A Tuscan Island getaway…….
As the last rays of late rays of sunshine stretch out to warm me and I begin to see the beautiful autumn colours emerging on the trees, I think of the places in Italy still offering Summer temperatures and beautiful beaches. For those that don’t enjoy the oppressive heat of August, the end of September and early October is the perfect time to visit the beautiful Tuscan island, The Isle of Elba. Many people don’t associate the island lifestyle with Tuscany but we are in fact very close to a beautiful island with crystal clear turquoise water, fine golden sand and magnificent views. If you have the time during your visit to Tuscany, I highly recommend a visit to Elba.
Elba is the largest island of the Tuscan Archipelago and the third largest island in Italy after Sicily and Sardinia. It is located between the Tyrrhenian and Ligurian Sea and 20 km from the coastal town of Piombino where we board the ferry for the hour long voyage to the island. (Piombino is about an hour and a half drive from Florence). The ferries runs much more frequently in the Summer months and are also more expensive. For the time table and prices you can look at the Moby or Toremar websites.
My first visit to Elba was August of last year. We stayed with our wonderful friends, Gabriele and Jeanette in the town of Lacona, where Gabriele’s family, the Rotellinis have owned the Valle Santa Maria Campeggio or camp-ground as we might call it since 1968.
Gabriele grew up on the island and six years ago met Jeanette from Germany, who was holidaying with her sister at the campground. It was love and first sight and they soon married. The whole family work together to ensure your holiday is relaxing, fun and without stress. Some of the activities available at Valle Santa Maria are mountain bike tours, tennis and numerous evenings full of music and entertainment.
The Valle Santa Maria Campeggio is located in the beautiful bay of Lacona and the property backs right onto the beach so you can hear the waves lapping at the shore as you drift off to sleep each night. This is camping in luxury style. You can choose to bring your tent, caravan or campervan, or if you prefer, rent one of the fourteen apartments on their property. The showers, toilets and area to wash your dishes at the campground are not only private but also immaculately clean and the whole property is maintained to a very high standard. They are also the first camp-ground on the island to receive the Ecolabel, which recognises eco friendly quality and standards for Europe. Beautiful gum trees are scattered throughout the camp grounds and there is even a bar and restaurant situated directly on the beach. The beach of Lacona is very family friendly with calm and clear water. At the far sides of the bay, are rocks perfect for snorkeling or you can rent a pedalo or canoe.
The island is divided into eight municipalities, of which Portoferraio is the main one, the others; Campo nell’Elba, Capoliveri, Marciana, Marciana Marina, Porto Azzuro, Rio Marina and Rio nell’Elba, are part of the province of Livorno. with a total of about 30,000 inhabitants, which increases considerably during the summer. Be prepared to find traffic jams and to not find parking places if you arrive at the beach too late in the morning.
One of my favorite beaches at Elba was Fetovaia and this is perfect for couples wanting a romantic getaway or for those that prefer the private ‘bagno’ beach club experience with deck chairs, sun beds and umbrellas available for rent. We paid 25 euro each for the day. We had lunch at the restaurant Babatoja which was just behind the beach and ate the best fritto misto (fried mixed seafood) that I have ever tasted!
In the evening many people head to the piazza of Capoliveri and in August, the busiest month of the year, it can be difficult to find parking. It can also be very difficult to find a reservation in the more popular restaurants so this is another reason to avoid the peak tourist season here.
Elba has some wonderful restaurants and as you can imagine, incredible seafood. Some favourite restaurants of Gabriele and Jeanette’s are La Taverna dei Poeti at Capoliveri, La Caletta at Porto Azzuro where you can arrive by boat if you like and Da Ledo at Lacona Beach where I have also eaten a few times and must also give it the thumbs up!
For those of you foodies who would like to learn some of the native recipes from Elba, have a look at Nonna Adua’s cook book. She has lived an amazing life on the Island of Elba and has chosen to share her passion for food and her wonderfully simple but good old fashion recipes that have been passed down from her mother and grandmother.