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Many visitors to Elba stick to their beachside town. But the interior is also worth exploring, on foot, or by car, as there are lots of little villages, ancient forts and old churches, both ruined and still lively, to visit. Elba has accommodation for every budget, from camping grounds to luxury resorts. It's worth looking beyond the capital though, as some of the best places to stay on Elba are outside Portoferraio.
Elba gets a bad rap because Napoleon was unhappy about being exiled here. But me thinks the general doth protest too much - he was exiled to a Tuscan paradise of sunshine, warm, clear seas, wild flower meadows and fascinating old churches and historic sights.
Napoleon's nine months on Elba was lived far from the life of a prisoner - though he did start off his exile in the Torre del Martello, a red coloured tower which remained a prison until 1877. However he quickly became the Emperor of the island, and moved to the Palazzo dei Mulini - now a museum. And in the summer, when it was hot in Portoferraio, he moved to a villa in the hills, now the Museo Villa Napolenica di San Martino.
It was Napoleon who decided Portoferraio would be the island's capital, and he who drew many of Europe's great men to this city. Born as a fortified port, Portoferraio is protected by historic walls, built in the 15th Century and designed to protect from pirates. Portoferraio's old town is a lovely web of narrow streets heading from the bay to the twin forts on the hill, pinkish Forte Stella and Forte Falcone.
Elba's Natural Charms
Elba has 150 beaches and the interior is green all year round, and especially beautiful in spring when it is carpeted with wildflowers. There are plenty of scenic drives on spaghetti-like road systems winding all over the hills - with views that spread from the bright blue sea to the pretty, Tuscan-style hilltop towns. And the surrounding blue seas are rich with marine life. The whole island is within the Parco Nazionale del l'Arcipelago Toscana, so it's protected from development.
Elba isn't just naturally beautiful, it's also rich in minerals. Which is why it's been so contested through the ages. The Roman's holidayed here, and quarried materials for their columns, and the Etruscans have also left fascinating traces of their time here. As well as the sights and ruins themselves there are numerous museums displaying ancient treasures belonging to the island's former inhabitants.
- If you're searching for peace in a waterside paradise, the Boutique Hotel Ilio is one of the best places to stay on Elba. Elba doesn't have a lot in the way of boutique hotels, and Ilio, with its 20, individually themed rooms, regular photographic exhibitions and restaurant focussed on serving locally sourced wonders, fills that gap nicely.
Best Hotels in Elba
Boutique Hotel Ilio 20 rooms from $89Marciana, Elba
Laid back hotel on the north western corner of Elba. Twenty bedrooms are individually decorated, most with a contemporary style. Great choice of restaurants close by. Come here for total relaxation in an unspoilt region of Italy.Great walks - Range of trails straight from the door.Diving - Dive centre on the beachSeaside - Ideal for a seaside holiday.Views - Great views from hotel