I always thought it was exciting to have a holiday on an island. Exciting and somewhat exotic, even mysterious: surrounded by nothing but the sea, somehow cut off from the rest of the world, a possibility of a true adventure.
It seems that many other people share the same idea. And this seems to be the reason for island vacations being somewhat more expensive compared to the biggest part of other options. Whether you can afford it or not, do not hurry up to give up an idea of escaping in the direction of a more or less deserted island destination. A holiday spell, even if quite a short one, can always be figured out with the maximum of pleasure at the minimum of cost.
Exactly as the one I will now tell you about – a romantic one day escape to the island of Elba in Tuscany.
- We woke up very early in the morning with our boat’s departure being fixed at 8:30 a.m. from Castiglione della Pescaia. If you are already staying in this sea-side town, your alarm clock will ring much later. But as far as we had to reach the port from Grosseto, we had to take into account half an hour car ride to cover the distance between the two cities and the time necessary to park the car.
This is quite a painful point, though. Parking in Castiglione della Pescaia is like offering your blood wallet to a hungry vampire: the hourly parking cost in summer is 1,5 euro per hour from 8 a.m. till 8 p.m. (‘blue stripes’, remember? moreover, watch out for ‘white stripes’ that allow free parking in the city for no more than 1 hour at a time). The day of our minicruise to Elba was Saturday and we were lucky to find some room at the parking lot in Piazza Garibaldi right in front of the Info Point and very close to the port. We paid for almost 11 hours (the estimated duration fo the cruise was from 8:30 a.m. till 7:00 p.m. but we allowed some more time in case of delay) which cost us almost as the third cruise ticket. Mind also that parking machines accept only coins, so make sure you have enough of them on you.
- We chose to travel with Etruria Navigazione. Our boat named Ulisse was already waiting for us in the port. We bought our tickets in advance online but it was also possible to purchase them directly on board, obviously, upon availability (but at least that day there seemed to be plenty of it). The minicruise cost us less than 20,00 euro per person, which I consider a great price for such an amazing experience.
We took our places on the upper deck which offered almost no shelter from the sun. But as far as the first part of the trip took place early in the morning, we were glad to enjoy some sun, sea breeze and the stunning views of Tuscany coast, rocky islands and the sparkling water surface all around us.
Nevertheless, a hat and some sunscreen would help avoid any eventual unpleasant situations. One more thing: the captain gave us some short explanations on the sites we were passing by but they were all in Italian. The arrival to tha main port of the island of Elba – Portoferraio – was scheduled for 10:30 a.m. and took place on time.
- The boarding for the return trip was scheduled for 4:00 p.m. with no belated arrivals admitted, so we took a good note of it and started for one of the famous local beaches to have a bath in the splendid waters of the island. Our choice of location fell onto the beach Le Ghiaie that was the closest to the port. We did not regret it. There were two more options we also took into consideration: the beach Le Viste, which is a hidden and almost deserted gem, and the beach Capo Bianco with its snow-white sand. But as far as the time at our disposal was limited we went to Le Ghiaie that was the easiest to reach from the port.
- Some hours, baths and beers later, we were on the way to find some Elba’s famous octopus specialities. We couldn’t believe our luck when, by pure chance, we came across the street food truck Il Polpaio. Amazing lunch! One of the tastiest sea food dishes I have ever tasted: light, genuine, delicious, a must-try!
- With out stomachs full, we had enough energy to have a look at the city, the Iron Port of Elba, as I called it, famous mainly for the following:
– the legend of Argonauts: according to the legend, the Argonauts were returning from Colchide with the Golden Fleece when they landed on the island of Elba on their way home and founded here a port for their ships. Moreover, the same legend states that the black spots that the white stones of the beach Le Ghiaie bear are the drops of Argonauts’ sweat.
– Napoleon and his exile on the island after his army’s clamorous defeats on the battlefields of Europe. The time of Napoleon’s stay in Portoferraio proved to be the most flourishing for the city and the rest of the island. One of the most iconic Napoleonic places is Villa dei Mulini (the Villa of Windmills) in Piazzale Napoleone.
– the Medicean Fortresses the construction of which started in the middle of the 16th century thanks to Cosimo I de’ Medici. The whole defensive complex defines the imponent skyline of the Mediterranean port granting it its characteristic reassuring and imposing aspect. The visit of the complex of fortresses would last approximately 40 minutes so calculate your time and forces well before you even start it.
– the extraction of the iron that gave the city its modern name Portoferraio (the port from italian ‘porto’, ferraio from italian ‘ferro’, i.e. iron) and brought it wealth and fortune in the 19th century.
Obviously, one day is not enough to enjoy fully the beauty of Portoferraio and the rest of the amazing Elba which is, by the way, the third biggest Italian island. That’s why we gave ourselves a promise to come back as soon as possible to dedicate more time to the exploration of the wonders of the place. But the time we had at our disposal before the return trip was ending up, so we had to move back towards the port.
- Our boat departed on time. This time we chose the lower deck to have some rest far from the burning sun beams enjoying the shadow and cold drinks it was possible to purchase at the bar.
It took us almost 3 hours to return to the firm land as far as this time the boat changed its itinerary in comparison to the morning one and took us to have a look at the coastal areas and towns of the island till Porto Azzurro. The way back was quite and pleasant as the whole day itself. The experience to repeat, the Iron Port to come back to.
One day on Elba was like an appetizer, a small teat, a teaser. I keep on thinking this place is worth a longer stay, a real vacation. For those of you who decided to make themselves such a splendid gift, have a look here for some useful information to arrange your island stay at best.
And now that you have your vacation to plan I leave you to this pleasant occupation wishing you good luck and much relax on the island of Elba!
Photo credit: Machs Gut ©.