Sailing the Tuscan Islands: a Spotlight on Elba Island
The famous Elba Island, the biggest island of the Tuscan Archipelago in Italy, is home to tropical beaches and picturesque backdrops and was Napoleon’s place of exile in 1814–15. It has an array of museums, local and classic Italian cuisines and a rich history behind it. A Mediterranean island, Elba is known for its glowing sandy beaches and pristine, warm waters perfect for relaxing, swimming and watersports.
Located in the Tyrrhenian Sea, Elba Island is about 50 kilometres (30 mi) east of the French island of Corsica. It takes around 50 minutes to sail to Elba Island from the closest mainland port of Cavo, Italy. It's a popular stopping point for British sailors on yacht charters to the Tuscan Islands - read on to find out why.
7 things to see and do when you visit Elba Island
1. Pomonte Beach wreck
One of Elba Island’s wild spots, Pomonte Beach is a tiny pebble beach where you can snorkel to admire the wreck and submarine fauna of the “Elviscot”, which has lain on the white sea bed only 200 metres from the beach since 1972.
2. Volterraio Castle
For those fascinated by castles and legends of knights, the Castle of Volterraio is a must see. Hexagonally-shaped, it was successfully used for defensive purposes by Pisa against Turkish pirates. The castle is the oldest building on Elba Island and dates back as far as the Etruscan civilization. It’s open to the public and worth the walk up the hill for the views alone.
3. Climb Capanne Mount
If you’re a hiking enthusiast, climbing to the peak of Capanne Mount is a wonderful adventure. The highest point on the island, and also accessible by cable car if you’re not into hiking, the trail offers breathtaking views and a diversity of Mediterranean’ scrub, complete with the refreshing scents and maybe even a wild boar!
If you’re a history buff, why not visit Villa dei Mulini, the town where Napoleon lived during his exile to the island. You can also visit the Napoleon museum and the neoclassical of Villa San Martino where he lived for 9 months.
5. Dolphin & Whale Spotting
Elba is situated in the Pelagos Sanctuary, a marina area of 87,500 sq km. It’s home to the highest number of cetaceans in the Mediterranean so when sailing, keep an eye out for Mediterranean whales and bottlenose dolphins and have your camera handy.
Elba’s cuisine has been influenced by many different cultures, resulting in a tantalising mix of Mediterranean and Italian flavours focussing on seafood dishes. There’s an array of wonderful restaurants on the island, serving everything from fresh seafood to staple Italian pasta and tomato classics. Don’t miss the traditional Gurguglione (a starter of crostini with different sautéed vegetables), Panzanella Elbana (bread salad with tuna, anchovy, crackers, tomatoes, cucumber), Rio style stockfish (made with salted anchovies, onions, tomatoes, basil, black olives and pine nuts) or Schiaccia Briaca (a sweet flatbread made with pine nuts, raisins, dried fruit and honey).
Elba is home to several vineyards producing wines that perfectly complement the local cuisine. Elba Ansonica goes particularly well with raw seafood and don’t leave without trying the Elba Aleatico wine, an ancient dessert and meditation wine which can only be produced on the island.