Before I started spending a lot of time in Tuscany I hadn't really heard much about Isola d'Elba. Recalling from my college French classes that Napoleon had been exiled there, I had always pictured a desolate, barren and wind-swept stretch of sand with the feisty French emperor moping behind bars in a cement shack, gnawing stale bread and moldy cheese, vengefully plotting his escape route.
Then, one rainy day last year at the start of summer, a colleague of mine who has family in Elba was raving about the island and my curiosity was piqued. I had been craving sunshine and salt air so I invited a friend to join me for a quick three-day getaway. During that long weekend, I was so struck by the lush natural beauty of the island, its crystal clear waters and the sweetness of its people that I found myself thinking longingly about Elba all winter and finally returned for a few unforgettable days last May.
Though I am hardly in a position yet to recommend ‘the best' of anything, I have experienced enough to suggest an enjoyable two-day itinerary that will give you a glimpse of the treasures this stunning Tuscan island has to offer. My first piece of advice is to go in June or September. Your experience will be vastly different and inevitably less pleasant during the crowded high season.
Isola d'Elba, the largest island in the Tuscan Archipelago known primarily for its vast supply of minerals and semiprecious stones, is surprisingly easy to reach. You can take the train to Piombino Marittima then a short bus ride to the ferry. Or you can drive directly to the port in Piombino, which is about two hours from Florence, and pay about 10 euro a day to park. (You can bring your car on the ferry, but it might be cheaper to rent one on the island). Torremar and Moby ferry passengers to and from Elba every day, and tickets at the port office are around 32 euro roundtrip for the one-hour ride.