Describing Elba is a difficult task. Perhaps, even useless! You need to experience it, day after day, mile after mile, and explore each of its coves, hills and villages. As if it were a Treasure Hunt, you need a map that does not just indicate the itinerary, but rather one that offers stimuli for your senses and stirs your curiosity, a sort of GPS for your soul that no one but you can see.
As the third Italian island in terms of size, Elba is an authentic paradise. It is a land that offers alternating, ever changing panoramas protected by a belt of crystalline sea waters that wash up on pebbled or white sandy beaches. The interior areas of the island are mantled with rugged Mediterranean chaparral or flourishing vegetation. High mountains alternate with soft rolling hills. An island kissed by a dazzling sun by day that melts into moving sunsets. It is a large island, but the distance from place to place seems short. A land that is softer and less extreme than Sicily; less massive than Sardinia.
From prehistoric sites (the mountains behind the small town of S. Ilario) to the industrial testimonies of the 20th century, it unfolds centuries of history that witnessed the mining and production of iron at the time of the Etruscan settlements; the golden idleness of the Romans in the first centuries of the Empire; the monasticism in the late Middle Ages; the rational beauty of the Renaissance of the Medici up to the 18th century glory of the Lorraine grand duchy; Napoleon’s exile that, while lasting only ten months, put Elba in the spotlight of the international scenario; the exploitation of the iron quarries and the construction of the first blast furnaces in Portoferraio. Then, in the 1950’s, the brilliant intuition of a group of pioneers scouting a new type of economy, one that would seize the innermost nature of an island for the enjoyment of those who choose it, respecting it on the wake of sustainability: the adventure of tourism.
A land that stirs the senses with the ancient flavors of its traditional cuisine, where the freshest of fish, be it octopus or stockfish, or squid, finds new life in century-old recipes. All dishes are rigorously paired with excellent local wines, where the work of talented oenologists exalts the quality of autochthonous ancient vineyards.
One’s sense of smell is inebriated by the briny air coming from the sea and the many scents of the countryside, from rosemary bushes, or lesser calamint, wild fennel, and the heady perfume of citrus fruit that wafts amidst the Mediterranean chaparral.
It is the one’s sense of sight, though, that offers the utmost pleasure and emotion. Your gaze – or, better, the gaze of your soul – will linger on the thousands of colors that draw, separate, and recompose the island up to the horizon: the carmine red of fishermen’s nets, the rusty red of cliffs rich with minerals, the orange red of sunsets that nurture your dreams, the aromatic green of wild herbs, the dark green of cactuses flourishing with colored fruits; the diffuse yellow of thorny broom, the perfumed yellow of Mediterranean broom, the intense blue of the clear sky, the unparalleled blue of fishermen’s boats, the deep white of clouds framing the horizon, and the thousand colors of an infinitely beautiful sea where the sails seem simple tools to draw the wind.
This is Elba; the Island that we love, the Island that we all should protect and preserve.