The first time I went to Elba Island I experienced it as a tourist would, dividing myself between the beach and the main attractions, while the second time I got to enjoy a different side of the island, often put aside in favour of a seaside holiday. What I’ve noticed is how annoying it is, exploring when you are surrounded by people. We all wish some quiet, especially on holiday. So let me introduce you to 5 awesome non-touristy things to do in Elba Island!
Before getting to the list, let me tell you something about the Island first. Elba is the largest island of the Tuscan archipelago, in the Mediterranean sea. After Sicily and Sardinia is the third largest island of Italy!
How can you get to the island?
There’s only one way to get there: by ferry. There’s a small airport on the island, but it’s only used for emergencies. If you are travelling with a car, you’ll need to book the ferry beforehand, so you’ll be sure to find room for the crossing. All the ferries to Elba leave from Piombino in Tuscany and a ton of companies offer this service. The cheapest ones are usually Toremar, Blu Navy and Moby Lines. The ports of the Island are: Portoferraio (which is about 1 hour crossing), Rio Marina (around 45 minutes) and Cavo (35 minutes).
If you don’t have a car and you just want to cross, there’s a quicker way: by hydrofoil and it takes only 20 minutes to get to the first stop, Cavo. In 35 minutes you’ll be in Portoferraio.
1. Mount Capanne
It’s the highest peak on the island (1018 m) and it’s also an important part of the landscape and the geography of the area. You can get up there either by an open cable car, by trekking (2/3 hours walk) or if climbing is your thing by the Via Ferrata, a very challenging route. From the top of the Mountain, on a clear day, you have a breathtaking view of the entire Tuscan Archipelago.
In the 18th century, a legend arosed, according to which, the spring waters of this mountain came from natural underwater conducts from Corsica.
On the southern slope of this mountain, three plane crushes occurred. One on the 4th of April 1944 when two recognition planes of the United States crushed. Another on the 14th of October 1960 another planed crushed, killing all the 11 passengers.
On the 14th of August, french secret services detonated 4 charges of explosive, destroying the repeaters of Radio Corsica Libera because it was a symbol of the independence of Corsica.
2. Calamita Mines
Located near Capoliveri, this mine offers an exciting descent into the tunnels of the Ginevro mine, where magnetite was extracted between deep wells and chasms.
You can get here by following a dirt road from Capoliveri for 6 km. From the base point, where you can find the Museum of the mine, you’ll be conducted with a shuttle to the entrance of the mine. A very prepared guide will lead you inside, while explaining how iron is extracted, the working conditions of the miners and the “fights” between men and nature, considering the cavities created. A very impactful experience that will teach you a lot on history, science, geology, chemistry and economy.
On the surface you can pick up a piece of “magnesite” lodestone as a souvenir of the excursion.
3. Explore the beaches
If you can’t resist going to the beach, explore the island to find desert ones, believe me, they exist (Le Tombe, Remaiolo etc.). You just need patience and to walk a lot, as a reward you’ll be able to relax alone.
Some very cool beaches unfortunately are only accessible by water, but fear not… you can rent a boat and look for them. On the main villages you’ll find plenty of companies that rent boats for a similar price. One of those awesome deserted beaches is Maciarello, also called La Fontina because it’s near a spring. Punta Nera and Zuppignano are other awesome beaches where you can go.
4. Grotta Azzurra
A cave, located near Cavoli only reachable by the sea entrance. It’s famous for the colour of its water, a very intense blue. Not only the surface needs to be discovered but also the sea bottom, so you can equip yourself with a mask and a snorkel and dive! The entrance is very small so it’s only accessible by small boats. You can either rent one or book an excursion.
5. Trek or climb
The trekking itineraries are walkable by everyone, even novice hikers. The best season to do the hikes suggested below is either spring or summer.
So if you feel like trekking, some of the best hikes are:
From north to south Elba
Time it takes to hike: 6 hours
It starts in Marciana, a small village located on a hill. To begin this trek, follow the directions for Santuario della Madonna del Monte, along the way you’ll find the aedicules of the Via Crucis. Keep going down this road then taking path n.3 to Chiessi. Now the path is large ans well-signaled until “Troppolo“. From Troppolo stay on path n. 3 until you cross n. 4 to Pomonte. Now begins the descent towards Chiessi. Once you reach your destination, in less than an hour you’ll be on sea leven, and probably just in time to enjoy the sunset.
Time it takes to hike: 5 hours
From the small village on San Piero (which deserves a visit) head to the path that leads from Torre di San Giovanni to Piane del Canale. Reach path n. 35 which leads to the granite quarries of San Piero.
Time it takes to hike: 2/3 hours
As mentioned before, Monte Capanne is the highest mountain of the island. On clear days, there’s a breathtaking view of Elba, the Islands of the Tuscan archipelago, Corsica and a good part of Tuscany.
Free climbing is also an option if you are interested! One of the best cliffs is in Baia dei Pirati, in Capoliveri.