A Day Trip to the Island of Elba - Al Fresco Holidays
Elba is an island that enjoys a certain level of historical notoriety, thanks to the fact that Napoleon, after his abdication, was exiled there in 1810. However, wise travellers know that there is a lot more to Tuscany’s largest island than just a connection with the famous emperor.
It boasts a landscape of startling natural splendour, with a mountain range that quite literally twinkles with semi-precious stones (not to mention iron, so significant in quantity that it upsets the magnets of passing ships), secluded bays and picturesque, wooded hills. It’s also not short of man-made charms either, with pretty seaside towns and quaint fishing communities, virtually untouched by the bustle of the 21st century world back on the mainland.
The island is easily reached from the Tuscan shores, and is the ideal place to enjoy some real downtime in peaceful, serene surroundings, far from the busy beaches and urban buzz of mainland Italy.
The Basics: How to Get to Elba from Tuscany
If you’re staying in Tuscany and want to visit Elba on a day trip, you’ll be pleased to know that this is easily doable. In high season, there are up to 30 crossings from Piombino to the island; though if you’re visiting out of season, don’t worry, as ferries travel to and from the island throughout the year.
The journey takes roughly one hour (if you sail to Portoferraio, the island’s largest city) and, as you might expect, is more expensive at the weekends. If you’re staying for a week or longer, you might want to go during the week instead, when prices are more reasonable.
Things to See and Do on Elba
If you’re only visiting for the day, you’ll want to know how to get the best from your trip. Here are just a few of the island’s best attractions to enjoy once you get there.
If you’re getting the ferry to Portoferraio, chances are that you’ll want to spend at least some of your time here, enjoying the island’s main city. Founded by Cosimo I de Medici in the 16th century, Portoferraio still retains its historic centre, which is a joy to walk around; and the ancient citadel offers a tantalising glimpse into the city’s illustrious past.
The shores that surround Elba’s main city are no less impressive, as you will appreciate when you arrive by ferry. It’s in this area that you’ll find most of the island’s most picture-perfect sandy beaches, all framed by the surrounding densely wooded hills.
Palazzina dei Mulini
Whilst in the Portoferraio region, make sure you pay a visit to Napoleon’s official island residence, the Palazzina dei Mulini. He resided there with his sister Paolina, and the well preserved, strangely atmospheric villa provides real insight into his life whilst in exile. However, the truly special aspect of the Palazzina is undoubtedly the tranquil gardens, which offer spectacular views of the blue sea below, and of the lighthouse.
If you get the time, travel over to the western side of the island, where the scenery is noticeably wilder, with thickly forested hillsides and craggy mountain ranges. The atmosphere is a world away from the quiet elegance of Portoferraio, and it is here that keen hikers and nature enthusiasts will really feel in their element.
For a real experience, take the cable car up to the top of Elba’s tallest peak, the Monte Capanne; though be warned, this is only an experience for the brave-hearted, as the cable car merely consists of a swinging metal basket which travellers must stand in, with no door! If you’re lucky enough to be at the top on a clear day, you’ll see the distant shores of Corsica, not to mention the small neighbouring island of Monte Cristo, the island that inspired Alexander Dumas to write his most famous work, The Count of Monte Cristo.
This pretty village, located at the base of Monte Calamita, is remarkably pleasant to stroll through in its own right, but for many, a popular draw is the Museo dei Minerali, established by the respected mineralogist, Alfeo Ricci. His vast collection of precious stones is impressive in itself, but more significantly, it provides fascinating information about the strange, intriguing geology of the island.
Finding Somewhere to Stay on the Tuscan Coast
If you’re keen to stay somewhere on the mainland of Italy that provides easy access to Elba, then there are a few options available to you, though be warned, many of these can be expensive, particularly in the high season. That’s one reason why Park Albatros Campsite is so popular; it’s really conveniently situated for easy access to the ferry at Piombino, and is also close to the Riva Etruschi beach.