Isola D'Elba: what to see, what to do, and where to eat
Everything you need to know about the jewel of the Tuscan Archipelago
The Island of Elba, a gem of the Tuscan Archipelago in the Tyrrhenian Sea and the third-largest Italian island, is a splendid destination for those seeking a natural paradise. With a millennia-old history dating back to Etruscan times, it boasts a diverse landscape of pristine beaches, hidden coves, and majestic hills. Its mild climate, rich biodiversity, and crystalline waters make it ideal for sea lovers and water sports enthusiasts. Besides its natural beauty, Elba also offers a vibrant local culture, with unique enogastronomic traditions and fascinating historical vestiges.
The territory has a long history of iron extraction, dating back to Etruscan and Roman times when iron was mined from its mines. However, the most significant period was during the Middle Ages when the island became one of Europe's main centers for iron production, contributing to the local economy's development.
Elba is also known as the "Island of Cetaceans" because the surrounding waters are inhabited by several species of these majestic marine giants, and of course, for its unique shape. These waters are particularly rich in food and provide an ideal environment for the presence of dolphins and whales.
The figure of Napoleon Bonaparte is closely linked to the Island of Elba. After his abdication in 1814, the former French emperor was exiled there, becoming the sovereign in exile. During his ten-month stay, he left a significant impact, modernizing infrastructure, promoting agriculture, and protecting nature. Napoleon's legacy on the island is still visible in historical sites and monuments, and it is also possible to visit his beautiful residence, Villa San Martino. The Emperor was said to be a great enthusiast of Aleatico, a precious sweet wine produced on the island, rich in fruity aromas and floral notes.
An unmissable experience is climbing to the top of Monte Capanne, the highest peak of the Tuscan Archipelago, at 1,019 meters in height. It offers spectacular hiking trails with breathtaking 360° views of the surrounding sea and hills. The mountain's rich biodiversity includes endemic species and varied flora. For those who don't want to exert themselves too much but still enjoy the spectacle, there's the option to go up and down via a cable car located in Marciana. On the way back, indulge in a gelato from the delightful "Zero Gradi" gelateria, an Elban artisan chain that works in line with ancient Italian tradition, using only the highest quality products.
You can choose two main options to reach Elba: by ferry or by plane. The ferry departs from various ports in Tuscany, such as Piombino and Livorno, connecting the island with the mainland. Alternatively, you can opt for a direct flight to Marina di Campo Airport, with a history dating back to the 1960s and growing since then to become an important gateway for tourists.
Portoferraio boasts an ancient history and timeless charm. Its name comes from the Etruscan and Roman iron furnaces that once dotted the area. The village is built on picturesque alleys and characteristic cobbled streets, surrounded by the majestic Medici walls. The Old Port, with its evocative atmosphere, witnessed significant historical events, including Napoleon's arrival in exile. Today, the harbor welcomes yachts and sailboats, while the narrow streets are bustling with restaurants, shops, local delis, and wine shops. Before heading to dinner, an aperitif at La Tonnina, a café/boutique with a 'funky-chic' style in the old port, is highly recommended.
WHAT TO SEE
VILLA SAN MARTINO
The splendid villa, originally a simple country cottage, was chosen by Napoleon as his residence outside the city during his exile on the island in 1814. During his stay, important renovation and improvements were made. Later, the property passed to the Demidoff family in the 19th century, who transformed it into a luxurious summer retreat. Today, Villa San Martino is open to the public as a museum, showcasing the rooms where Napoleon lived and the frescoes created by the Demidoff family, combining the history of these two important figures and families.
VILLA DEI MULINI
Built in 1724 by Grand Duke Gian Gastone de' Medici, Villa dei Mulini was Napoleon's city residence, adapted to his needs by the Livornese architect Paolo Bargigli. Later, it went through various owners, including Princess Marianna of Prussia. Its lush garden is characterized by Mediterranean vegetation, ancient trees, and a romantic atmosphere. It also houses an extensive collection of exotic plants from the emperor's travels, along with two iconic statues: a Minerva believed to date back to ancient Greece, and a copy of Canova's Galatea, of which the original is in the museum of Villa San Martino.
FORTEZZA DEL VOLTERRAIO
The Fortezza di Volterraio is the oldest and most imposing fortress on the island, dating back to Roman times. It was later transformed into a medieval fortress in the 10th century. With its panoramic location, the fortress offered a wide view of the island and the surrounding sea, making it a strategic defense position. Today, the fortress is open to the public, allowing visitors to explore its rich history and admire its millennial architecture.
This cove is one of Elba's hidden gems. Characterized by white, fine sand and crystal-clear waters, it is considered one of the most beautiful on the island. The bay is surrounded by cliffs and offers a peaceful and intimate environment. Moreover, the northwest location of the beach makes it perfect for admiring sunsets over the sea.
This beautiful beach is named after a biblical reference, as "Sansone" means "sunny" and is characterized by white pebbles and a bay protected by high cliffs. Its transparent water offers an extraordinary view of marine life, making it an ideal destination for snorkeling enthusiasts. However, it's important to note that access may be a bit steep, but the beauty of the place more than compensates for the effort.
The ovens used in the past to produce lime give the name to this beach surrounded by rocks and pine groves, creating a harmonious blend of green flora and turquoise water. Thanks to its sheltered location, it is less crowded even during peak season.
One of the island's most beloved destinations, this beach boasts the "Blue Flag" award, a recognition for its cleanliness, water quality, and sustainable environmental management. It is also known for being frequented by celebrities and famous personalities on vacation. An unmissable spot to admire the sunset, sipping an aperitif as the fiery sun sets into the sea.
WHERE TO EAT
MOLO G Viale Teseo Tesei, 33 ph. +39 0565 915024
A large, bright warehouse with the charm and mysterious allure of a bazaar, adorned with curious ancient objects, witnesses to unique journeys and stories. The restaurant features tables with marble tops, following the style of traditional Livornese taverns, with wooden chairs. The menu, written with chalk, offers dishes from the tradition but never ordinary. Among the delights are grilled octopus with potatoes and olives, moscardini stew, and penne in boat with clams. A culinary experience ideal for those who want to fully immerse themselves in the flavors and traditions of Elba.
LE VISTE Spiaggia delle Viste, Via del Falcone ph. +39 0565 914405
Renowned for its privileged location, when dining at this restaurant, you'll feel like having dinner with your feet immersed in the sea, with the sound of waves as a backdrop. You can reach the place using the restaurant's golf cart service or on foot through a beautiful panoramic walk.
WHERE TO STAY
VILLA OTTONE Località Ottone ph. +39 0565 933042
Villa Ottone is a historic residence where a romantic atmosphere pervades. Built in the 19th century, it offers a unique mix of neoclassical and Mediterranean styles. Framed by a vast park, it features a private beach and a swimming pool. Today, it is a luxurious 5-star hotel, ideal for a refined and relaxing stay.
HERMITAGE Strada Provinciale della Biodola ph. +39 0565 9740
Nestled in the greenery of a lush park, this hotel has a charming vintage soul while being perfectly modern in terms of services and sustainability. It is a luxury property located on the white Biodola beach. The hotel offers elegant rooms and first-class amenities, including a panoramic swimming pool, tennis courts, a wellness center, and gourmet restaurants. Perfect for a family vacation, this place is a paradise for all ages.
One of the most popular destinations on the island, this lively village is not just a delightful harbor for strolling, shopping, and dining at high-quality seafood restaurants, but also holds a fascinating history. Its origins date back to the Etruscan era, and it later became an important Roman port. During the Middle Ages, it was involved in various battles and fell under the rule of Pisa and later the Medici family. In the 19th century, it became a mining center, with iron mines active until the 20th century. Porto Azzurro attracts visitors from around the world thanks to its crystal-clear waters (from which it takes its name), beaches, picturesque old town, and the harbor designed by Leonardo da Vinci.
THINGS TO SEE
SANCTUARY OF MADONNA DI MONSERRATO
The Sanctuary of Madonna di Monserrato is a place of great historical and spiritual importance on the island, named after the famous sanctuary of Our Lady of Montserrat near Barcelona. The statue of the Madonna was brought to Elba by a Spanish sailor in the 15th century, and maritime legend tells that it was later found by a fisherman who saved it from the rough sea. Since then, the Madonna di Monserrato has been considered the protector of sailors. The sanctuary is located on a high point with a spectacular panoramic view, offering visitors a place for reflection and contemplation.
With a solemn and austere character, the fort is now a prison. The climb to reach it is worth the uphill walk to enjoy the magnificent view of the crystal-clear sea of the island.
LA PICCOLA MINIERA AND MUSEO MINERARIO ETRUSCO
La Piccola Miniera was created from an idea of Emilio Giacomelli, a completely reconstructed work using natural materials, visitable through an authentic Elba mine train. The Etruscan Mining Museum displays a large collection of minerals from the island and reproductions of historical furnaces.
The charming name of this beach comes from a legend that the infamous pirate Barbarossa hid his treasure in this bay of fine and colorful gravel. Despite being immersed in nature, Barbarossa Beach offers services such as umbrella and sunbed rentals, kayaks, and pedal boats. For snorkeling enthusiasts, there are numerous underwater caves and rock formations to explore in the vicinity.
One of the most famous in Porto Azzurro, it takes its name from its unique dark sand, due to iron residues. Despite its popularity, Terranera maintains a relaxing and pleasant atmosphere, making it an ideal destination for those seeking a break from everyday hustle and bustle.
WHERE TO EAT
OSTERIA DEI QUATTRO GATTI Piazza del Mercato 4 ph. +39 320 6011747
This small, elegant, and authentic place is nestled in the lively streets of Porto Azzurro. From the terrace, you can observe the dynamic comings and goings while enjoying a menu dedicated to the flavors of the sea.
This picturesque town has much to offer visitors, with its mix of history, culture, and natural beauty. Capoliveri is characterized by a lively and authentic atmosphere, with its cobbled streets, colorful facades of houses, and small craft shops. The historic center preserves traces of the past, with ancient churches, towers, and medieval gates. Capoliveri is located on a hill, offering breathtaking views of the sea and the surrounding countryside. The panoramic viewpoints are perfect for admiring spectacular sunsets on the island. During the summer, it hosts various events and festivals that animate the village with music, art, and performances, offering a lively nightlife with bars and clubs that come alive during the summer evenings. For an aperitif framed by a golden sunset, head to Bar Acquarilli, a unique place to fully enjoy the magical naturalness of the island.
WHAT TO SEE
This imposing fortified complex was built in 1678 by Don Ferdinando Joaquim Focardo de Roquentes y Zuñiga. A structure built along the southeastern coast, it stands on a star-shaped quadrangular plan, reinforced by four angular bastions and two small bastions. Today, the lighthouse of the Marina Militare, an octagonal tower made of pink limestone, is located inside this fascinating fort.
Monte Calamita is known for its iron mines, which played a crucial role in the island's history. The extraction of the mineral began as early as the Etruscan times and intensified during the Roman Empire. Today, the mines are abandoned, but it is still possible to visit them to discover the historical legacy and the harmony with nature that characterizes this region.
Lacona Beach is one of the largest beaches on Elba Island, approximately 1.2 km long and an average of 100 meters wide. It has received the prestigious Blue Flag award several times for the quality of its water, environment, and services offered. Offshore is Isola della Paolina, a small islet linked to a curious legend, according to which Paolina Bonaparte secretly took refuge there, finding comfort and solitude during her exile.
The beach is named after the legend of a forbidden love between a young local fisherman and a beautiful Spanish woman. Their love story still fascinates visitors and has inspired poets and writers over the centuries. It is a small and intimate bay surrounded by cliffs, giving it a romantic and secluded atmosphere, perfect for couples and tranquility lovers. On the beach, you can admire some suggestive rock formations which, according to the legend, are the petrifications of the bodies of the two lovers after their tragic end.
SPIAGGIA DEL CANNELLO
Known for its fine golden sand and incredibly clear turquoise waters, perfect for swimming and snorkeling. Surrounded by dense vegetation, Spiaggia di Cannello offers a natural and unspoiled environment. The surrounding area is characterized by spectacular cliffs and caves, which can be explored by boat or on foot. Near the beach is the Fortezza di San Giovanni, an ancient historic building dating back to the 16th century, adding a touch of charm and history to the place.
WHERE TO EAT
LA TAVERNA DEI POETI Via Roma, 14 ph. +39 0565 968306
La Taverna dei Poeti, the first Slow Food outpost on Elba Island and the first restaurant in Capoliveri, welcomes forty guests, with a main dining hall and a carefully curated intimate room at the back. During the summer, it also offers two outdoor tables for two people each, on Via Roma, which leads from the main square of Capoliveri to the church, providing a breathtaking panoramic view of the sea and stunning sunsets. The cuisine takes center stage, offering tasty dishes in line with tradition, with simple cooking and the use of fresh, high-quality ingredients and fish. Among the delicacies, the standouts are the tuna in squid ink crust with vitellata sauce and roasted potatoes, and the catch of the day prepared in the Livornese style.
CALANOVA Ripe, Capoliveri ph. +39 0565 94211
Calanova Restaurant is a delightful place on the seashore, where the aromas and colors of nature blend into a dream location. Accessible from the sea via a pontoon, it offers the opportunity to have lunch and dinner outdoors, under the shade of ancient cork trees. The cuisine, curated by Simona and Cristophe, offers festive seafood dishes and typical Tuscan specialties, always accompanied by excellent wines. The menu also includes proposals for vegetarian and gluten-free dishes, as well as options for the little ones. During the day, guests can enjoy an exclusive beach bar service on the adjacent beach.
Lively, youthful, and colorful, this area also has ancient historical roots. In the past, it was inhabited by Etruscan and Roman peoples, as evidenced by some archaeological finds. Later, it was part of the Grand Duchy of Tuscany and underwent various dominations, including Spanish and French. The lively historical center, rich in fun places and a colorful promenade market, is characterized by colorful houses and characteristic squares. Agritourism is particularly developed in Campo nell'Elba, allowing visitors to immerse themselves in the culture and rural tradition of the island. The parish church of San Giovanni Battista, located in the center of Campo nell'Elba, is an important historical and artistic testimony, with works of considerable value. A visit to the small and picturesque medieval village of Sant'Ilario, which still preserves all the charm of its history, is recommended.
Located in the southwestern part of Elba, Fetovaia is one of the most suggestive beaches on the island. It is set in a magnificent natural context with golden sand, granite cliffs, and the colors of the sea, ranging from intense blue to light green, and white sand, offering unparalleled sensations.
It is one of the most famous and crowded beaches on the entire island during the summer. Its success is due not only to the clarity of the sea and the beautiful beach but also to its particularly favorable microclimate. The beach faces south towards Monte Capanne, which protects it from northern winds, making it popular from March until November. The beach is long and divided in two by a short cliff: the eastern part is wider, equipped with services and bathing establishments, while the western part is smaller and free and is frequented by those who prefer a quieter environment.
Charming beach of sand and gravel, very quiet and peaceful, located near Marina di Campo. Galenzana is the only beach on the entire island from which the open sea cannot be seen, but only a stretch of land. For this reason, it is always sheltered from almost all winds.
WHERE TO EAT
DA PIERO Via Gorgona ph. +39 391 432 2831
Ristorante da Piero is a renowned culinary destination on Elba Island, known for its traditional cuisine and warm hospitality. Founded by Piero, a passionate local chef, the restaurant has gained a reputation for preparing fresh fish dishes and authentic Tuscan specialties. The sea-view location offers breathtaking views during meals. Piero cultivates some vegetables used in the kitchen in his garden, ensuring fresh and high-quality ingredients. The restaurant is frequented by both tourists and locals, creating a convivial atmosphere.
AL MORO Viale Giuseppe Pietri, 1277A ph. +39 392 443 0495
Ristorante da Al Moro is a culinary excellence on the island, known for its starred menu. The restaurant is led by Chef Andrea Saverino, a gastronomic talent who has received national and international recognition for his artistic presentations and attention to detail. The menu offers creative delicacies based on high-quality local ingredients, such as fresh fish, seafood, and typical island products. Guests can choose between two tasting menus, a true sensory experience, or order à la carte.
MARCIANA AND MARCIANA MARINA
Marciana and Marciana Marina are two charming localities on the island, each with its own history and beauties to discover.
Marciana, located in the inland of the island, is a charming medieval village with stone houses and a panoramic view that enchants. The Etruscan and Roman influences can still be perceived while walking through the narrow streets of this ancient little town that has experienced various dominations over the centuries. Among the places of interest are the Castle Tower and the Archaeological Museum.Marciana Marina, on the other hand, is a lovely coastal resort located on the western coast of the island. With its golden sandy beaches and picturesque marina, Marciana Marina is an ideal destination for sea and outdoor activities enthusiasts. The history of Marciana Marina is linked to fishing and maritime activities, and it is possible to visit the characteristic promenade and Forte del Pino.
This beach is famous for being the home of a shipwreck, the Elviscot, sunk in 1972. The wreck is now one of the main attractions for snorkeling and diving enthusiasts. During low tide, it is possible to see the wreck emerging from the water, creating a suggestive atmosphere. Pomonte Beach also offers a spectacular panoramic view of the sea and a particularly beautiful sunset.
Another beautiful "spiaggia bianca" (white beach), located northeast of the island, with an almost exotic charm. The white color of its sand is due to the tall granite cliffs that embrace it, earning this area the nickname "salotto dell’Elba" (the living room of Elba). The color of the sea is a crystal-clear blue that will leave you dazzled.
CAPO NORD La Fenicia ph. ph. +39 0565 996983
One of the guiding stars of Elban cuisine: sea-view tables on the beautiful beach of La Fenicia, wooden furnishings, high-quality raw materials, and a relentless search for balance between tradition, innovation, territory, and passion. Among the lines of the menu, among elaborate and innovative first courses, the simplicity and tradition of "Spaghetto con il ragù di polpo alla maniera di Mamma Fillide" (Spaghetti with octopus ragù) stand out—a recipe invented by the owner Attilio's mother, which highlights a strong emotional bond that starts from the Adriani family, passes through the love for Elba, and reaches the hearts of those who come to eat at Capo Nord restaurant.
AFFRICHELLA Via Santa Chiara, 7 ph. +39 0565 904607
Ristorante Affrichella offers a menu inspired by traditional Elban cuisine. Among the main dishes, seafood specialties such as fish soup and grilled fish stand out, accompanied by vegetable side dishes cultivated in the restaurant's garden. It is possible to enjoy the food directly in the suggestive natural cave adjacent to the premises, creating a unique and romantic atmosphere.
DA LUIGI Loc, Via di Lavacchio ph. +39 0565 99413
Hidden amidst the greenery of Marciana Alta, this convivial and homely restaurant is one of the most authentic places on the island. Luigi, the colorful owner, delights his guests with anecdotes and a menu based on game hunted by himself on the island. Unmissable dishes include "pappardelle al cinghiale" (wild boar pappardelle), "pasta alla Luigi" (Luigi's pasta), "agnello alla brace di legna" (wood-grilled lamb), and "stufato di cinghiale con olive" (wild boar stew with olives).