The Elba Island in Italy has always been considered the pearl of the Tyrrhenian Sea and, despite the fact that yearly visitors are increasing, you can still find quiet spaces for beach tourism off the beaten track to enjoy your holidays in peace! Following our advice on things to do on Elba Island and Isola d’Elba places to visit you'll find yourself relaxing on your holiday!
The Island of Elba is the largest of the islands of the Tuscan Archipelago and is the third largest Italian island after Sicily and Sardinia. Its name has ancient origins: as evidenced by Livio, The Young Plinio and other Latin authors, the island was called Ilva, meaning iron. There were also nicknames: the Greeks called it 'Aethalia', meaning smoky, while the Romans referred to it as 'Favilla', probably indicating the fires from the iron mines. It is clear that the fame and the features of this place were represented by its mineral deposits.
Firstly, there are the historical notes, geographic factors of Elba Island in Tuscany and interesting Elba Island attractions to consider in order to fully appreciate its beauty and its traditions. It is important to know that the Elba places to visit are famous and popular not only because of the island’s natural heritage made of creeks, bays, small Elba Island beaches and crystal clear sea. The magnificence of Elba is revealed also by its natural possibilities that one can experience through trekking and its rich history and centuries old culture.
How to get to Elba Island is easy from Piombino. When you reach this triangular island and find its mountainous character, you will want to discover what lies beyond the Elba Island beaches and undertake some hiking excursions! Elba Island, Italy is big and can be explored by various means: renting a car or a scooter, or if you have more time and energy, you could even rent a bike! In addition, there are also areas to rent small boats, canoes and rafts so the sea and the other Elba Island beaches can be explored! One of the joys of a holiday on Elba Island lies in being able to have contact with nature, savouring its scents and pausing from time to time to admire the scenery!
The Elba Island holidays offer clear sea and scenic areas, including historic sites and ancient villages. On the Elba Island things to do is a difficult choice due to the numerous possibilities. It is, therefore, not a place to stand still and contemplate the scenery or spend all the time sunbathing as it would be a shame for you to miss the rest of the Isola d’Elba in Italy. Among other choices of what to see in Elba island, the first one is to get in contact with the environment and also with the people! The Elba inhabitants are very attached to their traditions and, so if you can establish a dialogue with them, you will discover curious and interesting local stories (and they may also give you some tips on secret Elba Island sandy beaches!). You will be correct in thinking that the speech of the Elba inhabitants sounds rather strange: in fact, their dialect was formed under the influence of Tuscany and the nearby island of Corsica.
GEOGRAPHY. When you explore the territory of the Island of Elba it will bring you great rewards. So, map in hand, you can write down our suggestions to help you visit Elba in Italy!
The surface of the Isola d’Elba in Tuscany, Italy is 224 sq km and occupies the centre of the Tuscan Archipelago National Park together with the other islands (Giglio, Giannutri, Capraia, Pianosa, Gorgona and Montecristo). The shape of the island resembles an equilateral triangle with the point being occupied by Monte Capanne (the highest peak) in the west, while the eastern part is full of mines and slightly hilly. The coasts, and therefore the beaches of the Elba Island, are bathed by the Ligurian Sea to the north, by the Piombino Channel to the east, from the Tyrrhenian Sea to the south and finally by the Channel of Corsica to the west. Hence, during your tour, you will have the opportunity to swim in different waters!
The island of Elba it is interspersed with hills and cliffs and a dense forest of oak and chestnut trees, as well as forests typical of the Mediterranean region. The winds that strike the island - sometimes the south-west wind can be powerful –are full of the scent of the Mediterranean scrub and constantly changing the clouds on the horizon, creating a real art scene.
For orientation purposes and to understand how and where to go on Elba Island the territory should be 'divided' into three parts:
- The mountainous part is located to the west and is dominated by the dizzying heights of the highest and mainly granitic mountain, Mount Capanne. This area also includes mountains like Mount Perone and Mount Jupiter, as well as lower altitudes.
- The central area, however, is mostly flat or has gently rolling hills covered with forests of oak and a remarkable Mediterranean scrub. Here, the main centres like Portoferraio and Campo Elba are located. La Piana di Campo, the largest in the territory is home to some of the best beaches on Elba: fine sandy bays and spectacular gulfs such as Marina di Campo, Lacona, Procchio and Biodola.
- The eastern part is particularly impressive, especially if you are fond of geology and minerals. It is, in fact, the oldest part of the Island of Elba, where you can detect the unions between the incandescent granitic rock (formed deep inside the Earth's crust) and the overlying seafloor. The temperature of the magma caused chemical alterations giving rise to metallic veins that have marked these places forever creating the famous iron mines.
During your island of Elba holiday you can fascinate children with the minerals and crystals that you find everywhere. Discover with them the wonders of the Casket of Pluto! (the way in which the ancients called the island). To undertake an adventure out of the ordinary, you should also visit the underground tunnel of the mine located on the Monte Calamita.
HISTORY. The island of Elba was already inhabited in prehistoric and neolithic times, as evidenced by the artefact fossils and animal bones found here. The remains of the villages of the first island civilization, the Ilvati, dating back to approximately 2,000 B.C., are visible on the Colle delle Grottacce in Valle di Pomonte .
The Etruscans were the first population who exploited the most the mineral deposits on the Island of Elba: high fortresses (strategic points of observation) are to be found at Monte Castello, Monte Fabbrello, Castiglione di Campo and Castiglione San Martino and funerary remains at Capoliveri, Rio Marina, Procchio, Portoferraio and others.
Following the Etruscans, several raids by Cumanians and Syracuse pirates occurred until the arrival of the Romans, who dominated the island of Elba throughout their empire. The historic Roman sites to see are the three villas of the imperial age: Villa Linguella (where you can also visit the Archaeological Museum), Villa of the Caves and Villa of Cape Castle. The Roman period also left its mark through the famous ship wrecks in the areas of Procchio, Chiessi and St Andrea. It is also possible to visit them in a day during a scuba diving excursion!
At the fall of the Roman Empire (476 A.D.) a period of barbarian invasions followed. The Hermitage of St Cerbone, and other places of hermitage, became a haven for many Christian monks fleeing persecution.
When the city of Pisa included in its territory Elba Island, it significantly improved the Etruscan and Roman fortifications of the island and major municipalities were created: Capoliveri, Ferraia, Pomonte, Poggio and many others. We suggest that, among the many things to do on the Elba Island, you should visit some churches from this era, such as the St Giovanni Church and St Michele, in addition to small churches scattered across the island, in particular the Church of St Nicholas in St Piero in Campo.
Modern times see the presence of the Medici family of the Grand Duchy of Tuscany, who founded Portoferraio. It was built as a fortress for military defence purposes and became the headquarters of the Knights of Santo Stefano. Its old town is certainly worth more than one visit. From here you can take one of the best known itineraries of the Island of Elba, which consists of a visit to the imperial residences of a later period: Villa dei Mulini - the home of Napoleon on Elba Island - and Villa San Martino (summer residence).
In the 19th century, Elba hosted the exiled Napoleone Bonaparte (1814) and also Garibaldi (1849) made a brief stop on the Island of Elba with some of his soldiers.
In the 20th century, apart from the world wars, at the end of the 50s many excavations were undertaken that unearthed, amongst the several archaeological sites, the Roman Villa of the Caves.
BEAUTIFUL BEACHES. The island is full of dream coves and many different and wonderful beaches on Elba, Italy. We at toscanainside.com recommend some places where you can enjoy clear seas and the Elba Island best beaches. In the area of Portoferraio for example, the Sansone and Sansonella Beaches have white pebbles, the beaches of Peducelli and Stagnone in the Capoliveri area have a beautiful rocky landscape, Porticciolo near Rio Marina has a small bay surrounded by greenery and, in the same area, the Topinetti beach, feature shimmering sands due to the presence of hematite mines nearby. If you have the ability to access Elba island by sea, we suggest you go to the area of Punta Calamita, where you can swim with the mines in the background, the Cala dei Frati near Portoferraio with its crystal clear water and, finally, the Palamitara and Piastrone beaches along the coast of Cape Stella to indulge in some great snorkelling.
FLORA AND FAUNA. The Island of Elba is one of the richest and most significant in the Mediterranean. The diversity of the area, between the mountains and hilly areas, allows one to come into contact with different types of vegetation, including chestnut woods in the mountainous area of Mount Capanne, along with plants such as yew, holly, juniper and other less common plants such as the red lily and Solomon's seal. The eastern part hosts, however, other species such as anemones and the asphodel star not found on the mountains of the western part. The numerous aromatic plants along the paths will send you into ecstasy!
What to see on Elba Island also includes its wonderful fauna: birds are the most interesting animals, including the Berte, a close relative of the albatross. Not only will you be fascinated by the way they fly on the edge of the water and the horizon, but also by their songs!
During your travels to Elba you will, of course, see also Seagulls (Royal Course) and their arch enemy, the Raven!
WHAT YOU SHOULD TASTE. On Elba Island there is a lot to see, but do not forget the food! Among the dishes we suggest Gurguglione vegetable soup and the Acqua persa, the Cacciucco (although it is a Livorno dish), the Sburrita Riese (cooked spicy codfish), stuffed fried squid and marinated fried Zerri (small fish cooked in the pan) and, last but not least, the Schiaccia briaca (cake made from dried fruit, flour and sweet wine).
BEACHES. The island of Elba tourism is a land of traditions, legends and ancient stories, including the very famous Innamorata beach on Isola d’Elba. It is claimed that in the16th century, a period of pirates and Saracen raids, two young lovers, children of two feuding families, used to meet secretly on a beach in Capoliveri which later took the name of Cala dell'Innamorata beach, Elba. Young Lorenzo was from a rich family, while the girl, named Maria, came from a humble family. It is said that on the evening of 14th July 1534 while Lorenzo waited for his sweetheart in the usual place a Mori ship landed and he was immediately taken prisoner. The pirates killed the young man and threw his body into the sea. Maria who saw the scene threw herself into the sea to drown. A story, similar to Romeo and Juliet, but also one that has given rise to ghost stories and one that continues to be celebrated and commemorated to the present day with a yearly candlelight vigil on the beach and a parade through the streets of Capoliveri .
After this romantic legend, you just need to visit Elba and experience this fantastic place. Remember: things to do on Elba Island is up to you! Choose from the enjoyment of the sea and try scuba diving to explore the shipwrecks and seabed of the National Marine Park; or undertake a mountain bike ride and enjoy the views from different angles (you may even manage to see a few islands in the distance!). Finally, if you love archaeology and local history, try the areas richer in ancient remains or the scattered villages in the hinterland. Do you love nature and did you promise your child an encounter with some cute pet to be photographed? No problem! During Elba tourism, excursions to the forest or the mountains are certainly not lacking!
Our last piece of advice is that the Isola d’Elba in Italy is a rare opportunity to explore nature and history, so travel around and make the most of your time visiting Elba in Italy!
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