What to do on the island of Elba: the third largest island in Italy

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  • Why Elba is a forgotten Italian paradise
  • Baths of San Giovanni

Elba is a beautiful Italian island famous for being the site of French Emperor Napoleon’s first exile in 1814 (his second exile was on the island of Saint Helena). Today, the island of Elba is part of the Italian region of Tuscany, located about 10 km from the Italian mainland. Before going to Elba Island, there are some things to know about visiting the famous island and what to do there.

Italy is a country you could spend your life exploring. Italy has a dizzying array of attractions, from the romantic canals of Venice to the Colosseum in Rome. It seems that every city and island in Italy is a gem waiting to be discovered. Most tourists visiting Italy focus on visiting the main sites like Roman, Milan, Pompeii and Venice, but there are plenty of other lesser-known attractions – like the Elbe – that should also be on the to-do list. TO DO.

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Why Elba is a forgotten Italian paradise

Elba Island 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 about 30 miles east of the French island of Corsica.

The Elbe has a small population of around 30,000 – although this population swells in the summer months. Many Italians know what foreigners don’t – the island of Elba is ideal for a summer getaway. There are ferry connections to 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 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. While here, he was nominally the ruler of the island, and he stayed there for almost ten months before fleeing to France on February 26, 1815. Today, you can learn more about the history of perhaps to be the most famous and powerful Frenchman in history. on the island.

Related: Île Saint-Hélène – where Napoleon was exiled – is now easier to reach thanks to the introduction of new flights

What to do on the Island of Elba

Today, visitors admire both its natural beauty and its archaeological history. Discover military constructions like the Castello del Volterraio and superb Napoleonic residences like the Palazzina dei Mulini. Explore Napoleon’s secret rooms on the island.

Activities on the Island of Elba:

  • Snorkeling and Kayaking
  • Sunbath
  • Hiking & mountain biking
  • Soak in the thermal baths

The Elbe is famous for its beautiful beaches and clear blue sea. It’s a paradise of vineyards, beach-lined 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 sea beds teeming with fish and strange shipwrecks.


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

Related: 10 places to visit on the French island, Corsica

Baths of San Giovanni

It is a well-known fact that the Romans loved baths. Wherever they went, they built bathing complexes, and where they found thermal springs, they also built baths there.

The thermal baths of San Giovanni are located in the Gulf of Portoferraio (called Fabricia by the Romans) and built on a thermal basin of muddy earth rich in iron, iodine and sulphur. In Roman times it was a particularly popular holiday destination. In the time of Augustus, many powerful families came to build their villas there.


The spa practices thalassotherapy – which is a type of treatment with water, mud, seaweed and sea plants using seawater baths. These baths are considered one of the best in Italy and are very popular with people suffering from osteoarthritis and rheumatism.

  • Open: Most spa departments are open year-round
  • Monday to Friday: from 9:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. and from 4:00 p.m. to 7:00 p.m.
  • Saturday: 9 a.m. to 2 p.m.
  • Sunday: By appointment only

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

Accommodation on the Island of Elba

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

  • Hotel Ilio: A superb boutique hotel on the seafront

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

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