The Island of Elba, Where it’s Not Allowed to Rain
The idyllic island of Elba floats just six miles from the coast of Tuscany. Although off the radar of most American tourists, poet Dylan Thomas called Elba “the most beautiful island in the Mediterranean.” Legend has it that when the goddess Aphrodite emerged from the Tyrrhenian Sea, she lost her pearl necklace. Seven of these pearls floated on the surface and became the islands of the Tuscan Archipelago.
“Elba No Rain”
Elba is the largest island in the archipelago. It boasts over 150 beaches and is ringed with coral reefs, creating a paradise for scuba divers. The island made headlines last spring by launching its “Elba No Rain” initiative. For the entire month of May, visitors were refunded for their lodging if more than two hours of rain fell between 10:00am and 8:00pm. Guests had to stay at one of the select hotels and guesthouses to take advantage of this deal.
The island’s rain refunds will return from September 15th through the end of October, starting up again in May 2020. The aim of the program is to encourage tourists to brave the weather and see that Elba has much more to offer than just its picturesque beaches. But what are some of these must-see sights? Read on for a list of our favorites!
An Emperor & a Count
Napoleon is Elba’s most famous resident. After spending only 9 months and 21 days in exile on the island (May 1814–February 1815), he still left his mark. Two royal residences were adapted for him. The 18th-century Palazzina dei Mulini was his official residence and used for public events. In warm weather, Napoleon retreated to the Villa di San Martino in the countryside.
Fellow Frenchman Alexandre Dumas père visited Elba in 1841. He used the islands as a backdrop for his wildly-popular Romantic novel, “The Count of Monte Cristo.” Today tiny Montecristo is a nature preserve with very limited access.
Fishy Fun at the Aquarium
Elba is home to a small but beautiful aquarium. It is not as famous as the Oceanografic in Valencia, Spain, or the Acquario di Genova, but it’s a nice place to spend a few hours, especially if you are traveling with kids. They can view hundreds of species of Mediterranean fish behind glass at the Aquarium and then try to spot them in the crystal-clear waters off Laconella beach!
Descend to the Center of the Earth
The island is very rich in iron ore and its mines are renowned. A descent down the Ginevro mine in Capoliveri is strongly recommended. Mining on Elba goes back thousands of years, from Etruscan times to 1980, when the mines were finally closed. Ginervo is the only underground mine that is still accessible.
Essence of Elba
Elba’s weekly outdoor markets provide plenty of local color and often good bargains. Portoferraio’s market is on Friday morning, while in summer, some towns have evening markets too. Jewelry handcrafted from island stones and ores makes for a unique souvenir. So do the amazing scents and perfumes produced by Acqua dell’Elba and sold in 20 shops scattered throughout the island.
Hardly anyone can resist the temptations of the Elban table! Choose from penne in barca, short pasta in a creamy clam sauce; cacciucco, a fish stew made with wine, tomatoes and chili pepper; or spaghetti with fresh spider crab. Finish up with a slice of schiacciabriaca (it means “drunken bread”), a traditional cake of pine nuts, raisins, and local Aleatico wine. The best place to savor these delights is the little Slow Food restaurant, La Miniera Del Gusto, in Rio Marina.
So there you have it. Now there’s no excuse for not taking advantage of this Tuscan island, whether it’s bright and sunny or pouring cats and dogs.
Have you been to the island of Elba? Share your experience in the comments below!