Nearly 30km long by some 20km wide, ELBA is Italy’s third-largest island. Ever since Napoleon was exiled here, it has been captivating visitors. It has exceptionally clear water, fine white-sand beaches, and a lush, wooded interior, superb for walking; almost everyone, including a surge of package tourists in July and August, comes for the beach resorts, so the inland villages remain largely quiet even in high season.
Historically, Elba has been well out of the mainstream. The principal industry until World War II was mining, especially of iron ore. The Romans wrote of “the island of good wines” – a reputation Elban wines retain to this day – while control in later centuries passed from Pisa to Genoa and on to the Medici, Spain, Turkey and finally France. That cosmopolitan mix has left its legacy on both architecture and cultivation. Most people know the island as the place of exile for Napoleon, who, after he was banished here in May 1814, revamped education and the legal system, built roads and modernized the economy before escaping back to France in February 1815.