A WAYFARERS GUIDE TO ELBA ISLAND


Elba Island, or Isola d’Elba as the Italians call it, is located just 10kms off the Italian coast and is the largest island in the Tuscan archipelago. With a colourful history full of multiple conquests and invasions resulting in many fortresses, historically Elba Island is most well known for the 300 days it hosted Napoleon in exile after his forced abdication….and what a place to be exiled to! With beautiful beaches and the crystal clear blue waters of the Tyrrhenian Sea, lush landscapes and friendly locals, if I would be pretty happy if I was to be exiled here.


And the whole island, like much of Tuscany, is extremely dog friendly, even the beaches, which makes it the perfect place to holiday with your beloved 4 legged friend.

SLEEP

// Villa Alba – Marina Marciana

Unsurprisingly, with so many beautiful beaches Elba Island is a tourist hub for both Italian and foreign holiday makers. We were keen to find a place that had the right balance of amenities and life without being too touristic and still maintaining a certain amount of charm. And we definitely found it in Marciana Marina. Forget any images of modern day marinas, this village has maintained its traditional character from ‘Il Cotone’ the old town to the promenade that leads all the way along the coast to the Torre Medicea.


Perched on top of a hill on the outskirts of Marciana Marina you will find Villa Alba. A delightful Bed & Breakfast with a enviable view over the village and the sea. One of the newer properties in town but created with attention to detail, care and love by a husband and wife team, enjoying breakfast with that view every morning was really a highlight of our visit.

EAT

// Ristorante da Gianni – Portoferraio

An Elba institution for over 40 years, Gianni has recently relocated from their original premise near the airport to a tucked away locale down an alley in Portoferraio. I usually prefer to eat local cuisine wherever I am, but the traditional homemade orecchiette pasta from Apulia made onsite here are too good to give up. Washed down with quality house wine, its no wonder this place is a hit with locals and visitors alike. Add in amazing service from friendly staff, book to avoid disappointment.

// La Scaletta – Marciana Marina

This popular pizzeria down a side alley in the centre of Marciana Marina is always full, a testament to their great pizza and decent wine list. So much more to choose from than just pizza, including fresh locally caught seafood.

// Villa Alba – Marciana Marina

With the owner also being a chef and having one of the best views on the island, we couldn’t go past dining at the Villa Alba private restaurant. By appointment only, they prepare a menu daily based on the freshest local produce, often sourced from their own kitchen vegetable garden and they also stock an excellent selection of local and Italian wines.

DRINK

// Enoteca della Fortezza – Portoferraio

A chance find located inside the Medici Fortress in Portoferraio, this wine bar is an initiative of Slow Food to promote the amazing local produce and wine of Elba Island. And it didn’t disappoint. Informative and friendly staff recommended several local wines to try and even pointed out the vineyard to one of the wines we were tasting across the bay. They also do lunch and dinner by reservation.

// La Casa del Vino – Procchio

A cute and traditional enoteca and wine bar all in wood and wine barrels, located on the junction of the main road and the main pedestrian access to Procchio beach. A great selection of local as well as national and international wines. Great spot for people watching at happy hour, sitting on the outside deck.

// Acqua Salata – Nisporto

We enjoyed an aperitivo on the deck of this bar/restaurant with an absolute beachfront location on Nisporto beach. Modern and trendy with a coastal and nautical feel, this spot is worth a visit if you are in the area. I think it would be a really romantic locale for dinner at sunset too.

EXPLORE

// Beaches

Being an island, Elba has plenty of beaches to choose from and it is the reason most people come to visit. All the beaches are kid and dog friendly and while many are kitted out with serviced loungers and umbrellas available at a fee, every beach also has a substantial public/free area. In general, the beaches are quiet narrow and space fills up very quickly. To escape the crowds try the lesser visited beaches of Bagnaia, Nisporto and Nisportino. Obviously there is a reason these beaches are less visited…they are out of the way and include pebble and not-so-white sand beaches. The best way to visit all the tiny bays and less accessible beaches is via boat which are available for rent for Marciana Marina.

// Marciana & Poggia

The hill top villages of Marciana and Poggia are definitely worth a visit. Not only offering amazing views, the charming villages themselves are full of tiny cobblestone alleys to explore. From just outside Marciana you can also take the standing chair lift to Monte Caponne which offers views not only of Elba, but of the rest of the archipelago and even Corsica. Unfortunately the day we tried to go up it was closed for maintenance, and the only other available day we had was cloudy. Something to do next time.

// Tenuta delle Ripalte

For such a small island, Elba’s wines, particularly the white Ansonia and a red desert wine called Aleatico have quiet a reputation. And one of the most famous Aleaticos is made at Tenuta delle Ripalte. Accessible only via a clifftop dirt road, the estate includes tourist villas, restaurants and its own private beach as well as the vineyard and tasting room. With a fantastic view over the grapevines and the sea, this is a great place to pass the afternoon sampling some of Elba’s local produce.

Cellar Visit to the ‘Antichi Vigneti di Cantalupo’

We are all guilty of it. Wanderlusting over far flung places and planning that next big trip before thinking to discover the hidden gems in our own neighbourhood.

As an ex-pat, I was surprised to find myself doing the same thing in my new found home. Sure, I’d beaten a well worn path along the local tourist track with various visiting family and friends in tow over the years, but what I hadn’t been doing was exploring the awesomeness right on my door step.

My village, although not an actual producer of wine, as part of the Novara hinterland is included in the area of the Colline Novaresi DOC (Denominazione di Origine Controllata) – a specified area in which wine can be produced and sold under this denomination as a guarantee of its quality and provenience. As a result many of the surrounding villages are ‘citta del vino’ – wine producing towns.

And here I was a self-proclaimed wine lover, living in an boutique Italian wine region and doing nothing about it! But not for lack of trying. I had tried to investigate wine tours and cellar visits in the past, but I had done so with my ‘anglo-saxon’ hat on and had had little success. There are no big wine corporations here – these are small, family run, boutique, artisan wine makers crafting wines from grape vines that have been pasted done from generation to generation. They are too busy at their craft to be advertising wine tours to Australian ex-pats 🙂 But that doesn’t mean they don’t welcome visitors and wine lovers to visit their cellars and wineries, you just need to know how.

And so 2016 is to be the year I decided to finally discover this delightful wine region right on my doorstep. I started by completing a wine course with my local chapter of ONAV (Organizzazione Nazionale Assaggiatore di Vino) in Ghemme, a region that has been producing wine for over 2,000 years. Now as a member, I am invited to their regular educational events and wine tastings all over the country.

The first I attended was at the Antichi Vigneti di Cantalupo (the Ancient Vineyards of Cantalupo), just down the road in Ghemme. As the event took place on a fresh Friday evening in early spring, we didn’t have the opportunity to walk between the vines, but having driven past many times previously I had already seen them from a distance, climbing up the hill above the winery on the first hill of Ghemme. As all the work with the vines here is done by hand, you can often see people working the between the rows, like tiny ants in a sea of green.

Those who are interested in wine (like me) know how important the soil is, and here in Ghemme, its composition is unique as it is very rich in minerals formed by deposits that washed down from the nearby glacier on Monte Rosa in ancient times. In fact, the area forms part of the Sesia-Val Grande Geopark, which is an UNESCO recognised Geopark for its geological significance. The mineralogy of the soil gives the wines their character and elegance, making Ghemme the perfect place for growing Nebbiolo, known as ‘Spanna’ in the local dialect, but also Vespolina and Uva Rara.

As such, wines from this region have been held in high esteem over the centuries – served by the 15th century Duke of Milan to his guests at the Castello Sforza, and more recently gracing the tables of Margaret Thatcher, the Pope and European heads of state when visiting the Piedmont region, some even from the cellar of Antichi Vigneti di Cantalupo.

The Antichi Vigenti di Cantalupo is run by the Arlunno family, who can trace their participation in Ghemme’s wine producing history back two whole centuries. After a detailed and passionate introduction by the owner and wine maker, we took a quick tour of the terraced underground wine cellar in cut into the hillside and the wine making facilities which included the ‘infernotto’ – the ‘little hell’ – a dark corner of the cellar where narrow corridors reveal cells stacked floor to ceiling with wine resting for up to a year’s time.

It was then time to return to the tasting room and get down to business, the tasting of the wine. The product line of Antichi Vigneti di Cantalupo is based around the nebbiolo grape, including a ‘out of the box’ sparkling nebbiolo, and a rose, before moving onto more important red varieties including the renowned Ghemme DOC.

If you ever find yourself in the area, be sure to pay them a visit – www.cantalupo.net

 

Italian Summer Collection Look Book

Its been pouring for two days straight here….which is fine as I actually love the rain – the smell, the sound on the roof. But after such promising and warm spring weather previously, it does have me dreaming of summer and warmer climes.

So, I have spent these wet days indoors working on various projects, this look book for my Italian Summer Collection being one of them.

The pieces in this collection are inspired by all aspects of the Italian Summer. Whether its striped umbrellas on white sandy beaches, gelato melting down your arm, the brain freeze from an ice cold granita on a scorching hot day, or a refreshing spritz at sunset – this collection will take you there.

Check it out on Steller.

Meet Flo & Frank

I stumbled upon this awesome video the other day, and I’ve been sharing it with everyone! It really hit a nerve with me, arriving just at the right moment.

  
I’m a big fan of TED Talks, so to see a popular and inspiring TED Talk re-worked in a simple yet powerful way piqued my interest. It was created by the folks over at Flo & Frank, so I went to check them out…and I was not disappointed!

So, if you are into intelligent, fun, inspiring and tailored content maybe you should check out Flo & Frank too!

See the video here

 

Missing in Action

I know I’ve been a bit quiet lately. And I debated about explaining why. Not because its some drastic event or some big secret, but because sharing the personal stuff makes me uncomfortable…its outside my comfort zone.

But it is for that very reason that I am writing this post, even if (perhaps especially if) no-one even reads it. Because I know how important it is to push through the boundaries we set for ourselves and get outside the comfort zones we have created.

So, I’ve been a bit absent lately because I am in a funk, in a rut and I didn’t really know how to get myself out of it, and what’s perhaps worse, I didn’t really care about getting out of it.

It all started about 6 weeks ago when during the last lesson of a ski trip, I fell spectacularly on a black run and f**ked up my knee. Yeah, it happens. No biggie. But two days earlier, on the same ski trip my mobile phone was stolen. Again, sh*t happens, no biggie, especially because I’m usually a fairly positive person and I don’t let the little bumps in the road deter me from enjoying the ride.

  
(The last pic I snapped on my iPhone before it got stolen)

But once I found myself at home, after the worst (or at least most painful) part had passed and I was up walking again, and driving again and life returned more or less to normal…I started to descend into the funk. Yes, I was walking again, or perhaps the more appropriate word is limping. So no more day trips to explore little-known villages, no more 7km hikes through the woods with my dog in tow, no more yoga, no more wayfaring. And whats a Wayfarer to do when they can’t wayfare?!

This injury also meant that I was off work, as my part time job is physical and so requires a state of near perfect health and agility. Now, my part time job is what pays my bills and puts food on the table, its not my passion…so having time off from it should have delighted me, giving me the sort of time off that most people (myself included) only dream of. Time to work on passion projects and side hustles and while I have used the time to study my butt off, without the rhythm and routine of a job and a place to go everyday (and my job is not even a regular 9-5, Monday to Friday gig) I found myself adrift, getting bogged down in the miniature of day to day life.

And then, after my phone was stolen, I decided to go it ‘old school’ with an ancient Nokia I had lying around while I waited for the lasted smartphone to be released and to teach myself to disconnect a bit. But what I didn’t realise was that by not having a camera with me always in the form of a smartphone I was significantly hindering my creative expression. I realised that without the obvious inspirations of travel and wayfaring, my remaining inspiration was in the spontaneity of daily life and nature, whether it be human nature, animal nature or mother nature, and I didn’t have a camera to capture that.

My first attempt to pull myself out of this rut was to get organised. I had recently gone off to-do lists, but I thought it was time to bring them back….with little success. I am a goal oriented person, so being able to strike items off a to-do list usually gives me a certain sense of satisfaction. But it also lets me confuse busyness or productivity with worthiness, which isn’t a good thing. I am more than my to-do list. I am more than what I can get done in one day (especially when some of those to-do list items are 2 loads of washing and pick up dry cleaning).

And so I realised I needed to focus. Not on the tasks that needed to get done (of which there are many), but on myself. With this abundance of time on my hands and the removal of my job, my routine, my ability to wayfare and express myself creatively, is it any surprise I felt lost? Without the usual demands, both physical and mental, is it any surprise that my idle mind started attacking itself?

I made a commitment to up my sporadic meditation practice to a daily ritual. I started reading Brene Brown’s ‘Daring Greatly‘. I re-watched Gabby Bernstein’s Free 90 Minute Live webinar. I got up every morning, showered and got dressed to start each day with purpose (and get out of my pyjamas!). I signed up for an online Brush Calligraphy class I’ve been wanting to take for ages.

And slowly, step by step, these small things are pulling me out of that funk, out of the rut. By nurturing myself instead of getting caught up in all the things I’m suppose to do. All that stuff on the to-do list, it will get done sooner or later. But I realised that right now I have a unique opportunity to take care of myself. So thats what I’m going to do.