This Lesser-Known Island In Italy Has Crystal-Clear Beaches And Ancient Culture

This Lesser-Known Island In Italy Has Crystal-Clear Beaches And Ancient Culture

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Out of all the European tourism hotspots, Italy is probably the busiest.

It concentrates a large number of the continent’s ancient monuments, including the Roman Colosseum and the floating city of Venice.

It has lovely weather, and the cuisine is unrivaled.

Famous Beach Bounded By The Mediterranean Sea In Isola di Elba, Italy, Southern Europe

Needless to say, it’s been overwhelmed by tourists lately, so if you’re hoping to experience some of that dolce vita or a laid-back Italian getaway, we’d suggest you get in (the exceedingly-long) line, unless of course, you’re open to exploring off-path alternatives.

A tiny island off the coast of jam-packed Tuscany surrounded by the clearest of waters and boasting ancient heritage and epic vistas, Elba is far less crowded to visit:

An Unheard-Of Island Paradise Off The Coast Of Tuscany

Port Town Of Portoferraio In Isola di Elba, Italy, Southern Europe

With the exception of large autonomous islands like Sicily and Sardinia, Italy is not widely known for its paradisiacal Mediterranean archipelagos as much as Greece, Croatia, Türkiye and the like are, but it still has 77 inhabited islands to its name.

One of them, Elba, lies just off the Tuscany mainland and belongs to the outstandingly beautiful Tuscan Archipelago National Park.

It is fringed by the turquoise-colored Tyrrhenian Sea, one of the clearest branches of the wider Mediterranean, and traversed by monumental peaks.

Panoramic View Of Isola di Elba In Italy, Southern Europe

With a population of around 31,000 people, it’s halfway between a peaceful Tyrrhenian refuge and lively resort island, and it’s the perfect destination for soaking up Italian culture, and surrounding yourself with nature without the incessant background noise of the crowds.

Elba is primarily a summer destination for vacationing Italians, and despite its relatively-small size, covering an area of only 86 square miles, there is a wide range of sunbathing sites, whether you’re Team Pebbly or Sandy Beach.

Where To Stay In Elba For The Best Beaches?

A Tourist Snorkeling In The Mediterranean Sea In Elba, Italy, Southern Europe.jpg

For the former, Sansone is the place to go, in northern Elba: it’s a narrow strip of white pebbles wedged between small sea cliffs and translucent seas, and there’s even a small bar a short walk from the beach serving affordable drinks and $15 pinsas (local hand-pressed pizzas).

If you’d very much rather walk barefoot in soft sand instead and swim in tranquil waters, the extensive Spiaggia di Lacona in the south of Elba extends for over a kilometer, with a big choice of restaurants and beach bars.

Young Womna Drinking Coffee As She Admires A View Of The Mediterranean Sea In Elba, Italy, Southern Europe

Alternatively, Lacona’s ‘little sister’ Laconella offers a more recluse environment to the west, with less crowding, a shallow, crystalline Mediterranean full of small fish, and even opportunities for kayaking if you’re feeling adventurous.

Other top picks include the 50-meter-long Pareti Beach, near Capoliveri, famous for its honey-colored sands, the fine white-sand strip of Biodola Bay, and the youth-frequented, party central that is Cavoli, though you’re likely to want to avoid that if it’s peace and quiet you’re after.

Get Off The Beaten Track And Explore Elba’s Extensive System Of Hiking Trails

Hiking Trail In Isola di Elba, Italy, Southern Europe

Elba is also popular for its numerous hiking trails—well, 65 to be precise––that lap around the island leading to lookouts, secret coves and ancient ruins.

One of the most beautiful pathways is Route 101 from Marciana, traveling upward towards Mount Capanne: at 1,019 meters above sea level, this is the tallest peak on the island, and at the very top, a sweeping panorama of its mountainous terrain and sea beyond awaits.

Starting from the ruins of an old tuna factory, the Enfola Circuit is not to be missed, either: the 3-mile long trek takes you through the highlights of the namesake peninsula, including historic fortifications, magnificent calas, and even Procchio, the site of a Roman-era shipwreck.

A Beach In Elba, Island In Italy, Southern Europe

You’ll also want to check out the medium-difficulty Butterfly Trail, as it is just as beautiful as it sounds: a relatively steep, 2.4-mile climb across lush Mediterranean vegetation, it culminates in the rewarding Monte Perone viewpoint.

There’s plenty more we could get into detail about––once again, this charming isola is a natural reserve––but to sum it up, if you love nature, you can’t go wrong with a trip to Elba.

One Pastel-Colored Town After The Other

Portoferraio, Capital Of Isola di Elba In Italy, Southern Europe

Sweeping panoramas aside, Elba is dotted with ancient towns that have preserved much of their distinct Italian character amid the country’s tourism boom:

Resting on a C-shaped peninsula jutting out into the Tyrrhenian Sea, the capital Portoferraio is home to a busy marina, a maze-like, cobbled Old Town, and a host of museums, including the National Museum of Napoleonic Residences.

The number one attraction in town, it retraces Napoleon’s steps on the island: for those of you who are not aware, the legendary French Emperor was exiled in Elba after being deposed, and shortly before escaping for another short stint in the throne, ahead of being defeated for good in Waterloo.

Village Of Capoliveri In Elba Seen At Dusk, Italy, Southern Europe

Perched on a hill overlooking the sea, Capoliveri is yet another hidden gem worth discovering, with its traditional Italian houses in warm colors, and there’s no way you’re coming to Elba and missing out on Porto Azzurro:

A perfectly preserved 17th-century harbor town, it is a mandatory selfie spot, with its sea-facing Piazza Matteotti, flanked by seafood restaurants and souvenir shops, and heavily-fortified San Giacomo Castle (still used as a prison to this day).

Young Woman Sitting On A Beach As She Admires A View Of The Mediterranean In The Island Of Elba, Italy, Southern Europe

In Borgo al Cotone, you’ll find a fishing village centered around a small harbor, that could well be the sixth town in Cinque Terre, and for the odd culture buff out there, there’s no escaping Marciana, one of the oldest settlements in Elba, and a medieval commune on the slopes of a verdant Monte Capanne.

Elba Feels More Exclusive Than Other Italian Destinations

Elba is one of the most exclusive destinations in Italy, and it goes without saying all this beautiful nature and fascinating culture comes at a price:

There’s not an abundance of budget guesthouses or hostels on the island, but if you’re keeping it under $160 per night, there’s still beachfront Park Hotel Napoleone in Portoferraio, where a single room will cost you $136 to book, or Hotel Villa Italia in Porto Azzurro, slightly above budget at $161.

Woman paying for her hotel room at the front desk

Both hotels already include breakfast in their nightly rate, and they’re centrally-located in their respective municipalities.

When it comes to food expenses, Elba is about as expensive as other Italian hotspots, meaning it’s not Balkan cheap, but for the average American, it’s a steal of a deal: pizzas are between $12-15, more sophisticated pasta dishes are around $25, and fine dining can cost from $50 to upwards of $80.

How To Get To Elba This Summer

Traveling to Elba, you can either fly into Marina di Campo Airport, hosting flights from select secondary European hubs, like Mannheim in Germany and Bern in Switzerland, or take the ferry from Piombino in the Tuscan mainland.

woman holding us passport waiting for a flight

The latter option is the most popular one, with the estimated crossing time of a Moby ship traveling between Piombino and Portoferraio blocking at just 1 hour, with one-way tickets starting from an affordable $19 for foot passengers.

As connectivity improves and word gets out about Elba’s unspoiled beauty, chances are it won’t stay ‘hidden’ for long.

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Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, hotel, airline, or other entity. This content has not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of the entities included within the post.

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