Sailing on a sailboat on the Island of Elba is very interesting, due to the shape of the island which has favored the creation of many bays and inlets. The presence of many ports and marinas makes pleasure craft safe even in strong wind conditions. Starting from Portoferraio, from the vast bay we head north-east to reach the tail of the big fish that is Elba. Rounding Capo della Vita, we sail south along the coast facing the continent where we meet Cavo and Rio Marina. This last seaside village is very nice for a stopover: the port has 15 places for transit and alternatively there are the piers (open only in summer). Rio Marina, which welcomes us with its characteristic Aragonese Clock Tower, has several shops, restaurants, bars, a small beach and also an interesting mineral museum. After less than 4 miles the deep inlet of Porto Azzurro opens up. The area is full of small bays with beaches where you can anchor to enjoy the scenery from the boat, swim, snorkel. The beach of Barbarossa is the best, going down with the tender you can reach the town in 15 minutes. Nearby is the Terranera lake: a mining basin covered with sulphurous waters separated from the sea by a thin strip of sand. If you want to moor, you can do so at the main port, very protected or in Cala di Mola, about 3km away. Porto Azzurro is one of the historic towns founded by the Spaniards. Two forts are preserved, the church of the Madonna di Montserrato and the Spanish church. The center, near the port, is lively, with several bars and restaurants where you can try typical specialties. We leave again, sails unfurled, to reach and round the head of the promontory that closes the section of the island facing the mainland to the south. This is the southern part of the fish tail that forms Elba, a territory of the municipality of Capoliveri, whose inhabited center rises on the hill. Arriving by sea from the south we reach two vast gulfs: Golfo Stella and Lacona, separated by a rocky cape in whose surroundings the water is magnificent for swimming and snorkeling. Golfo Stella is less crowded and has the beaches of Margidore and Acquarilli. The Gulf of Lacona instead has one of the longest sandy beaches; fine golden sand protected by dunes and a pine forest. Continuing west, we meet Marina di Campo, probably the liveliest tourist center. There is a busy beach with all the services and water sports, bars, restaurants, the stroll through the elegant streets and a lot of nightlife with bars and clubs. If you want tranquility, you can reach and anchor at the beach of Fonza or Galenzana. Very small and without services, they are surrounded by a natural paradise. Pay attention to the seabed. The next stretch of coast offers several unmissable places on Elba in a short space. The beach of Cavoli, famous for the quality of the sand made up of quartz grains with a sea of incredible colors and nearby you can go to visit (by tender or kayak) the Blue Grotto. Then the Seccheto pools which are natural pools of sea water formed by large smooth slabs of granite. You can anchor and reach them by swimming or by tender. Further on, the bay of Fetovaia opens up: you can anchor easily and stay overnight. The landscape is enchanting and the rocky coast allows beautiful snorkeling. A few miles further on, following the profile of the island or the head of the fish, we meet Pomonte. It is a small cove with a beach and is above all a famous place for diving. Here in 1972 the cargo Elviscot sank a few meters from the shore, near the Pomonte rock. The wreck still lies between 8 and 12 meters, a depth that allows suggestive and not difficult diving. It is advisable to anchor immediately south of the rock, paying attention to the prevailing winds. We have almost finished this exciting tour of the island on a sailing boat. However, there are still some unmissable places before arriving in Portoferraio. On the north-west tip, S.Andrea is a very quiet little bay, with a wonderful sea and after a few miles the splendid village of Marciana Marina, with its equipped port and the possibility of anchoring in the small harbor. Finally, the Gulf of Procchio presents a system of three connected bays: Forno, Biodola and Viticcio. All very beautiful and suitable for boat stops. Viticcio also has a beach with a path that climbs into the Mediterranean scrub to reach Capo d'Enfola, from where you can enjoy a suggestive view of Corsica. Once the aforementioned cape has been rounded, the stretch of coast remains before the entrance to Portoferraio. Here we should remember the White Beaches so called for the color of the towns that compose them, an exceptional place for the transparency of the water and for the white rocks that surround the beaches of Padulella and Sorgente. This destination, not being far from Portoferraio, is also indicated if you want to stop in the capital of Elba.
Elba, the third largest Italian island, was born geologically as the last strip of land that united the Italian peninsula to Corsica. The hilly and mountainous profile (the highest peak Monte Capanne is just over 1000 m) meant that it remained emerging from the waters once the Tyrrhenian Sea was formed. Its historical destinies are linked to two primary characteristics: wealth of iron deposits and strategic position. Iron was already exploited at the time of the Etruscan civilization, which spread here as in the rest of central Italy. Today some Etruscan necropolises can be visited such as that of Capoliveri and that of Casa del Duca near Portoferraio. The Romans then developed the mining activity; in the Republican era the maximum exploitation necessary for the production of war material was reached. It is no exaggeration to say that a determining factor in the military successes and expansion of Rome was the iron of Elba! The name of the island dates back to this period: it was called Ilva, whose origin, however, is not clearly ascertained. It seems that it came from the ilvates, the Ligurian lineage that inhabited the island. Some vestiges of this era remain, beautiful artifacts in archaeological museums together with Etruscan finds (in Rio nell'Elba, Marciana and Linguella near Portoferraio) but above all the toponyms: Capoliveri descends from Caput Liberum, Marciana da Marcius or Marcianus and Rio from Rivus. The aforementioned Linguella area, which closes the Portoferraio dock with a Medici tower, has an archaeological park with the excavations of a Roman Domus. In fact, in the imperial age the island was discovered and enhanced by the patricians who built sumptuous villas here, as in the rest of the archipelago and on the coast. After the decline of mining, therefore, the island for the first time a tourist destination. After the turbulent early medieval centuries characterized by various barbarian invasions, destructions and looting (especially by the Saracens), it is under the control of Pisa which regains stability. The Maritime Republic from the 11th century onwards in fact endowed it with a defense system, the remains of which can still be visited: watchtowers (the famous one of San Giovanni), fortresses (Montemarsale, Marciana, still standing) and fortified villages because the inhabitants could defend themselves in case of enemy attack. In the sixteenth century the island of Elba became, despite its small size, tripartite between different states (although connected): the Principality of Piombino (of the Appiani), Spain and the Grand Duchy of Tuscany. Cosimo I de 'Medici, who was tempted by the iron mines, lets his ally Charles V cede a territory rich in deposits and with his typical humility, he creates a city that has his name, Cosmopoli, what else it is not if the current Portoferraio. It equips it with a system of three fortresses, Forte Stella, Forte Falcone and the Linguella and a beautiful city wall. The city was in fact not only to be an important mining center and strategic port, but also the operational headquarters of the Knights of Saint Stephen who, from Elba, left to defend the island and the coast of the Grand Duchy from Saracen raids and enemies. The Spaniards preserved the eastern part of the island and built Forte Longone, or San Giacomo (today the penitentiary of Porto Azzurro) Due to the strategic position and the presence of the deposits, Elba became very coveted by all states from the sixteenth century and for the following two centuries. There is probably no other island in the Mediterranean that has seen so many guests, for the most part not really wanted. Alongside the Medici and the Spaniards, the French took their turn, then the Tunisians and Muslims sacked it and finally the English in the eighteenth century wanted their piece of cake. The last years of this century of Elba reflect the convulsions that shook all of Europe. The island, coveted by Napoleon, saw local royalists and Jacobins fight each other, Ferdinand III of Tuscany, on the one hand, and the Bourbons of Naples (who controlled Longone) wanted to keep the status quo and the English moved in an anti-Napoleonic key. But Bonaparte then put everyone in agreement with the strength of his army: in 1802 Elba became French and three years later was assigned to his sister Elisa Baciocchi. The years of the French government were, however, an opportunity for modernization: the agricultural structure (especially the wine production was developed), the merchant fleet, schools and roads were built. But the island of Elba is especially remembered because after Napoleon's defeat in Leipzig in 1814 and the consequent abdication, it was chosen by the general as a place of exile. He lived here for ten months, between the official representative residence, Palazzo dei Mulini, in the center of Portoferraio and the private country house, Villa S.Martino. Both sites can be visited, the first also includes a museum of Napoleonic relics, the second a visit to the villa in a suggestive valley about 4km from the city center. Napoleon left the island in May 1815, for the famous one hundred days in which he tried in vain to catch his tail, and then died in the much more isolated exile of S. Elena. The fate of Elba then goes hand in hand with Tuscan history: restoration of the Lorraine and Kingdom of Italy. It retains its mining and trading importance until the postwar period, when the sector begins to decline. The last mine was closed in 1981 (Galleria del Ginevro). Since the 1950s the island has been discovered as an exceptional holiday, tourism and nautical place but still today it is possible to visit the sites of industrial archeology, the most beautiful of which are the Capoliveri mines.
Portoferraio is the main center of Elba (about 12,000 inhabitants) and the first taste of the island as the numerous ferries from Piombino stop here. Of Medici origin, it was in fact founded by Cosimo I, with the name of Cosmopoli, in order to create a protected inhabited center and a port to exploit and defend the rich mineral deposits in the surroundings. The urban center still has the ancient structure: the walls, the bastion and the three forts (Stella, Falcone and Linguella). The port and the dock are inside the bay and face south, extremely sheltered even from the strongest winds. The town stretches from the old port to the modern part, pleasant walks, shops, bars and restaurants. The most famous person linked to Portoferraio is Napoleon. Here the general lived for ten months in exile, after the abdication and still today we can visit the Palazzo dei Mulini, official and representative residence, with a small museum, and the private country residence, Villa San Martino, 4km from the center. Portoferraio is, as mentioned, inside a suggestive bay that can be traveled to the point opposite the port, where a Medici watchtower, part of the Linguella fortress, stands out. Nearby are the open-air excavations of a Roman domus and the adjacent Archaeological Museum, testimony of the rich Etruscan and Roman civilizations that inhabited the island in ancient times. Do not miss the beautiful beaches nearby, especially in the stretch of coast west of the port: the White Beaches, named by the color of the pebbles, facing a beautiful transparent sea and the Biodola Beach, in a silent bay surrounded by Mediterranean scrub , just round the Capo d'Enfola.