Elba Island is a nature-lover’s paradise, with great beaches, fantastic hikes, but also savoury wines! Famous for the place of Napoleon’s exile, the island’s regenerative powers did nothing but give the French leader renewed energy – returning from exile, he hit the battlefield with more force than ever. The island is a gem of the Italian coastline, and it’s a perfect destination for an energizing trip so you, too, can get “back to battle” after your holiday. Here is our short guide to Elba.
Elba Island, the largest of the Tuscan Archipelago
Think turquoise seas hitting rock walls, crashing into them in the wintertime, lapping slowly in the summer… Elba offers the spectacle of nature year-round, although it’s most associated with summertime beach holidays. To get there, take a ferry from Piombino, either with your car, or without – a car is useful if you want to reach the island’s interior.
The largest of the seven that make up the Tuscan Archipelago, the fish-shaped island has been inhabited since ancient times. The Etruscans opened the mines that made the island rich, while the Romans added wine to their arsenal (Pliny the Elder said it was good!). It’s been under the dominion of Pisa in the Middle Ages, the Medici in the Renaissance, and even the Spanish, not to mention housing Napoleon in 1814. So Elba has a great long history, though from a cultural point of view, the main sites are in the city of Portoferraio (see “What to see in Elba other than the beach” on the official website of Tuscany).
Hiking on Elba Island
If you’re a true hiking buff and up for a challenge, make the GTE, the Grande Traversata Elbana, the purpose of your trip. The trail crosses the entire island and takes some five days to complete. The trail is 60km long, plus variations, and its highest point is just over 1000 meters, requiring minimum 22 hours of walking time to complete. It runs down the central spine of the island, and then spiders out at the east and west ends.
If you can read italian, see this article on the GTE.
See also this article for a much easier hike:
The best Beaches on Elba Island
And what about the beaches? The island has some 150 km of coastline, where you can find all kinds of beaches, amongst them some of the best beaches in Tuscany. The sandy beaches you can find are mostly between Cape Enfola and Portoferraio and on the south of the island. If you are looking for tranquility, you can find beautiful rocky coves, although most of these are not easily accessible. Families who prefer longer beaches with all kinds of amenities can also find great options, like Procchio Beach, which is a very long golden sandy beach, while those who want to do scuba dive usually end up in Sorgente or Samson Beaches, where water is of turquoise color and crystal clear. The choice is very wide and depends on your taste, but here is our subjective list with the best beaches on Elba Island.
Marina di Campo
Marina di Campo is the largest beach on Elba Island, a golden sandy beach surrounded by a dense pine tree forest. It’s a perfect starting point to go on some great excursions to the nearby archeological sites or you can also visit some of the wine cellars where they produce excellent dessert wines.
Cavoli Beach is situated on the South coast of the island at 5 km from Marina di Campo, going towards Fetovaia. It’s a 300 meter-long of white sand beach and it’s very popular amongst young people for the parties they hold there. It’s always pretty crowded; hence you shouldn’t go there, if you are looking for your moment of tranquility.
In Biodola Bay, you can find several beaches, from which Biodola Beach is the largest one (the beaches of Forno and Scaglieri are also located there). Biodola Beach is very easily accessible from Procchio, and the white sand beach is simply perfect for families, since all kinds of facilities and services are available there
La Paolina Beach
One of our favorite beaches on Elba Island is La Paolina Beach, which is found at merely 2 km distance from Procchio village. It’s a beach with sand and pebbles, and it got its name to honor Paolina, Napoleon’s sister. You can get to this small beach following a 200 meter long steep trail from the road or in a half hour long kayak ride from the main beach of Procchio. Your efforts will be fully compensated, since the crystal clear water and the picture perfect location makes Paolina one of the most beautiful beaches in Tuscany.
We end our selection of the best beaches on Elba Island with Sansone, a white pebble beach on the Northern side of the island. On days when there’s no wind and the sea is calm, the water is as transparent as a natural swimming pool. This is one of the best beaches in Tuscany if you are fond of snorkeling, since the visibility is usually fantastic and you can find lots of colorful fish around the rocks.
As wine lovers, any travel in Tuscany is made complete by wine tasting. Perhaps the most famous wine, and the one that Napoleono apparently enjoyed most, is Aleatico DOCG, a sweet wine made from grapes of the same name, of Greek origin. Terraced vineyards cling to the hillside, growing lots of whites like Trebbiano (called procanico here), Ansonica, Vermentino and Moscato – all great for your summer vacation – as well as Elba Red.
If you’re looking for a wine tour and cellar visit, a good choice is Tenuta delle Ripalte, with its green vineyards that seem to dive into the sea, and the modern cellar designed by architect Tobia Scarpa.
This is just a short selection of our recommendations for a stay on Elba Island, which is most certainly worth a visit, not just in the summertime for its spectacular beaches, but also in the shoulder months, when hiking and wine tasting are great activities.
Main photo credit Credit www.visitelba.info
Words: Alexandra Korey, with beach information by Gabor Kovacs