I was lucky enough to spend last weekend on the Tuscan island of Elba… Flying into Pisa, it was a mini adventure from there to my final destination, involving two trains, a bus, a ferry and a car ride, but it was well worth it.
Elba has close to 150 beaches and it was still warm enough to swim, but I headed for the hills instead and hiked up from Marciana to the sanctuary of the Madonna of the Mountain, to which Napoleon used to retreat on his horse. At the start of the path, a few locals were hunting for chestnuts, but by the time I had walked a couple of hundred metres, I had the place to myself.
It was Napoloen, of course, who made the island famous and I felt compelled to visit his residence in the island’s unofficial capital Portoferraio. The house is quite modest, but has wonderful views across to the mainland.
More interesting was a wander round Portoferraio, with its cobbled back streets, and pretty-coloured buildings on the harbour front. I stopped for a coffee to idle away some time, people watching, as visitors stepped off huge private yachts, and then popped into Acqua dell’Elba, which has really cornered the souvenir market with its elegant turquoise-boxed scents.
I stayed at the far end of the island from Portoferraio, in the pretty resort village of Sant’Andrea. Here, the family-run Hotel Ilio (www.hotelilio.com) offers simple but stylish rooms in a peaceful setting, just a few steps from a sandy beach. The evening meals, created by chef Giancarlo Pollidini, are mouth-wateringly good – the delicious pasta and puddings meant I came home a couple of pounds heavier!
For more details on going to Elba, visit www.visitelba.com.