Elba is an island steeped in history – from prehistoric times to the Etruscan and Roman civilisation and from pirate attacks to the bloody battles that raged here between those who wished to gain control over this small but strategically important island. There aren’t many other similar islands which have had such a rich and diverse history.
For the Etruscans, Elba represented a source of riches. Elban iron contributed enormously to the wealth of this ancient civilisation. The Romans also took advantage of the island’s iron mines and enjoyed its curative thermal clay. In fact, the remains of two large Roman villas have been found on the island and one of them is close to a thermal spring.
In more modern times, the period that stands out in the island’s history is when Napoleon was briefly exiled here. Visitors today can tour Villa dei Mulini which was his official residence and Villa di San Martino which was home to his campaign. Prince Demidoff enlarged Villa di San Martino by building a neo-classical extension and transformed it into a museum today called ‘Galleria Demidoff’.
Elba is lined with stunning beaches either of soft, golden sand or smooth white stones which illuminate the crystal clear waters of the Mediterranean. There are sheer rocky cliff faces, small bays and beaches with sands darkened by iron deposits. No two beaches are the same, making the whole coastline a joy to explore. The only thing that Elba’s beaches have in common is the azure blue water of the sea which is teeming with sea life and ideal for scuba diving.