Elba is an island in Tuscany. It lies 10 km (6.2 mi) from the coastal town of Piombino on the Italian mainland, and is the largest island of the Tuscan Archipelago. It is part of the Arcipelago Toscano National Park, and is the third largest island in Italy, after Sicily and Sardinia. Elba is famous as the site of Napoleon's first exile, in 1814–15.
The island is part of the province of Livorno and is divided into seven municipalities, with a total population of about 32,000 inhabitants (2019) which increases considerably during the summer. The municipalities are Portoferraio (which is also the island's principal town), Campo nell'Elba, Capoliveri, Marciana, Marciana Marina, Porto Azzurro, and Rio.
Thanks to its rich cultural heritage, cuisine and nature, the island has become an important international tourist destination.
The island was first inhabited by Ligures Ilvates. The island was then settled by the Etruscans, who started mining iron at Elba, and later (after 480 BC) by the Romans, who christened the island with the name of Ilva.
In the early medieval period, Elba was invaded by the Ostrogoths and the Lombards, and then it became a possession of the Republic of Pisa. The island was retained for two centuries by the Appiani family, Lords of Piombino, when they sold Pisa to the house of Visconti of Milan in 1399.
In 1546, part of the island was handed over to Cosimo I de' Medici, Grand Duke of Tuscany, who fortified Portoferraio and renamed it "Cosmopoli", while the rest of the island was returned to the Appiani in 1577. In 1596, Philip II of Spain captured Porto Longone and had two fortresses built there.
The British landed on the Island of Elba in 1796, after the occupation of Livorno by the French Republican troops, to protect the 4,000 French royalists who had found asylum in Portoferraio two years earlier. In 1801, the Peace of Luneville gave Elba to the Kingdom of Etruria, and it was transferred to France in 1802 by the Peace of Amiens.
The French Emperor Napoleon Bonaparte was exiled to Elba, after his forced abdication in May 1814. He was allowed to keep a personal guard of 600 men and was nominally sovereign of Elba, although the nearby sea was patrolled by the French and British navies. During the months that he stayed on the island, Napoleon carried out a series of economic and social reforms to improve the quality of life. After staying on for almost ten months he escaped to France on 26 February 1815. At the Congress of Vienna, Elba was restored to the Grand Duchy of Tuscany. In 1860, it became part of the new unified Kingdom of Italy.
The climate of the island is predominantly Mediterranean, except for Mount Capanne, where winters tend to be moderately cold. Precipitation is concentrated in autumn and comprises a normal rainfall. The island lies in the rain shadow of the large and mountainous island of Corsica, so precipitation totals are somewhat reduced from the mainland (most of the island receives less than 750 mm (30 inches) annually). Snowfall in winter is rare in the lowlands and melts quickly.
It's recommended to go by ferry and take your car, as it is a must to explore the entire island. The ships start from Piombino.
Mass transit does exist, but only from Portoferraio (short-distance and long-distance) and from Marina di Campo (short-distance only). Buses run a fairly comprehensive route, so you can reach the main towns and villages around the island. It is also quite cheap. Hitchhiking is possible, as there are many who take their cars by ferry when visiting the island.
You can also rent cars, scooters, and boats at Rent Chiappi in the marina of Portoferraio. Price for a FIAT Panda is between €37 and €45 per day, all included.
Napoleon was banished to the island and both of his homes (summer & winter) are available to tour. You can hike, bicycle, swim, or walk around the plaza at night with the locals. It is incredibly beautiful, with small towns (for example Portoferraio, Capoliveri, Porto Azzurro, Marciana Alta, Marciana Marina, Marina di Campo, Rio Marina, and Rio nell'Elba) set on hilltops and castles. There are flowers galore and the interior of the island is full of old, little viewed churches.
Napoleon's homes, bike, go to any one of 10 -12 beaches, drink some local wine, hike, visit as many old castles and churches as you can. Takes about 3 days to see the island and that still leaves many areas untouched. In summer, Elba becomes a day-tripper's nightmare with people from the mainland.
- 1 Marelinosub (SCUBA diving in Capoliveri), Madonna delle Grazie, ☏ . The small familiar dive school, offers you some of the best dive sites in the Mediterranean Sea. Marelinosub is managed by a Swiss dive instructor, how offers different SCUBA courses. € 350.- for PADI Open Wather Diver course.
- Hiking trip on the island of Elba. Going hiking on Elba means following thousands of years of its inhabitants history, from prehistoric caves to ancient stone villages, finding Etruscan furnaces and forts, visiting antique granite quarries where Romans “worked” columns. You could relive the Saracen raids, visiting battlefields, defensive forts and destroyed villages that have never been rebuilt. Walking on Elba means you’ll discover and get to know all this and more thanks to the enormous concentration of sites that this small and great island offers. What is more, the Island of Elba’s hiking routes offer a variety of itineraries for views, vegetation and level of difficulty, ranging from paths hidden in Mediterranean vegetation, to hiking itineraries through woods and routes in the mountains. All the trips are guided and include transport to the departure points and technical assistance.
Shopping isn't what you might expect but the island is for experiencing local ambiance, including some local wines. Local limoncino (lemon liqueur) is also worth tasting.
There are some shops in Portoferraio (the island's capital) but a very good place for shopping, relaxing and walking in the evenings is Marciana Marina. There are nice shops there where you can get designer sunglasses, Ralph Lauren clothes, etc. It's like a more preppy version of St. Tropez.
Seafood is fresh, and the bread is what you were dreaming about. Get the Italian version of steak and try the bread and tomato salad.
Some local wines, and the local water tastes great.
Elba is a touristic island and there are lot of accommodations available, from cheap camp-grounds to luxury resorts.
There is a fair number of camp-grounds all over the island but you can easily reach some of them by bus. Aquaviva or Viticcio are less than 30mn away from Portoferrario.
- 1 Hotel La Scogliera, Località Morcone, 57031 Capoliveri, ☏ , , firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Hotel La Primula, Viale Cerboni 1 - Marciana Marina, ☏ , fax: , email@example.com.
- [formerly dead link] Hotel Residence Villa Giulia, Lido di Capoliveri - 57036 Porto Azzurro (From Portoferraio, follow provincial road SP26 towards Porto Azzurro/Capoliveri for 8 km. At the fork, stay to your left following the signs.), ☏ , fax: , firstname.lastname@example.org. Between towns of Capoliveri and Porto Azzurro, 3-star hotel with a pool and restaurant.
- [dead link] Hotel Ilio, ☏ . The Boutique Hotel Ilio was founded in 1959. It set up the Elbatuttanatura project in 1989, becoming the first "all-natural" hotel on Elba.
- [dead link] Relais delle Picchiaie.
- You can usually sleep on the beaches, but beware of the occasional strong winds.
- [formerly dead link] Hotel & Resort Sant'Anna del Volterraio, Localita' Bagnaia, 57037 Portoferraio LI, ☏ , email@example.com. This resort is located on the Elba Island, 400 meters from the Bagnaia beach. Rooms and apartments are surrounded by a botanical garden set in the uncontaminated nature. The hotel features 2 swimming pools, sauna, private parking, a restaurant and kids club.