The third largest island in Italy lies about 20 km off the coast of Tuscany. Since ancient times the island has been known for its iron resources. Indeed, the name of the island's largest city, Portoferraio, means Iron Port. Tourism has been the main means of support for the island's 30,000 inhabitants since the decline of the steel industry in the 1970s. Steep cliffs, sandy beaches, abundant sea life and a mild climate throughout the year make Elba a popular holiday destination.
Over the highest mountain in eastern Elba to its most scenic port
The trail goes from North to South through the eastern part of Elba and leads to the Cima del Monte, the highest summit in the area (516 m). Because it follows a ridgeline, the trail provides a superb view. The route ends in Porto Azzurro, one of the most scenic ports on Elba. From there, you can take a bus back to where you started. (3:30 hrs, 8.2 km, elevation gain: 300 m, loss: 460 m)
Twisty stair alleyways in a town with scenic view
Excavated coins and graves prove that this fortified town on the Calamita peninsula goes back to the age of the Etruscans. With its convoluted stair alleyways hiding small stores and restaurants, the town, situated on the Monte Calamita, has a beautiful view. The Forte Focardo stronghold, which dates back to the Spanish occupation, stands on a rocky promontory. Just outside of Morcone, a road with a cul-de-sac turns right and leads to the 16th century shrine of Madonna delle Grazie. In 1792, it provided protection to French monks fleeing from the Revolution and remained a Hermitage up until the last century.
On mule trails in the western part of Elba
This hike makes use of old mule trails, which, until the 1960s, were the only way to access the western part of the island. The route starts in Marciana, one of the oldest towns at the feet of the Monte Capanna. The hike is long but easy. Once in Pomonte, you can enjoy the beach and order a taxi for the trip back. (4:30 hrs, 11.5 km, elevation gain: 420 m, loss: 800 m)
Historic fishing quarter and delightful boardwalk
This town, which is the second smallest in Itaty in terms of its area, has a historic old town terraced into the weathered granite cliffs – the ancient fishing quarter of Cotone. The contorted alleys and tranquil squares are lined with faded building facades, with boats moored right behind them. You can take a stroll on the boardwalk to the harbor tower, which was built by the Medici in the 16th century.
Atop the highest mountain on Elba
The highest mountain on Elba rises to 870 meters above sea level, thereby offering the best view on the Island. In good weather, you can even see Corsica from here. The trail to the summit starts in Poggio. Although the upper part of the trail is somewhat exposed, it is secured with ropes and iron. If you do not wish to hike, then go to Maricana Alta and take the Cavinovia, a cable car, to the top. (3 hrs, 5.8 km, elevation change: 630 m)
Exquisite seaport in the shadows of a fortress
This harbor town, nicknamed the “blue seaport,” is regarded as one of the most beautiful coastal towns on Elba. The port's historic buildings dating from the 17th century attest to the fact that it once played an important role for the mining industry. Yet things have become quieter here ever since the ferries stopped running. The fortress of San Giacomo di Longone looms over the harbor. This star-shaped structure was built by the Spanish in order to protect the port. Now it serves as a prison. The Santuario della Madonne di Monserrato was also built by the Spanish as a smaller version of the Montserrat abbey near Barcelona.
Gateway to Elba
The “iron port” is the main town on Elba and the gateway to the island. This town has been settled for thousands of years by one nation after another. First came the Etruscans, then the Ligurians, and later the Greeks. The Romans eventually came and took over the Iron mines. In 1812, Napoleon began his exile on the island. Although he did not even spend an entire year on Elba, he made Portoferraio the capital city and built his winter residence there. Nowadays, you can visit the Villa Mulini, which is a national museum.