Elba boasts beaches and history

Travel Q&A


I have family roots in Marciana Marina on Elba and am planning a trip to the island. Is it still an unspoiled site to visit?

Elba, the largest island in the Tuscan Archipelago, is a popular Italian holiday resort, attracting more than 1 million visitors a year. It is situated in the Tyrrhenian Sea, about seven miles from Piombino.

The mountainous island is known for its largely pristine countryside, its vineyards and olive groves, and its numerous beaches. Apart from just about every conceivable water-related activity, you'll find a number of other diversions on Elba, including golf, tennis, horseback riding, bicycling, hiking and dining on fresh seafood.

As early as the sixth century B.C., Etruscans mined Elba's rich mineral deposits. During the Middle Ages, Elba was under the domination of Pisa; eventually it fell into the hands of various Italian city states. Beginning in the 16th century, the Medici family built and fortified Portoferraio. The island gained its greatest fame in the 19th century, when Napoleon was briefly exiled on Elba.

The island is rich in relics of its multifaceted past, including archaeological ruins, forts and the Napoleonic residences of Villa dei Mulini in Portoferraio, which contains Napoleon's personal library, and Villa Napoleone, surrounded by vineyards and oaks in San Martino on the southern coast. Both are open daily except Mondays. Admission to both is about $5.25.

In contrast to busy Portoferraio, Marciana Marina is a relatively quiet fishing village on the northern side of the island. There are two beaches in town, one sandy, the other rocky. Boats can easily be rented, and there is a seaside promenade lined with oleanders, palms and magnolias.

There are more than a dozen hotels in Marciana Marina; a list is available from the Elba tourist office in Portoferraio, telephone (39-565) 914671, fax (39-565) 916350. A double room with bath costs about $105 at the 57-room Hotel Marinella, 38 Viale Margherita, (39-565) 99018. During August and much of September, a double at the 21-room Hotel Imperia, 12 Viale Amedeo, (39-565) 99082, costs about $75.

Getting to the island is relatively simple. By train one can take the Rome-Pisa-Genova line, get off at Campiglia Marittima and transfer to a local train to Piombino. In Piombino, you can take a ferry to Elba. Toremar, (39-565) 918080, has ferries that depart hourly for Portoferraio. The one-way fare is about $6. Hydrofoil service to Portoferraio or Cavo costs about $12.

Pub Date: 8/04/96

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