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Elba Island

My experience on Elba island.

Tuscany is a world-famous place. Florence could be the second Italian chief town for arts and culture after Rome. You couldn’t say you have visited Italy if you have never been there. Besides Florence there are actually other famous places, like Siena or Pisa. I don’t think you know many other places in Tuscany and that’s why I would like to introduce this region starting from a place foreigners don’t visit first: Elba island.

Thanks to Napoleon

The island is famous for its importance in European history, because in 1814 Napoleon was exiled here. Thanks to his presence the island became a vibrant place; up to that oment Elba island didn’t play a very important role. It was sacked many times from different people, such as Saracens and Tunisian corsairs. As an island not far from the Tuscany coast, Elba represented just a military outpost for this region and nothing more.

Napoleon arrived on the island on 4th May 1814. The best place for him was Portoferraio, from where he could control the sea watching ships entering and leaving. He lived at Palazzina dei Mulini and added to it another floor. His mother wanted to be together with his son and came in Portoferraio living in a little house in the city centre.

During the 10 months he spent on Elba island, Napoleon contributed to the enhancement of the island. He built infrastructures, streets, defenses and attracted there poets, artists, spies and all the people wishing to meet the man who conquered almost the entire Europe.

Portoferraio was the first town founded on the island, but it’s not the only one. Elba island was inhabited from the prehistory, testified by the cave necropolis of Rio Marina. Then came the Etruscans, the Romans, the Ostrogoths, the Longobards. In the I century AC Elba island was part of the Republic of Pisa. In this period sighting towers were built and many towns were founded, such as Capoliveri and Rio.

Festa dell’Uva in Capoliveri

I visited many different places in Tuscany and once I went to Elba island. I was invited as a blogger to take part in an important event in Capoliveri. Festa dell’uva (i.e. Grape feast) usually takes place in October after grapes harvesting. During the event Capoliveri is divided in 4 districts: FossoFortezzaBaluardo and Torre (i.e. moat, fortress, bastion and tower). As you can see these names remind of the role of the island in the past.

Elba island
An actress, me without glasses (thanks to Serena Puosi for the pic) and the dinner of the winner district

When I was there, I dived into the real atmosphere lived by the districts. We were a group of bloggers and 4 of us (including me) were involved into the last competition. The districts should challenge each others gaining more points as they can. The winner will host year-long the statue of Bacco in his own district as a prize. The challenge consists in 4 competitions on Friday:

  1. barrels run;
  2. grape pressing;
  3. vats run;
  4. grapes bunch challenge.

On Sunday it takes place the most characteristic challenge of the event. Every year the Townhall and the cultural association ‘Giuseppe Verdi’ decide the topic of this last challenge. In 2011 it was the Unification of Italy because of the 150th anniversary. I was involved in the representation of Fosso district and I went back to the 1861, when the Unification was declared. I had to wear clothes of that time and to take my glasses off (I was lucky… I can see without them also!). Each district is judged by a panel of judges going district by district. They are just judging if the representation is similar or not to the reality. People have to continue acting as the judges don’t exist. Afterwards, without speaking to anybody, the panel of judges go on to another district. In the evening each district organizes a dinner with a long table to host all the people who took part into the competition.

During the event in each districts you will find representative scenes, street food and flood of wine.

Practical information

If you wish to visit Elba island, I give you some practical information:

  • you need to book a ferryboat ticket, if you want to reach the island. You can take a look here and remember that the closest port to Elba island is Piombino on the Tuscany coast;
  • you can stay here, where I stayed in 2011. They offered me a two-room apartment surrounded by green;
  • the best means of transport is the scooter, that you can rent directly when you are on the island.


I'm a Italy lover, mom of two, living in central Italy and I love travelling. I have a degree in Tourism economics and management and now I'm a consultant helping businesses working in tourism.

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