In the film Manhattan, Woody Allen described the 10 things that make life worth living; we have created a top ten of sunsets not to be missed, flavours to be enjoyed at least once, activities that are a must while on holiday… All this to ensure that the island of Elba is not merely one of the many locations visited, but remains a part of you.
1 Not all of us will have heard of this place before, which is good, as it means that it will remain an intimate place! For those who enjoy walks surrounded by nature, the walk up to the Madonna del Monte is not to be missed. The view from up here is unique and the walk is anything but arduous and tiring, but pleasant and stunning. The more romantically inclined can also enjoy the unique experience of a concert in the Monastery of Santa Caterina. The acoustics are “naturally” spectacular and the displays exciting!
2 For those arriving on the island by ferry, the first place which grabs your attention is Forte Falcone, its imposing and linear structure appearing to welcome those about to set foot on the island. Some of its rooms give the impression of returning to the time of Cosmopoli, the city imagined and founded by Cosimo de’ Medici, built thanks to architects of the calibre of Giovanni Camerini and Bernardo Buontalenti. A journey through paintings, sketches and explanations describes the history of the “ideal” city of Cosmopoli, from its foundation in 1548 to the influence of the later Medici dukes and up to recent times.
3 The island is a series of historical hamlets that have remained unchanged and remind one of a unique tradition of flavours and colours. Portoferraio is well worth a visit, with its interesting history seeping from the streets and walls of the old town.
4 Napoleon was an extremely important figure for the island, which still celebrates him and preserves his major works, such as villas, theatres, museums and houses with the utmost care and attention. Villa dei Mulini is a good example of this. An ancient Medici villa refurbished and redesigned by Napoleon as a residence for Maria Luisa, it was then used by his sister Pauline and remained the Emperor’s favourite place.
5 Elba is very rich in iron and its mines are renowned; a visit to the Calamita mines in Capoliveri is recommended. The history of these mines goes back thousands of years, from the Etruscans right up to 1980, when they were closed. Iron has always been the main resource of the town, and made the island a central point of the Mediterranean trade routes. A descent down into the Ginevro mine is interesting, as it is the only underground mine on the island that is still accessible.
6 The fact that the island is rich in history does not mean that relaxing and doing nothing is forbidden, enjoying the sea and sun as a way of recharging your batteries. Among the most authentic and wild places are the rugged cliffs at Capo Sant’Andrea and the beautiful white pebble beach at Sansone.
7 Sports enthusiasts probably already know that they will find the perfect combination of the sea and conditions for their own sports here, but the more lazy minded can also enjoy new ways of discovering nature, by kayaking, mountain biking and trekking, with marked paths for all levels of skill.
8 If the views, perfumes and colours are mind blowing above sea level, the environment below the waves is unique and unrepeatable. The water is among the cleanest in Italy and will open your eyes to incredible natural views to be enjoyed while snorkelling, either with or without a guide. Of all the places to see, the Formiche della Zanca are a must; cliffs plunging down into the sea, where the crevices, caves and cavities give a rare and colourful spectacle of Mediterranean flora and fauna.
9 When holidaying on an island, not taking a boat trip and exploring the bays, gulfs and nearby islands, especially Pianosa, is unthinkable. On the clearest days, the mountains of Corsica can be seen in the distance from here, and the island is characterised by Tropical colours and flowers which grow even on the cliffs. It is dominated by Forte Teglia, its oldest building, which was built by Napoleon Bonaparte as a lookout point.
10 Last, but not least, on the list is the advice to enjoy the perfumes of this land, historically reach in terracing and vineyards, and thus the birthplace of much sought after wines. A Wine Tour is a must, a real journey among the vineyards and winemakers, enjoying the wine tastings on offer.