For swimming, it seems obvious, there are so many choices: the clear and always clean water thanks to the intricacies of the currents, the lack of industrial dumping, the wealth of gulfs and inlets, the alternation of beaches and rocky coasts make almost the entire perimeter of the island ideal for safe swimming. In this regard, the golden rule in the case of swimming over long distances is to always swim in groups and to calculate times and distances before starting out, using easily recognizable landmarks on the coast. Never forget that you have to go back from where you started!
The short distances (in just 15 km/9 mi of road you go from the north to the south side) make it possible to choose the most suitable area according to the wind direction. The only real risk is represented by the large number of boats that in high season sometimes sail too close to the coast: in this regard, a good skipper must not forget that all along the Elba perimeter – in the period from May 1 to September 30, between 8:30am and 7:30pm – sailing and motor boating is prohibited less than 100 mt/110 yd from the steep coasts and 200 mt/220 yd from the beaches.
For more experienced swimmers, who like to get away from the crowded areas to explore the wildest stretches of coastline, the new Regulation of the Portoferraio Harbor Master’s Office recommends a signal float (excellent is the one used by divers, a red inflatable buoy with a red flag crossed by a white stripe) and possibly a red bathing cap, clearly visible from a distance.
In very low season and in winter there is no problem of encountering vessels, but water temperature, which is however never frigid (in February it reaches a minimum of 13-14°C/55°-57°F), “demands” the choice of beaches with nearby parking lots and having a couple of bottles with hot water is an excellent solution for a refreshing shower.
The beaches frequented by winter swimmers are Enfola and Ghiaie on the north side, Lido, Naregno and Marina di Campo on the south side, Fetovaia and Pomonte (where Pierluigi Costa and Lionel Cardin, the “Messaggeri del Mare” [Messengers of the Sea] train all year round) to the west. Then there are other coves or beaches where, on beautiful winter days, it is possible to take a dive and sunbathe: Forno, Cavoli, and Felciaio are sheltered from cold winds and have southern exposure.
Moving on to sailing, the wide gulfs of Biodola, Procchio, Lacona and Marina di Campo make the practice of sports that take advantage of the wind safe and comfortable. In all these beaches there are sailing schools, and dinghy and windsurfing rentals. The Lido of Capoliveri is also well equipped (here Elba native Malte Reuscher, one of the top 15 in the world, began surfing). The oldest societies and yacht clubs are located in Portoferraio, Porto Azzurro, Rio Marina and Marina di Campo. The coasts between Pomonte and Chiessi deserve a separate mention: the presence of powerful thermal winds means that strong and gusty winds almost always blow, a real paradise for the more experienced windsurfers.
Kite surfing, increasingly popular, requires free spaces that in high season can be found only beyond the area reserved for swimming. In any case, for kite surfing, enjoyable even with moderate winds, suitable conditions can be found in all the gulfs of the island. At other times of the year some beaches have become a benchmark for enthusiasts; among these (in addition to the aforementioned Chiessi) are Schiopparello and Prade, opposite Portoferraio, which, when the north wind blows, are crowded with “wings”.
Our Island enjoys predominantly good weather and sea conditions, so in summer it is not easy to find good waves; in any case, especially after the severe winter storms and the change of seasons, when the waves can exceed even 3 mt/9.5 ft in height, the best hot spots for wave surfing are: to the south, with the sirocco, the eastern area of Margidore (considered the best ever), Lacona, Lido and Cavoli; to the north, with mistral, ponente and libeccio winds, Scaglieri, in the gulf of Biodola, and Capo Bianco (watch out for the rocky bottom). Here, Elban surfers show great skill and challenge each other in search of the most difficult evolutions.
Finally, Elban sea beds always reserve beautiful surprises, and there are many suitable spots for scuba diving: one of the most spectacular areas is the Scoglietto of Portoferraio; thanks to the protected marine area, it is not difficult to swim together with large groupers and snappers or to catch sight of lobsters in the nooks and crannies of the reefs. Other popular spots to the north are Secca di Santa Lucia, Capo d’Enfola, Capo Sant’Andrea with Formiche della Zanca; to the south, Corallina di Capo Fonza, Corbella and Remaiolo; to the east, Picchi di Pablo (outside Stagnone), Punta delle Cannelle and Isolotto del Frate in Palmaiola.
For snorkeling, we recommend two particular points: Ghiaie in Portoferraio, which the protected marine area has made a veritable aquarium rich in every variety of fish (there are even small groupers that live in the shoals a few feet from the very popular beach) and the evocative wreckage of the Elviscot, a large merchant ship sunken on the reef of Ogliera in Pomonte.
Una volta risaliti a terra possiamo partire alla scoperta dell’isola italiana che, a parità di territorio, presenta la maggior biodiversità e varietà di ambienti.
Trekking and sky running lovers will find hundreds of miles in the web of trails on Elba for an opportunity to confront with any type of challenge. The many ridge itineraries on all sides of the island allow you to run or walk suspended between sky and sea, crossing areas where nature and man have lived together for millennia, leaving fascinating traces. You will encounter countless dry stone walls that testify, practically everywhere below 600 mt/2000 ft, to ancient vine cultivation; towers and fortresses that, since the Etruscan era, guarded the sea more than the land and welcomed the survivors of pirate raids; the ring settlements around Capanne between 500 and 600 mt /1600 and 2000 ft high, where, at least 1500 years before our era, a community of shepherds and farmers built houses and goat sheds with granite; and then the early Christian hermitages, the chestnut woods that have been cultivated for hundreds of years, the perennial sources of pure water, the wounds of the great iron mines…
Do not miss the Great Elba Crossing (GTE) that winds from east to west between Cavo and Pomonte (or alternatively Patresi) passing, in the 00 variant, over the rocky peak of Mount Capanne, which with its 1019 mt /3300 ft is the highest of the island. The approximately 60 km/37 mi trail, characterized by continuous variations in altitude, is covered by the more expert in a day, but to fully enjoy the walk you can divide the route into two or three stages, stopping in the various towns and villages along the path.
On mountain bikes, it is possible to cover most of the footpaths, but given the differences in level, the effort necessary is sometimes extreme. One of the most suitable areas for unpaved roads is Mount Calamita (413 mt/1300 ft and over 100 km/62 mi of tracks!), in the district of Capoliveri; the many paths of the Bike Park (there are three rings that go around the summit) have varying degrees of difficulty, but are within the reach of every biker. Here, in May, the increasingly popular “Legend Cup” takes place.
For downhill, instead, the benchmark is to the eastern side, where the Gravity Park, between the areas of Rio marina, Rio nell’Elba and Portoferraio, offers splendid descents among luxuriant woods and the great scars of the iron mines.
The many miles of paved roads that connect the towns of Elba are strenuous, but easier and always spectacular. You can choose between the eastern route, which, passing through Porto Azzurro, Rio and Rio Marina, arrive in Cavo, on the north-eastern end of the island, and then returns, facing the tough climb of Volterraio toward Portoferraio, and the western ring, which starts and returns to Procchio, through Marciana, Marciana Marina, Pomonte, Marina di Campo, dominated by the granite cliffs of Mount Capanne.
The most expert will then grapple with the ascent of Perone, which, at an altitude of 600 mt/ 2000 ft, represents the highest point reachable by paved road on Elba.
Between swims, treks and bike rides, how can we conclude without remembering the triathlon? The many enthusiasts on Elba challenge very worthy opponents of all nationalities on the occasion of “Elbaman”, which takes place in October in Marina di Campo and, thanks to the beauty and difficulty of the routes, is emerging among the highest ranking competitions: 3.8 km/2.4 mi swimming in the beautiful gulf of Campo, 180 km/112 mi cycling and the 42 km/26 mi final marathon are enough to test the skills of even the finest of athletes.