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.
// 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.
// 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.
// 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.
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.