The Elba Isle is an island with seemingly infinite horizons: golden beaches on crystal-clear waters, granite massifs emerging from the bushes and the Mediterranean maquis, many histories of peoples always kissed by the sun. The island offers the feeling of many things in one breath: seashore and cliffs, wind, earth, flavours and scents, the hard work of man, the villages perched high on the mountains, the terraces on the sea… this is just the beginning of a place and legend that never disappoint the visitors.
It is really an enchanting, romantic strip of land with many natural wonders. The vegetation is surprising, so luxuriant and intensely sweet-smelling, with large chestnut groves very close to the sea. Ferries and hydrofoil boats from Livorno and Piombino regularly dock at Portoferraio, the main harbour and chief town of the island. Portoferraio deserves a visit for the imposing fortifications from the times of the Medici, from which one sees a wonderful panorama of the bay, and the Palazzina dei Mulini, Napoleon’s residence during his first exile, that still preserves the original furniture and decor. But visiting the Elba means discovering such diverse small towns and villages as Rio, the miners’ town, or Porto Azzurro, originally a Spanish outpost, and going on a breathtaking excursion in the cableway to the top of Mount Capanne, from which, on clear days, you can see all the Tuscan archipelago, and even the mountains of Tuscany and Corsica.
The Elba is also a living testimony to an old people of humble fishers, sailors, and farmers, whose survival ultimately depended over the centuries on the basic natural forces, wind and sea, and their mastering. So, everywhere on the island, over the centuries many shrines and churches were erected, all devoted to the holy figures protecting harvesting, fishing and sea faring. Such are the Church of San Niccolò a Poggio, the Sanctuary of the Madonna del Monte, the Church of Santo Stefano alle Trane, or the Sanctuary of the Madonna delle Grazie, where a painting of the Madonna of Silence is kept, that is a masterpiece of sixteenth century art. It is the work of Michelangelo’s pupil Marcello Venusti.
From remoter times, all over the island one finds relics of Etruscan fortifications, often in the thick of vegetation, of Appian and Pisan Towers, and of fortresses from Spanish times or the age of the Medici – walls that tell a story of struggle, plunder and violence, but also of the many who dreamt of turning the Elba Isle into the centre of power in the Mediterranean.
For all these reasons the Elba is a unique place worth seeing and savouring during all seasons of the years.