A paradise for divers, Elba’s coastline is dotted with hidden coves and long, sandy beaches. The island is part of the Tuscan Archipelago in Italy and located about 12 miles (20 kilometers) from the coastal town of Piombino. Elba is the largest island in its archipelago and the third largest island in Italy after Sicily and Sardinia.
The history of the 224 square kilometer island is quite interesting, albeit long and varied. Its strategic position and plethora of natural resources made it coveted by the great powers of the world. The ancient civilizations of the Etruscans, the Romans, Pisa, the Appiani Lordship and Spain all laid claim to the island at one point or another. However, Elba’s most famous visitor was Napoleon who lived here for 10 months during his exile. Visitors to the island today can explore the buildings Bonaparte left behind as a result of his short stay.
In 1950, the island opened to tourism and since then the local residents have made a valiant effort to preserve the natural flora and fauna of Elba. Today it is a part of the Tuscan Archipelago National Park along with Pianosa, Capraia, Montecristo, Giglio and Giannutri. The park is also one small part of the Natura 2000 project which is the largest worldwide network of protected natural areas.
Because of its geographic location and fascinating history, Elba is full of amazing topside attractions. Alternative watersports include windsurfing, kitesurfing, fishing and sailing. For those with a penchant for natural environments, there are hiking, cycling and horseback riding trails that climb up the mountainous landscape and ultimately offer stunning views of the Mediterranean. Portoferrario exudes its long and varied history through its ancient stone staircases and tiny restaurants and shops. History lovers will enjoy exploring the historic fortresses surrounding the city or Napoleon’s home which is now open for tours. And if it’s relaxation you’re after, Elba’s waters are perfect for a sunny summer day.
There is a small airport on Elba called Marina di Campo Airport that welcomes small flights from nearby European locales, but the best way to reach the island of Elba is to take the ferry from Piombino. The nearest train station to the ferry terminal is Piombino Marittima Station, which is serviced by trains originating throughout Italy.
With that said, most people drive to the ferry terminal and take their cars to the island as there is not a great public transportation system available in Elba. For those without a car, buses do circle the island and hitchhiking is a possibility.