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Overview

Just 16 by 11 miles in size, Tuscany’s only island packs a lot of interest into a small space. Best known to the rest of the world as the place of exile for Napoleon, who served as its governor while there, it is known to Italians for its beaches, diving and sailing regattas. The island offers land sports as well, and is popular for trekking, riding and cycling through its craggy landscapes, where nearly every road or trail is packed with views of its craggy shore and the deep blue Tyrrhenian Sea. Along with the two villas where Napoleon lived – the official residence of Villa dei Mulini and his country home at Villa San Martino – historic ...

Just 16 by 11 miles in size, Tuscany’s only island packs a lot of interest into a small space. Best known to the rest of the world as the place of exile for Napoleon, who served as its governor while there, it is known to Italians for its beaches, diving and sailing regattas. The island offers land sports as well, and is popular for trekking, riding and cycling through its craggy landscapes, where nearly every road or trail is packed with views of its craggy shore and the deep blue Tyrrhenian Sea. Along with the two villas where Napoleon lived – the official residence of Villa dei Mulini and his country home at Villa San Martino – historic sights include three defensive fortresses and the remains of three Roman villas. The largest of the forts dominates and encloses the historic center of the largest town, Portoferraio. Built in the 1500s by Cosimo I De Medici, Grand Duke of Tuscany, it includes the Stella and Falcone forts that still rise above the town and the octagonal Tower della Linguella guarding the harbor. The island’s mineral wealth was discovered by the Greeks in the 10th century BC, but exploited more fully by the Etruscans and Romans, who mined iron here for swords. The best preserved Roman remain is Villa delle Grotte in Portoferraio. Several museums and sites explore the mining history and display the great variety of minerals found here.

Barbara Rogers
About the Expert

Barbara Radcliffe Rogers has written or coauthored more than 30 guidebooks, including The Portugal Traveler, Drive Around Portugal, City Spots Munich, City Spots Helsinki, City Spots Stockholm, Eating New England, and the Maine section of Thomas Cook's Independent Traveller USA.

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Facts at a Glance

  • Location: Mediterranean island off the Tuscany coast. French emperor Napoleon I was exiled to Elba after his forced abdication in 1814.
  • Language: Italian
  • Currency: Euro
  • Research: Wikipedia | Wikitravel
  • Weather: Rainfall | Daylight

Climate

  • Best Time to Visit:

    Spring, summer and fall. Winter can be quite windy and damp.