Things to Do in Elba Island

The 17 Best Things to Do in Elba Island

Most people think that the Island of Elba, in Italy, which is part of the Tuscan Archipelago National Park of the Tyrrhenian Sea, is a place only of sun and sand. Despite being famous for its practically tropical beaches, there is much more: just think of rich and fascinating history, or the cities that are in the territory … You can take trips or walks in the middle of picturesque villages and fascinating!

Napoleon’s exile on this island has given rise to rich moments of history and anecdotes, art and culture. Of course, relaxation and beauty can also be found on the most beautiful beaches of Elba Island, but the sea will be only one of the ingredients to enjoy a true vacation, whether romantic or family.

Best Things to Do in Elba Island

Not sure what to see on the island? Let’s discover together the best places on Elba Island and its hidden treasures:

1. Pianosa Island

The Island of Pianosa is the closest island to Elba and belongs to the municipality of Campo nell’Elba . Its landscapes are mainly flat and alternate a coastline composed of rocks and sand. The island is famous for hosting a maximum-security prison, and the fact that it has been inaccessible for many years has preserved the heritage of natural beauty.

Here the smells and beauty of the maquis explode, you will also see a varied fauna, which includes small mammals, as well as at least 30 species of birds, including the corsair gull. The pride of the island, however, is the uncontaminated seabed full of color and marine life. You can see lobsters, mullets, groupers or snappers. Outside the island, you can sometimes see dolphins or encounters with the Caretta Caretta tortoise.

2. Rio Marina Mining Park

It is the oldest mine on the island of Elba. Here some guides will explain the different types of minerals and how they are mined. The  Parque Minerario de Río Marina can also be visited by means of a picturesque little train or by special paths to be traveled on foot or by bicycle. You will also have the possibility to sit in an off-road military vehicle.

A curious journey that will introduce you to galleries of quartz, elbaite, pyrite or hematite, but also other green and white marble. You will discover an area of ​​great cultural and landscape impact, where you will pass through construction sites characterized by magical colors and remains of old processing plants.

3. Portoferraio

Portoferraio is the first city you come across when you arrive on Elba Island. It is full of surprises, starting with its historic center, which has a particular pink color thanks to the limestone slabs used for the pavement. It is the ideal destination for those seeking sea, culture and history. The past is strongly linked to Napoleon who decided to spend his exile here.

Its villas are housed here, but also several forts and walls, which bear witness to the ancient defense. The Etruscan and Roman archaeological sites are also worth a visit. In Portoferraio, there are also numerous beaches, in addition to the Terme of San Giovanni spa, with thermal pools and numerous services dedicated to beauty and relaxation.

4. National Museum of Napoleonic Residences

Among the first things to see on Elba Island are two residences that were used for the organization of the cohort. The urban residence was the Palazzina dei Mulini , while the rural one became Villa of San Martino (or Villa Bonaparte).

Now both historic buildings, located in Portoferraio, have been turned into a museum and it will be possible to discover relics, period furniture and furnishings that bear witness to the greatness of Napoleon. The renovation works of the two buildings were coordinated by Napoleon himself, who had the upper floor added to his official residence, also renovating the adjacent theater.

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5. Porto Azzurro

Porto Azzurro, whose name until 1947 was Portolongone, also has a very rich artistic and cultural heritage. You will find yourself inside a picturesque fishing village, surrounded by beautiful beaches, where the blue sea alternates with golden sand.

The streets of the old town are characterized by their majestic buildings, symbols of a glorious past. Among the most popular there is an imposing fortification,  Fort San Giacomo, built-in 1602: the building was used as a protection center and sighting place to face frequent pirate attacks. In the 19th century, it was transformed into a prison. There are also several religious buildings to visit, including the  Santuario della Madonna of Monserrato and the  Iglesia della Madonna del Carmine.

For those who prefer to relax on the beach and enjoy the Mediterranean climate, there are  Barbarossa, Terranera and Reale. From here, you can also go out in search of the coves, snorkel or dive, thanks to a boat trip.

6. Capoliveri

Hiking, beaches, mountain bikes, history. Capoliveri is one of the most interesting centers on the island of Elba. It is perched at the height of 167 meters and has managed to maintain the appearance of the medieval village with its picturesque and narrow streets with arches called “chiassi”, where there are pleasant locals and small shops where you can rest and enjoy a good typical dish, enriched with a glass of local wine.

The name Capoliveri could be derived from “Caput Liberum” to describe a place rich in vineyards. Here you can admire the remains of the Church of San Michele, a Roman-style building famous because Pope Gregory XI officiated mass there. The town is divided into 4 districts, which every year in October mobilize for the traditional Festival of the Grape: this is how wonderful choreographies are born whose inspiration or protagonists are different themes related to the grape harvest.

The coast is particularly beautiful, thanks to a series of inlets and bays cradled by the maquis, unmistakable for its perfume and beauty. Among the quieter beaches are Lacona , Lido and Margidore and the coves of Marcone and Pareti .

7. Forte Teglia (Pianosa Island)

On the island of Pianosa, there is also Fort Teglia, a fortified complex that was intended to defend the area from attacks, especially from pirates. It was used by Napoleon in a fundamental moment in which the island was disputed between the French and the English. It has a rectangular plan and was built on several levels. It is located on the promontory of Teglia and stands in the small town with all its majesty.

8. Bagni of Agrippa Postumo (Archaeological Site)

Agrippa, a nephew of Emperor Augustus, was expelled from Rome and exiled to the island of Pianosa, where he was assassinated. The remains of his villa remain here, brought to light in 1800. It consisted of a theater and the so-called ” Bagni of Agrippa ” (sea and thermal baths). The residence was characterized by black and white mosaics adorned with mythological decorations of a marine character. Today you can visit the theater, the thermal baths, a semicircular terrace and two nymphaeums.

9. Martian

Welcome to Marciana! On a hill at 375 meters is one of the richest villages in archaeological and historical evidence, since its origin dates back to 35 BC, from the domain of the Appiani. A fortress was built to protect the mint and the foundry. Even today, you can relive that medieval atmosphere, from the stepped alleys to the majestic doors. Of particular interest to visitors is the Archaeological Museum. For trekking enthusiasts (alternatively, there is the cable car) you can reach the summit of Mount Capanne (1019 meters).

10. Marina of Campo

A picturesque old town, a motley nature, a watchtower, several churches and a pretty little port – there are many reasons to visit  Marina of Campo. The spectacular bay has attracted tourists and visitors since the 1950s. It is a sparkling city where you can pause inside small restaurants to taste typical dishes. And the sea, however, the absolute protagonist, will tempt you to swim. In Marina of Campo there is also an aquarium with many Mediterranean species.

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11. Villa Romana Delle Grotte (Archaeological Site)

The Villa Romana dell Grotte is a villa dating from the 1st century BC. Its peculiarity is that, unlike two other examples present in the area, it has not undergone any transformation or overlapping of buildings. In the 19th century, it became a strategic center where artillery batteries were placed in the battles between France and the Kingdom of Naples.

Some important findings in 2014 led archaeologists to think that the owner of the villa was Marco Valerio Messalla, general and Roman politician. Some stamps found in the amphorae would testify to this. The structure of the villa is easily recognizable, and in addition to several rooms, it had three gardens and even a small pier in the cove below that allowed the disembarkation of guests arriving at the villa by the sea.

12. Medici Fortresses (Portoferraio)

Cosimo I de Medici wanted these fortresses, with the blessing of Charles V, and they are one of the first elements that can be seen thanks to his majesty, approaching Portoferraio: the Bastions of the Medici were built to defend against the attacks of the Turks.

The fortresses were built, starting in 1548, on four levels and over the years, the area was reinforced with the construction of several walls to close the entire city in a kind of fortress. Following the project, first came the Renaissance architects Camerini and Bellucci, who were also joined by Bernardo Buontalenti. The design was able to enhance the area with complex military architecture: the structure begins at the Porta of Terra, which in ancient times was not connected to the island, and reaches the majestic Fort Falcone.

Looking at this imposing front, it is understandable why the Turkish pirate Dragut did not feel like braving these walls and returned. Over time, Forts Linguella, Stella, and Falcone became more secure and became observation points and military barracks. They can be visited by following a path of more than 500 meters that allows a splendid view of the sea.

13. Mount Perone

The Monte Capanne mountain range has the easternmost peak at Monte Perone (630 meters). Once at the top you can have a suggestive view of the countryside and the Gulf of Marina of  Campo. You can relax and have a nice picnic in one of the equipped areas in the shade of the largest pine forest on the island. Nearby you can also admire an old mine, probably from the time when the Etruscans lived: the structure was reactivated in the 1920s to extract limonite. During your walk, you may also meet some guests: the mountain is home to mouflon, wild boar and a particular type of beetle.

14. Mount Eapanne

At 1,019 meters, Mount Capanne is the highest mountain on Elba Island. From here, on a clear day, you can see the other islands of the archipelago: Capraia, Pianosa, Gorgona and Montecristo. It is also the ideal place for trekking and bird watching. Crossing the paths, a very varied flora is discovered among several endemic forms that have found their balance, starting with the Elba orchids. In this area of ​​the island, among the holm oak forests in autumn, you can find the black fungus and 200 other species of mushrooms.

The slopes of Monte Capanne are characterized by the presence of Mediterranean scrub and granite rocks, which have the strangest shapes, thanks to the millennial erosion of atmospheric agents. The fauna of the area is very rich and includes herds of mouflon, as well as the presence of numerous birds of prey. To get to the top, in addition to the traditional paths, there is a characteristic cable car that allows you to enjoy a truly sensational view.

15. Pomonte

Pomonte is a characteristic little village in the western part of the island of Elba, on the slopes of Mount Capanne. Here you will find different landscapes that you can cross between mountains, sea, streams and terraced vineyards. The history of the town begins with the Etruscans and is closely linked to fishing and wine production, but also to the production of granite and iron. Recently these activities have given way to tourism, however, the quiet atmosphere that has always characterized the town has not suffered.

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The coast is characterized by two cliffs that drop steeply into the sea and by three small pebble beaches that are not far from each other:  l’Ogliera, la Spiaggia del Relitto e la Spiaggia delle Scalette. Pomonte is a very popular destination for snorkeling and diving enthusiasts since a few meters from its beaches is the shipwreck of the Elviscot, a freighter that sank in 1972.

The small ship is at a depth of 10-12 meters, leaning on the right side. The village also offers many trails for mountain bikers and hikers. Routes that will allow you to reach the nearby towns and the top of Mount Capanne. There are several romantic views in which you will have a unique vision.

16. Capoliveri Bike Park

Fans of cycling and especially mountain biking will find their ideal place in Capoliveri, the Bike Park, an area of ​​more than 100 kilometers that winds through 5 different routes of color and progressive difficulty. Traveling along the different paths, you will have the impression of being the protagonists of a spectacle of nature that crosses different types of landscapes.

The trails will first go through the Mediterranean maquis and then go through the mining areas. You will travel through landscapes rich in colors and surprising pollution, in places surrounded by large terraces and open-air works, historical traces and remains of industrial archeology.

17. Elba Island Beaches

There are around  150 beaches on Elba Island, so it is impossible to describe them all. However, it can be said that they are very varied and range from pebbles to soft sand, with a common denominator: the beauty of the sea. You will have the possibility to relax, tan, snorkel or dive, taking advantage of the kiosks and restaurants to try special fish dishes.

First of all, the main beach of beaches of Fetovaia, which is located in the town of Campo nell’Elba, is definitely a wonderful place. The credit is certainly the white sand, the turquoise color of the bay and the landscape that leaves you speechless. There is a small promontory that protects the bay from the winds and gives a special view.

For those who love snorkeling, a good destination is undoubtedly the beaches of Sansone in  Portoferraio. Here, too, the setting is the typical Caribbean one, with a crystalline sea and white sand located on the cliffs.

Very popular is also the  Spiaggia delle Ghiaie, in  Portoferraio, where a small island emerges within a protected marine area.

If you prefer a cove, don’t miss  Spiaggia del Forno, in  Scaglieri, which in addition to being sheltered offers soft sand, a special sea, lush Mediterranean vegetation and many services, including shops and restaurants. It is easily accessible by car.

Then we have the beaches of Laconella in  Lacona, overlooking the Golfo Della Lacona, an isolated and reserved pearl that will shine thanks to an uncontaminated sea and a carpet of white sand.

In the northern part is, instead, the main beach of  Sant’Andrea, framed by fine sand and granite rocks.

Beaches of Felciaio, in  Capoliveri, on the other hand, is characterized by small beaches of gravel and variegated sand that are very quiet, little frequented and sheltered from the winds.

For those passionate about diving, the ideal beach is Madonna Delle Grazie main beach, which takes its name from the nearby sanctuary.

Discover Elba Island with Costa Cruises

Crystal clear sea and soft sand, varied landscapes, nature, beauty, art and history. The menu of a vacation on the Island of Elba is very rich and suitable for all palates. You will breathe deeply and discover various curiosities, linked for example, to the granite of the island, which over the years has created wonders or influenced by the wealth of minerals. All you have to do is enjoy the view and embark with Costa Cruises on a journey full of color and flavor.

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