Elba was a real surprise. The idea to trip over to the island washed over me when visiting my partner’s hometown of Piombino for the first time in 2013. Standing in Piazza Bovio, I said “what’s that?” as I pointed across the sea to the distant land covered in mist.
So he made a promise we’d go next time we were in Tuscany, and I made a plan for a two-day tour.
And by “plan” I mean choosing the dates and booking the hotels. Beyond those action items there was little else that went into organizing a two-day tour of Elba.
He had his Vespa and we were free to explore the windy roads, beaches and seaside villages.
Lucky that. A scenic scooter sojourn has to be the best way to see the island. Also lucky that the weather was going our way. Despite stormy mornings, Elba was magical. Four highlights for you:
Biodola Bay. Whether one can afford to stay at the swank Hotel Hermitage or not, this beach is certainly beautiful (as the guidebooks will profess), so it is worth a stop. It was our first.
Wine and Food Shops. Calata Mazzini 15 in Portoferraio has a wonderful selection of vintages from all over Italy. Mario’s high school friend is, we were surprised to discover upon entering, the co-owner. An organic Sicilian red fit our late-night jam, paired perfectly with the picnic of fishy fare we picked up in Mariciana Marittima the next afternoon. Elba di Gusto is literally a hole-in-the-wall of a shop that offers exquisitely prepared fresh food. After throwing down a mint at the Hermitage the day before for lunch, this discovery was a welcome surprise. I said this island was full of them, right?
Hotel Ilio. A stylish and laid-back scene set in the heart of Capo Sant’ Andrea quickly set our clocks to island time. That is to say Hotel Ilio is the best in boutique at the moment. There is one seaside suite on offer (highly recommended), which allows easy access for morning hikes along a path cut into the cliffs. Otherwise a room overlooking the zen garden is where it’s at. Either way, the gorgeous little beach is mere minutes away.
One thing I noticed on the island is a keen attention to the environment, and this hotel’s green philosophy is ubiquitous from check-in to check-out.
Le Ghiaie Beach. White pebbles cover this spectacular spiagga that is a stone’s throw away from the port. If you are feeling peckish after that 15-minute walk, Le Sirene serves the perfect flatbread pizza. Otherwise, eat fish wherever you go!
2014 marks the 200th anniversary of Napoleon’s exile to Elba. There are various events marking the occasion, but scheduling a visit to Villa dei Mulini (the emperor’s public residence) is a worthy break from the beach. The Medici fortress at Portoferraio and the Roman ruins will also give you insight into this island’s prolific past.
Getting There. Use the Moby web site to figure out departure times, but buy your tickets at the terminal. You will save a few euros that you can put towards a creamy gelato at Ice Palace in Piombino. Actually, the money you save will likely buy a nice dinner, too.
For your Vespa rental, check out Tuscany Scooter Rental.