The largest island of the Tuscan archipelago, Elba is an enchanting place to visit on during best Italy tours.
The island’s most famous resident was Napoleon Bonaparte who lived here in exile for ten months in 1814. Despite the short stay, the disgraced Emperor of the French left a strong mark in the island’s life: he improved roads, revived the failing mines, boosted agriculture and fishing, and renovated two villas that he used as his residences. Both villas are open to the public today. Villa dei Mulini, is not as opulent as you would expect from a Napoleonic residence but has a beautiful Italian garden and spacious ballroom. The Villa San Martino, the emperor’s private summer residence is even more simple houses a great collection of contemporary cartoons about Napoleon that offer a fascinating glimpse into the past.
For a long time the island was a bleak place with ore and mineral mines, however, after the World War II, it was successfully turned into a holiday destination. The island’s main town, Portoferraio, is a maze of old streets dominated by a formidable 16th-century Medici fortress. Nearby you can also find Roman ruins, Villa Romana alle Grotte and Villa Romana di Capo Castello both dating back to the first century BC.
The island’s main attractions are, naturally, dozens of beautiful beaches and the crystal-clear sea. There is a beautiful 2km long sandy beach at Marina di Campo, dramatic coves with black volcanic rocks and smooth pebbly stretches.
You can explore Elba on foot or hire a scooter (be warned, the hairpin bends are not the faint-hearted!). On the western part of the island, near the village of Marciana Alta, jump in a cable car to go up to the Monte Capanne. From its summit, on a clear day, you can see the island of Montecristo and Corsica. The longest walking trail on the island, “La Via dell’Essenza“, runs along the coast for 130km.
Apart from the beautiful memories and holiday snapshots to take home on one of yours best Italy tours, you can stock up on the delicious local “drunk cake” (“torta ubriaca”) and the sweet Elba Aleatico wine loved by Cosimo de’ Medici and Napoleon.
Photos via Flickr by: Mario Scalet, Marie Jirousek.