Phoenicians, Etruscans, Romans, barbarians and pirates. Pisa, Genoa, Florence, Naples. Then the Spanish, English and French. You can experience the island in a new way each time by following a different history. You can explore the life of a Saracen pirate lurking behind the rocks or of a French general in Napoleon’s army. There are countless ways to discover the history and territory of Elba.
Glittering gems and tourmalines, a rocky island with a precious heart. Shining stones and iron and famous here, from the Etruscan melting furnaces to the mining and smelting operations of the 1980s. Visit the museums of Casalino Poggio del Castagno and the Mines of Rio. Or you can check out the Great Ginevro Mine Ginevro in Calamita and the Little Mine (Piccola) at Porto Azzurro. From the gorgeous granite and tourmaline to San Piero and the Mineralogical Museum, Elba is full of geological treasures like the imposing stone monsters and huts of Sant'Andrea. Enjoy a tour from deep within the bowels of the earth to the high peaks of the Elba Mountains that have been shaped by the wind and discover some of the most stupendous geosites and unique minerals on the planet.
Wine and amphorae at the bottom of the sea. The Archaeological Museums of Linguella and Marciana Alta, as well as the Sea Museum of Capoliveri, preserve the memory of the ancient people with artifacts often found at the bottom of the sea. War, daily life, and trade of precious commodities like metals, gems and wine are just some of the ancient traditions you can discover in Elba. The wine, in fact, was so excellent that it brought merchants all the way across the sea, braving the rough winds and waves of the Mediterranean, in order to taste it. On this note, do not miss a visit to the island vineyards that produce these DOC and DOCG wines according to tradition. Don’t cheat yourself, sign up for a wine tasting!
Black sails on the horizon and the dawn of hope. For almost a thousand years, the Saracen pirates invaded Elba while her people barricaded themselves in fortresses from the mountains to the sea. These fortresses have been well preserved and you can visit them today in places like Volterraio, which is the invincible eastern stronghold. Also check out the Tower of San Giovanni in San Piero and the fortified town of Portoferraio, the crown jewel of military architecture built by Cosimo I de 'Medici. And don’t miss the Romanesque churches, with the apse facing east, that capture the light of the rising sun: the Hermitage of Santa Caterina in Rio, San Giovanni, and the glorious relics of St. Bartholomew, with its windows in line with Montecristo.
Napoleon, the Emperor who fell in love with Elba. Here, he was far removed from his cold plays for power, and he was instead intoxicated by the sweetness of the landscape and the soul of the island. This man who was used to taking, in Elba left legacies of civic organization, health, education and even imperial-style theaters and villas. The Palazzina dei Mulini and the Theater of the Guardians (Teatro dei Vigilanti) in Portoferraio are two beautiful examples of Napoleon’s architectural legacy in Elba. You can also visit the Villa San Martino in the homonymous valley, the Casetta Drouot and the Sanctuary of the Madonna del Monte in Marciana, where Napoleon lived his most intimate moments in the shade of the chestnut trees.
The island of Elba has always been a source of inspiration for painters, sculptors, poets, and artists. Paul Klee visited the island in 1926 and he captured the bright essence of the Mediterranean in his works. Like him, many other artists have been captivated by Elba. Italo Bolano for example, has enhanced Elba’s beauty with his museum “Museo Diffuso” without distorting the essence of the island. Then there is the sculptor Luca Polesi with his metal creations. Of course, we cannot forget the painters of the Procchio dunes, nor the writers, photographers, historians who told Elba’s story in their own unique ways.
To read Elba’s pages means immersing yourself in her very essence. And suddenly, as you gaze upon the glittering blue sea from above while a sailboat traces lazy lines across the surface, you too will feel like a part of her fascinating story.