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Elba is a stunning Italian island famous for being the site of the French Emperor Napoleon's first exile in 1814 (his second exile was to the island of St. Helens). Today Elba is part of the Italian region of Tuscany, sitting around 6 miles off the Italian mainland. Before going to Elba, one should know some things about visiting the famous island and what to do there.

Italy is a country one could spend a lifetime exploring. Italy has a dizzying array of attractions, from the romantic canals of Venice to the Colosseum of Rome. It seems every city and island in Italy is a gem waiting to be discovered. Most tourists visiting Italy are focused on visiting the main sites like Roman, Milan, Pompeii, and Venice, but there are many other lesser-known attractions - like Elba - that should also be on the bucket list.


Why Elba Is A Forgotten Italian Paradise

Elba is part of the Arcipelago Toscano National Park, the largest marine park in Europe. Elba is also the third-largest island in Italy (after Sicily and Sardinia). It is in the Tyrrhenian Sea of the Mediterranean and around 30 miles east of the French island of Corsica.

  • Population: 30,000

Elba has a small population of around 30,000 - although that population swells over the summer months. Many Italians know what foreigners don't - Elba is ideal for a summer getaway. There are ferry connections with the mainland as well as a small airport served by Silver Air.

  • Napoleon: Site Of Napoleon's First Exile From 1814 to 1815

The island has a long history dating back to the Etruscans and then the Romans - the Romans valued the island for its iron deposits and its mud baths.

Napoleon was exiled there by the British (whose navy patrolled the waters), and he was allowed to keep a personal guard of 600 men. During his time here, he was nominally the sovereign of the island, and he stayed there for almost ten months before escaping back to France on 26 February 1815. Today one can learn about the history of perhaps the most famous and powerful Frenchman in history stuck on the island.

Related: St. Helena Island - Where Napoleon Was Famously Exiled - Is Now Easier To Reach With Introduction Of New Flights

What To Do On Elba

Today visitors admire both its natural beauty and its archeological history. See military constructions like the Castello del Volterraio and stunning Napoleonic residences like the Palazzina dei Mulini. Explore Napoleon's secret rooms while on the island.

Activities On Elba:

  • Snorkeling & Kayaking
  • Sunbathing
  • Hiking & Mountain Biking
  • Soaking In Thermal Baths

Elba is famous for its beautiful beaches and its clear blue sea. It is a paradise of vineyards, beach-laced coves, and more - perhaps Napoleon would choose to stay if he were exiled there today. The seas are ideal for diving and snorkeling with rich seabeds teaming with fish and the odd shipwreck.

  • Peak Time: August

Activities on the land include hiking, sea kayaking, golf, mountain biking, and relaxing in thermal baths.

Related: 10 Places To Visit In The French Island, Corsica

Thermal Baths Of San Giovanni

It's a well-known fact that the Romans loved baths. Everywhere they went, they would build bathing complexes, and where they found thermal springs, they would build thermal baths there too.

The Thermal Baths of San Giovanni are located in Portoferraio gulf (called Fabricia by the Romans) and built on a thermal basin of muddy land that's rich in iron, iodine, and sulfur. During Roman times, this was a particularly popular resort destination. In Augustus's time, many powerful families came to build their villas there.

The spa practices Thalassotherapy - which is a type of treatment with water, mud, seaweed, and marine plants using seawater baths. These baths are considered one of the best in Italy and are popular with people with arthrosis and rheumatism.

  • Open: Most Spa Departments Open Year Round
  • Monday to Friday: 9.00 am to 1.00 pm and from 4.00 pm to 7.00 pm
  • Saturday: 9.00 am to 2.00 pm
  • Sunday: By Appointment Only

Admission to the spa is free, although there are fees for various services that they provide.

Accommodation On Elba

There are plenty of hotels on Elba for one to choose from. Many have stunning sea views with gorgeous beaches just outside. One hotel to consider is Hotel Ilio - it is a small boutique hotel.

  • Hotel Ilio: A Stunning Beach Front Boutique Hotel

The hotel has only 20 rooms, and they range from 5 meters to 300 meters from the beach. The small hotel has a certain amount of charm and personality, offering a small slice of paradise in one of Elba's most typical bays.