Located off the Maremma coast, Elba is the most well-known of the islands in this Tuscan archipelago. The history of this island, strategically located on the former Mediterranean routes, links back to the Etruscan origins of the Italian peninsula. Starting in the 8th century, it appeared again in the adventures of Muslim, Norman and Greek pirates, as well as in conflicts with the Genoese, Catalans and Neapolitans, not to mention the English and Dutch privateers during the 16th century. Since it was such easy prey amidst all the conflicts, the Island of Elba, with the help of Pisa, built itself a defence system that remains admirable to this day.
Surrounded by the calm waters of the Mediterranean Basin, this now-peaceful island has become a seaside destination thanks to its little beaches and trekking and cycling opportunities due to its inland hills. It's also a cultural destination thanks to the richness of its history, which is certainly not particularly important but which nevertheless made its mark in certain ways.
The Island of Elba is an island reliant on its farming traditions, today producing various oils and wines. Very rich in terms of gastronomy, like the region to which it belongs, the island is known for its practices linked to 'green tourism'. These practices are especially appreciated by German tourists, who even visit the island in spring, contrary to the Italians, who mostly visit during the summer. There are many agritourism establishments to be found on the island, mostly nestled inland at the heart of vineyards and olive groves, leaving the areas along the coasts and the beaches for seaside hotels.
The Island of Elba is perfect for sports enthusiasts: among some of the activities you can participate in are trekking and mountain biking excursions, various underwater diving and windsurfing sites, as well as trails for horseback riding.
The trekking and mountain biking routes are particularly renowned for the beauty of the surrounding landscapes, not to mention the various difficulty levels available (split into beginner's, intermediate and expert routes), an aspect appreciated by the varied sports enthusiasts who visit the island. The routes start off in the island's main towns, from where keen hikers and cyclists set off to explore the whole island. Drop in to the tourist information centre to get a map outlining the various excursions.
The woods on the northwestern slope. Itinerary from Marciana (at an altitude of 355m). Stages: San Cerbone after 531m and Valle di Pedalta after 805m. The trek lasts approximately 4 and a half hours.
Eagle nests. Itinerary from Rio nell'Elba, a 7.5 mile trek. Intermediate level.
The world of iron. Itinerary from Rio nell'Elba, a 7.5 mile trek. Stages: Le Panche, Monte Capannello, Monte Strega, Santa Caterina, Torre Giove. This trek lasts approximately 3-4 hours.
Mountain biking routes†:
Monte Perone†: Redinoce, Monte Perone, Redinoce. Concrete and dirt tracks. 10.5 miles, expert level.
Cavo: Rio nell'Elba, Cavo, Rio nell'Elba. Asphalt. 13 miles, expert level.
Calamita: Capoliveri, Punta Calamita, Capoliveri. Dirt tracks and compact earth. 16.5 miles, intermediate-beginner's level.
Thanks to its rich history, there are many interesting monuments to be visited on the island: sanctuaries, fortified churches, cylindrical watchtowers, fortifications, etc. The main towns on the island (namely Portoferraio, Marciana, Capoliveri and Porto Azzurro) are ideal destinations for an excursion, if only for a short wander through their narrow streets.
Sanctuaries: in Capoliveri, the Sanctuary of Madonna delle Grazie dating back to the 15th century, built on the orders of the Spanish governor Josť Pons y Lťon, is home to a Virgin Mary similar to the statue found in the sanctuary in Catalonia.
Volterraio: Volterraio Castle was fortified by the Romans, the people of Pisa, and the Spanish. Perched on a rocky spur, the castle affords a panoramic view over the whole archipelago and even Corsica.
Fortified churches: San NiccolÚ Church and San Piero in Campo (respectively dating back to the 11th and 14th centuries), San Nicola in Poggio, and Santi Martiri Giacomo e Quirico in Rio nell'Elba.
Watchtowers: The Torre della Marina, which dates back to the 11th century, and the Torre Pisana and Sarrasine, said to date back to the 15th century, in Marina di Campo and Marciana Marina. In Rio Marina you can also find the Medicea tower, a Spanish construction dating back to 1534 owed to the Appiani family.
Napoleonic villas: the Villa dei Mulini in Portoferraio, and the Villa di San Martino in the hinterland.
A bike tourism destination, the Island of Elba is hilly. Some of the cycling routes present with some dauntingly steep hills. So if you're only a beginner, it's better to get some training in beforehand.
The distances between the towns and villages on the island are quite large: if you want to visit the entire island, it's essential to hire a car or a bike.
Tourism on the Island of Elba is seasonal, from May to mid-October, when the weather is nice. Although in summer it's easy to find hotels, agritourism establishments, houses to rent and camping sites, the majority of hotels are closed in winter and right at the beginning of the season. That's why it's always best to do your research before you leave, so that you're sure to find somewhere to stay.
Agricultural despite its insular character, the Island of Elba produces oil and wine.
The wines produced on the Island of Elba now display a label confirming that they benefit from Controlled Designation of Origin. The Elba Bianco (white) and the Elba Rosso (red) are the most famous, but there are also some sweet wines (without Controlled Designation of Origin, like Ansonica Passita, Moscato and Aleatico).
The cultivation of olive trees here has ancient origins and the island boasts a rather flourishing production of these. To find out where you can buy some of the olive-based products, simply head to an agritourism establishment and check the boards for local producers.
Most of the restaurants on the island serve fresh fish. However, Elba is historically a farming island; explaining why the fishermen still come to the island today from the Gulf of Naples.
The local production of wine, oil, honey and products conserved in oil are sold in agritourism establishments. Finally, the Acqua dell'Elba fragrances, eau de toilette and eau de parfum for men and women, are perfumes with a Controlled Designation of Origin on sale in Capoliveri, Portoferraio, Porto Azzurro and Marciana Marina. Why not combine these with a whole range of beauty products: shampoo, creams, bubble bath, etc. These are also all produced locally and fragranced with fresh extracts of citrus fruits.