Many people ask themselves when going to the Isle of Elba what to see and as I have had the opportunity to say in my previous articles, Elba should not be seen only from the point of view of a seaside holiday and for its beautiful beaches although, of course, it remains the greatest attraction of thousands of tourists who come here every year.
When I chose to visit the island of Elba for the first time for a weekend, I knew I was going to a place that was certainly interesting with many attractions but I would not have expected to discover an area much richer than I had thought.
Before talking about attractions related to beaches and coastlines, I would like to point out a list of places worth visiting.
Museum of Napoleonic Residences
Elba is linked to Napoleon Bonaparte, who lived his first exile here (May 1814 – February 1815) after his military defeat which gave rise to the Treaty of Fointainbleau which allowed him to leave the European political scene with dignity and to govern the Principality of the Island of Elba specifically set up for this purpose and which provided for Napoleon to renounce all rights on French territory.
The agreement was not maintained by the former emperor who tried to regain power but, however, during his stay in Elba he ruled the island materially.
Things to see on Elba include Villa San Martino where he lived and the Palazzina dei Mulini. Today, these two buildings are museums where the original furnishings, the Emperor’s important library and various works of art have been preserved.
Civic Archaeological Museum of Portoferraio
Inhabited since prehistoric times, Elba preserves its thousand-year-old history through evidence given by finds dating back from the 7th century BC to the 5th century AD inside this museum where you can see what has been recovered by archaeologists. The finds date back to both the Etruscan and Roman periods: two peoples who exploited the island by exploiting its mineral resources and developing trade.
The building where the museum is located is also remarkable, especially highlighted by the sixteenth-century watchtower which was later transformed into a mass security prison that saw both the anarchist Passanante and Sandro Pertini among the prisoners.
The top of Monte Capanne rises a few metres above a thousand metres and can be reached either by a couple of suggested routes starting in Marciana, or by a comfortable cableway from Pozzatello.
In this case, in less than twenty minutes you can reach an altitude of 963 metres above sea level from where you can immerse yourself in chestnut and holm oak woods in close contact with nature where the Mediterranean scrub prevails over everything.
On the summit, being a particularly clear day, I had the immense fortune to be able to admire a truly unique panorama that extends to the distant islands of Pianosa, Montecristo, Capraia, Gorgona and also Corsica and the coasts of Tuscany.
Trekking on Monte Capanne:
One of the most beautiful attractions of Elba is trekking. This island offers many routes where you can immerse yourself in nature.
I have tried my hand at climbing Mount Capanne, the highest peak on the island.
What makes it unique is its particular composition of large blocks of granite. There are several paths. The hike is not very difficult and takes about three hours and is about sixteen kilometres long.
If you don’t want to try it yourself, you can book one of the island’s expert hiking guides because in some places it is possible to get lost for those who are not local.
Trekking Elba island
You start from Marciana where you take the path that leads to the hermitage of San Cerbone and continue on granite steps until you reach a plateau with an old building from where you can observe the entire Island of Elba. Here, in the middle of the typical wood of the Mediterranean maquis, I was able to observe the flora and fauna of the place and many animal species, from fallow deer to peregrine falcon to mouflon.
San Giovanni Thermal Baths
Elba is not only sea but also spa. They are located in Portoferraio and are based on baths, inhalations, aerosol and mud treatments in a beautiful location that contemplates a scenic park.
In addition to the spa treatments there is the possibility to take advantage of the adjoining Wellness Centre for beauty and wellness treatments where there is no lack of Turkish bath and sauna, whirlpool, emotional showers and fitness room.
The extraction of iron has been very important for centuries and its history deserves to be known. It starts from Rio Marina where there is the museum where the various minerals extracted on the island are collected and catalogued: quartz, pyrite, elbaite and hematite among others.
A permanent exhibition of period photographs narrate the hard work of the miners during their activities which lasted until the 1980s and then ceased altogether.
I suggest to book an excursion with local guides illustrating the itinerary.
Elba Island Aquarium
The Elba Aquarium is certainly not to be compared to the largest aquariums in the world, but it is undoubtedly one of the most complete concerning life in the Mediterranean. Especially if you are travelling with children, it is a destination not to be missed, especially on rainy days.
Sant’Ilario al Campo and Fetovaia Beach
Don’t miss the chance to immerse yourself in the rarefied atmosphere of the small hamlet of Sant’Ilario, strolling calmly along the narrow streets and alleys of this tiny but enchanting village, admiring flowery balconies and truly unique views that are only possible in this place with its original medieval fabric.
Nature and history on the island of Elba
Like other people who think of Elba as a small island that offers only beaches to experience the sea, I had made a mistake in my assessment.
Elba also means thousand-year-old history (it was already inhabited during prehistory) and unspoilt nature: two elements that must be translated as stimuli for more than interesting excursions.
All this without taking due account of the fact that there are other destinations in the Tuscan archipelago that deserve to be known: from the little Montecristo that brings to mind the famous novel by Dumas, to the delightful island of Giglio, the unknown Giannutri, to the severe Pianosa famous for having been the seat of a maximum security prison now no longer inhabited.
During my weekend I realized that Elba is a destination capable of satisfying every kind of tourist: from the family on holiday with their children to couples looking for a romantic place.
Island of Elba Not to be missed
I did not stop only at the beautiful beaches of this island. I also visited several countries. An interesting attraction is Portoferraio, the main town on the Island of Elba.
It is not only a simple landing place for tourists arriving by ferry. Here you can visit the famous residences of Napoleon Bonaparte, Villa San Martino and Villa dei Mulini.
One of its most beautiful parts is the historical centre thanks to the presence of castles, villas, ancient defences and fortresses.
The nearby towns of Marina di Campo and Campo nell’Elba are also worth a visit. Marina di Campo is one of the most famous resorts.
It is characterized by a picturesque historical centre in which there is a watchtower from the Pisan-Medical period. Here there are numerous ice-cream parlours, pizzerias and restaurants where you can taste typical dishes.
Also in the evening there are clubs for those who love fun, among which I recommend Il Tinello, Il pianobar da Giannino and the disco Butterfly. Also in Marina di Campo there is the Aquarium of Elba which is one of the largest in Italy for variety of species.
Another village that I really liked for the sense of serenity and peace that has transmitted to me is Campo nell’Elba. In addition to its beautiful beach of Fetovaia, the hamlet of Sant’Ilario, a small village that has preserved its medieval structure intact, is worth a visit.
What to do on Elba Island
Elba cannot offer the nightlife of a Mykonos or an Ibiza, but this does not detract from the fact that, especially during the summer, all the seaside resorts offer lively situations such as beach parties and live music events.
I had the opportunity to attend the beach of Cavoli participating in engaging evening openings with which we began the night in Elba that saw its continuation in one of the many discos such as the Deco in Capoliveri or the Butterfly in Marina di Campo or the Club 64 in Portoferraio.
Sport activities Elba Island
I must underline the fact that Elba offers the best of itself in the offer of sports activities that can be practiced such as mountain biking and trekking for those who love hiking in nature or kitesurfing, windsurfing, surfing, kayaking, snorkeling and diving for all lovers of the sea.
There is no shortage of tennis courts for those who love to try their hand at this sport.
Horse riding on the Island of Elba
On the Island of Elba, as well as on foot or by mountain bike, it is possible to go for a horseback ride along the numerous paths and picturesque views from the sea to the mountains.
There are several equestrian centres where you can find qualified guides and instructors who will guarantee maximum safety and accompany you to discover the wilderness on horseback. On the eastern side you can choose the paths of Monte Calamita or the paths leading to Monte Perone or the paths of Monte Tambone from Laconella to Fonza.