A jaunt around Elba Island in search of the best beaches
Elba has almost 150 kilometers of coastline with beaches hidden in secret coves and sands that vary from brilliant white to shades of gray or pink. Elba, just 10 km from the coast of Tuscany, is a green oasis dominated, on the west, by Mount Capanne (1019 meters) and, on the east, by the hills of Mount Calamita. It is an ideal destination if you love water sports - sailing, surfing, diving and underwater fishing - but also if your thing is trekking, free climbing or mountain biking up the tracks that lead to medieval hamlets clinging to rock ledges over the sea.
Napoleone Bonaparte spent ten months in exile on Elba in 1814. There are traces of him just about everywhere, particularly in his elegant neoclassical residences, Villa dei Mulini and Villa San Martino, both open to visitors (hours: 8.30 am to 6 pm). The ferries from Piombino land at Portoferraio, worth a visit and a stop. Some attractions are the Torre del Martello (tower), the city walls, Via della Regina to the Voltone tunnel.
Leaving Portoferraio to the west, you will encounter these beaches: beach of Ghiaie, then beach of Sansone a little further on (with its remarkably transparent waters) and, after rounding Cape d’Enfola, the striking settings of the Viticcio, Biodola and Procchio bays. The latter is truly extraordinary: with the strand surrounded by vineyards, it is one of the most enchanting panoramas on the island.
Continue on in the direction of Marciana Marina, one of the rare ancient settlements at the seaside. There is a gondola cableway from here to the top of Mount Capanne. In less than a quarter of an hour, you can be seated on the most panoramic bar terrace on the island. If you are looking for other marine adventures, you may wish to go down to Capo Sant’Andrea. This picturesque little port is famous for its diving courses.
There are also spectacular beaches on the southern coast such as Fetovaia or those in the gulfs of Marina di Campo (lively and trendy), Lacona (one of the largest on Elba with dunes of very fine sand and, off shore seabeds of rock and posidonia, ideal for scuba diving) and Stella. Continuing to the east, you will encounter the Capoliveri promontory. At the point, there is an ancient village with a lovely little piazza at the center and an unequaled panorama. The beaches of Margidore (ample and not crowded), Zuccale, Barabarca, Pareti, and Cala dell’Innamorata are spread out below. The main inlet on the eastern coast is Porto Azzurro, considered the showplace of Elba. Social events and nightlife are concentrated in Piazza Matteotti, overlooking the sea.
The beach of Cala Seregola is near Rio Marina in the northeastern corner. This beach is part of the protected Parco Minerario (Mining Park), open to the public from 8am to 9pm. A special note: after lying down on the beach, you may well find yourself dusted with shiny particles of hematite because the shoreline is composed of light-colored gravel and red and black ferrous sand.
The last segment of the island, between Cavo, Rio Marino and Rio nell’Elba, other than the mines, is full of Mediterranean scrub and woods. The unique flora of the archipelago, which characterizes the aromatic honey, can be admired in the Orto dei Semplici all’Eremo di Santa Caterina botanical gardens on Mount Serra, accessible on foot from Rio nell’Elba (visits by appointment, tel. + 39 340 0056510, hours: 3pm - 8pm). The gardens were created in collaboration with the University of Pisa to study the biodiversity of the island species. The best time to capture the colors and perfumes is between May (when the rose garden is opened only for the duration of blooming) and September.