the link of Napoleon Bonaparte. The island was closely monitored by Britain, but Napoleon declared himself emperor of the island, was surrounded by his own detachment of courtiers of 600 people.
9 months and 21 days Napoleon is carrying out transformations in the field of the economy and social sphere of the island in order to improve the quality of life of the local population: he manages the construction of roads, reorganizes the extraction of ore in mines, and expands the market for wine. After that, he escapes from the Elbe and returns to Paris, where he regains his power, which lasted for the famous 100 days. After that, it will be a lost battle at Waterloo and a link to Saint Helena Island in the South Atlantic Ocean.
After these events, Elba joins the Duchy of Tuscany, since 1860 is included in the Italian Kingdom (Regno d'Italia). During World War II, German troops were stationed here until June 17, 1944, when the island was liberated by the French army during a bloody battle.
The main resorts of Elba - Portoferraio, Capoliveri (Capoliver), Cavo (Cavo), Rio Marina (Rio Marina), Porto Azuro (Porto Azzurro).
The island is small, you can drive it all around by car in 1.5-2 hours. However, it represents the unique historical and architectural treasures of different eras. If you get to know them slowly, not even a week will be enough!
Attraction is the whole island as a whole. The largest cultural and architectural monuments are concentrated in the central city and its suburbs.
Church of Mercy
The Church of Mercy (Chiesa della Misericordia), located on Napoleon Street (strada di Napoleone), was built in 1677 for the fraternity of Mercy formed by Giovanni di Bicci de 'Medici. The church got its name in honor of the brotherhood. The church preserves the relics of Christian Martyr, who patronizes the island.
The building amazes with the richness of the interior, is famous for the organ established in 1792 and the sculptural image of the Virgin Mary with the baby by the master Tino di Camaino, who studied under Giovanni Pisano.
It is in this church that every year on May 5 (since 1852) divine services are held in honor of Napoleon.
Near the church there is a museum telling about the Brotherhood of Mercy and representing some of its shrines.
The museum also exhibits relics related to the life of Napoleon Bonaparte:
- A flag handed to the deposed emperor on the day he arrives on the island;
- Posthumous bronze mask donated to the museum by Prince A. Demidov;
- A cast of Bonaparte's right arm in bronze.
Cathedral in honor of the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary
The cathedral, built in 1554, is located on the central Republic Square in Portoferraio (Piazza della Repubblica). Here in 1814, a solemn mass was held in honor of the appointment of Napoleon as the island's emperor.
Fortress walls of Medici
The powerful walls of the fortress, the first to welcome island guests sailing on a ferry, were built by the Medici to protect them from Turkish raids. The fortification complex is built first under the direction of Giovanni Camerini, and then Bernardo Buontalenti, and includes powerful walls and towers del Veneziano, del Casino di Mezzo, delle Palle and della Cornacchia.
This fortification structure consisted of 4 levels of fortress walls and was almost invulnerable during the time of the Medici.
Castle Volterraio (Fortezza Volterra), located on the way from Portoferraio to the municipality of Rio nel Elba (Rio nell'Elba), the oldest fort on the Elbe, the first builders of which were the Etruscans. After the Etruscans, the fortress was improved by the rulers of Pisa in 1281, Appiani was strengthened in 1440. This fort has never been able to capture Turkish pirate troops, despite numerous and lengthy sieges. Now the fortress is a magnificent ruins, attracting tourists from all over the world.
Napoleon House Museums
Elba keeps the memory of being in exile and the escape of the great overthrown emperor Napoleon Bonaparte. The buildings in which Napoleon lived are now museums and present exhibits telling about the stellar career of a great man.
Villa San Martino
Villa Saint Martino (San Martino), where the exiled emperor was in the summer, is located 5 kilometers from Portoferraio amidst picturesque countryside. The building is surrounded by the greenery of the garden surrounded by a high wrought iron fence with images of eagles - symbols of power.
The interior was designed by artist-architect Bardiglio, and the ceiling was painted by Vincenzo Antonio Revelli. Particularly noteworthy is the hall on the 2nd floor, representing the relics of Napoleon’s military campaign in Egypt:
- Ancient papyrus;
- Fragments of the walls.
The painting of the plafonds in the rooms and halls of the residence presents scenes from the life of the great emperor, for example, the story of his love for his wife Marie-Louise.
Next to Napoleon’s summer house, Count Anatole Demidoff, married to Napoleon’s niece Matilda de Montfort, built a museum in 1851 to exhibit relics related to Napoleon’s reign.
The gallery, decorated with yellow granite panels, was designed by the architect Niccolo Matas from Florence. Among the treasures of the gallery is the original statue of Antonio Canova, the model for which was one of Napoleon's sisters Pauline Borghese (Marie Paulette Bonaparte Borghese), who shared the exile with the disgraced emperor for 4 months.
The palace (Piazzale Napoleone), erected in 1724 by Gian Gastone de 'Medici and served as the main residence of Napoleon, was rebuilt under the personal supervision of the emperor. The front hall was improved, furniture was brought from Piombino from Napoleon’s sister’s house, the personal books of the emperor from Fontainebleau were brought to the library, authentic ancient Greek statues and copies of ancient masterpieces were installed in the garden.
The name indicates that until the time of construction of the building there were windmills. This main residence of Napoleon now houses the National Museum.
Villa del Grotte
Modern researchers have found that the building of the Villa del Grotte (Le Grotté) was mentioned in Ovid's poems. It had a pool and several gardens stretching along the sea. This building of the ancient Romans dates back to the 1st century BC, but its appearance has been preserved to this day. After the fall of the Roman Empire, it was not used for a long time, and only in 1799-1801 acquired the status of a fortification. During the war between France and the Neapolitan Republic, guns were placed in it.
Sights of Marchan
Sanctuary of the Madonna del Monte
The sanctuary of Santuario della Madonna del Monte, built in the 16th century, is located in the city of Marciana and attracts with an unusual ascetic interior:
- Dim light;
- Lack of murals on the walls, magnificent decoration and decor;
- A block of granite depicting the Virgin Mary in heaven dating back to the 13th century;
- Frescoes of the Sodom era discovered in the trans-Altaic part in 1995.
The sanctuary is surrounded by a green garden, since 1690 a clean spring has been beating in front of it. According to legend, Napoleon loved to be here to meet the lady of his heart - M. Walewska.
Torre della Marina (Torre della Marina, Novalja tower) is located in the city of Marchana on the territory of the port and is a defensive structure in the form of a cylinder. The citadel was built by decree of Jacopo Appiani (Jacopo Appiani) in 1558-1562 to protect the local population from the attacks of pirate Turkish troops led by Dragut (Dragut).
Museum of Archeology
The Archaeological Museum, which opened in 1968, presents a unique collection of artifacts found on the Elbe and in the coastal strip. The exhibits illustrate the history of the development of mining, crafts, shipbuilding and other aspects of human activity on the Elbe.
Fortress Torre San Giovanni in Ugento
The fortification called Torre di San Giovanni, built in Ugento in the 12th-13th centuries, as directed by the authorities of Pisa, rises on a strong foundation of monolithic granite.
Modern restorers are trying to restore the appearance of the fortress, which once had 2 floors and a viewing platform for transmitting signals about the advance of the enemy. However, it is not recommended to enter the fortress because of the possibility of a wall collapse.
Mountain Park of Elba Island
The mountain park (Parco Minerario Isola D'Elba) is a museum in Rio Marina, where you can get acquainted with the collection of minerals, the structure of the mines of the Etruscan tribes, and also independently participate in the extraction of minerals, and then take them with you as a souvenir.
Holidays on the Elbe all year round! In the spring - sports festivals, in the fall - the holidays of the harvest, wine and chestnuts, in the summer - music competitions. There are special holidays that are held only here.
May 5 - Napoleon Bonaparte Day
Every year in Portoferraio, on this day, they hold a solemn service in the Church of Mercy and arrange a procession in costumes of the Napoleonic era from the Church of Mercy to the Villa Mulini.
July 14 - The Legend of Love
This holiday is held in Capoliveri. The backstory of the celebration goes to a separate past: in 1534, the girl in love Maria rushed after the pirate ship, in which her fiancé Lorenzo was held captive by the Saracen robbers. For the first time this story was staged in the XVII century. Every year, a costumed procession is organized along the streets of Capoliveri to the sea, and on the coast there will be a team competition for the right to hand the scarf of the legendary Mary to the most beautiful girl in the city.
August 12 - St. Chiara Day
The celebration of the Day of St. Chiara (Santa Chiara) in the city of Marchana can not miss lovers of fireworks and illuminations. Residents and guests take to the streets and go to the sea, where the holiday ends with a giant pyrotechnic surprise!
This wonderful festival of harvest, fertility and winemaking is held in the commune of Capoliveri in late September - early October. On holidays, all participants of the holiday organize games and competitions, masquerades and competitions, show performances that reproduce the grape harvest from ancient times to the present day.
This international festival "Elba Isola Musicale d'Europa" gathers in September in concert halls, theaters, cathedrals, museum buildings, ancient fortresses, hotels in Portoferraio fans of classical and jazz music from different countries. The head of the jazz festival on the Elbe is Yuri Bashmet.
Such an original holiday invites to the cities of Poggio and Marchana on the last Saturday and Sunday in October. These days, on the squares of medieval settlements, you can taste roasted chestnuts with homemade wine, as well as a variety of chestnut dishes:
- Pies, etc.
Christmas and New Year
Portoferraio's Christmas Week brings all the holidays together into one big:
- Competitions and competitions;
- Fireworks and others.
Each city on the Elbe has several beaches for different tastes. All of them are distinguished by pure water. But the quality of the seabed and near-water territory is different:
- White, pink or black sand;
- Sand and small pebbles;
- Small and large pebbles;
Favorite beaches of all tourists, famous for crystal clear water and colorful sand:
- Porto Azzurro;
- Marina di Campo;
- Le Ghiaie;
- Rio Marina et al.
On the island of Elba, there are secluded nudist beaches in beautiful deserted bays, limited by cliffs:
- Scogliera de Le Piscine;
- Capo canata;
- Le Tombe beach;
- Acquarilli et al.
Some of them can be reached only on foot or by sea - on a yacht or boat.
Most of the beaches are beautifully equipped, and for lovers in different parts of the Elbe there are wild beaches: Laconella, Barabarca in the Gulf of Stella, Fonza, Galenzana and others.
For the guests of the island of Elba, special children's beaches and even beaches suitable for bathing pets are prepared. Sandy beaches with shallow warm water are suitable for kids:
- Fetovaia - annually included in the ranking of the best beaches in Italy;
- Marina di Campo;
- Sant'Andrea et al.
Dogs are welcome at Morcone and Pareti and Fonza beaches.
Elba offers unique wellness programs in the thermal springs of Terme San Giovanni (San Giovanni Terme Rapolano):
- natural healing mud;
- seaweed wraps;
- mineral water, etc.
The SPA-center offers a variety of procedures (different types of massage, etc.), outdoor and indoor pools work.
Detailed information on wellness programs, cost of services and work schedule on the official website www.termelbane.com.
Elba is a great place for outdoor activities: windsurfing, water skiing and jet skiing, yachting, catamarans, diving.
Every year, lovers of diving and photo-hunting come to the Elba, as the underwater part of the island attracts with caves. Near the island you can see the skeletons of dead ships, swim in the "underwater gardens". For lovers of walking, hiking trails of various lengths and complexity are equipped. And lovers of cycling or scooters in any hotel can rent it.
The golf club Elba Golf Club Acquabona is popular.
How to get there
The fastest option is an airplane. Flights to the Elba are organized from the airport in Milan. Flights to La Pila's private airport are operated by Intersky, Skywork and Silver Air. The flight takes 1 hour 20 minutes.
The budget option is a train from Florence, Milan, Pisa, Grosseto to Campiglia Marittima, from there a bus to Piombino, and then a ferry.An option at a reasonable price is a direct bus flight from Florence, Grosseto or Milan (Milan) to Piombino.
Elba Island can be reached by car from the airport in Florence or Pisa to the coastal town of Piombino, and from there by ferry or catamaran.
The ferry from Piombino to Elba takes 1 hour 10 minutes. You can take the ferry to Elba with a car. Ferries begin to operate from 6:00 a.m. until about 9:30 p.m. Instead of the ferry, you can use the Aliscafo catamaran from Piombino: travel time is 40 minutes.
Where to stay
On the island of Elba, guests will find a variety of accommodation options, including apartment hotels, vacation homes, campsites, floating hotels.
5 star hotels
Hotel Hermitage (Portoferraio) - is located on the bay in the middle of the national park, has its own pier, saltwater pools, sports fields (volleyball, tennis, football), a golf course, jogging tracks, a diving school, a fitness club, a spa center, Turkish baths. Hotel guests can use mountain bikes and other sports equipment.
The hotel offers accommodation in villas with shady courtyards or balconies overlooking the beach. It is important that pets are also welcome here.
- Room rate per day: from 198 €.
Hotel 4 stars Hotel Plaza (Port Azzurro) - located on top of a mountain above the sea, the restaurant offers great views. It features a spa, Turkish baths, a heated pool with underwater massage. Guests with pets are welcome here.
- Room rate per day: from 60 €.
Hotel Villa Ombrosa
Hotel Villa Ombrosa (Portoferraio) - a small cozy villa with 28 rooms, located in the wild, 9 minutes walk from the beach and 10 minutes from the city center. The kitchen pleases guests with homemade national dishes; the restaurant offers wonderful views.
- Room rate per day: from 48 €.
Mini Hotel Easy Time
Mini Hotel Easy Time (Rio Marina) - surrounded by a garden, the hotel has 8 rooms with equipped kitchenettes and balconies. The bed & breakfast offers buffet breakfast and discounts at city restaurants.
- Room rate per day: from 45 €.
Apartments and B&B
Sailing boat l'abricotier
Sailing Boat L'Abricotier (Marchana Marina) - apartments in a floating hotel overlooking the sea and mountains, within walking distance from the sights of the city. Accommodation involves two bedrooms, an open terrace, modern bathroom, kitchen, dining area.
- Cost of apartments per day: from 163 €.
B&B Aloe Ranch Elba
B&B Aloe Ranch Elba (Rio nell'Elba) - This hotel offers spacious, rustic-style rooms with a restaurant on the outdoor terrace amid a green garden. The beach is a 10-minute walk away. The hotel has an outdoor pool, daily maid service, amenities, bathrobes.
- Cost of apartments per day: from 56 €.