An open-air museum
Experiences of Territorial Culture

An open-air museum

The first frequentations on the island of Elba date back 4,000 years. Ever since then, anyone who visits it, by some magical alchemy, never wants to leave it.

The very first inhabitants of the island lived mainly on agriculture, fishing and animal husbandry. In time, they learned that iron, a material so valuable for a variety of uses, could be obtained by working the brilliant stones that the Elban territory offered.

The forts and ports, the witnesses of a distant past. It was the Etruscans, a thousand years later, who achieved excellent results from this practice, thus also becoming excellent goldsmiths able to meet the demands that their affluent society demanded. In defense of the riches of the territory and taking advantage of its strategic position, they built imposing Fortresses of High Ground, first among them Volterraio, on whose remains the Pisans built an imposing castle, sentinel of the bay of Portoferraio: a visit to its ruins, surrounded by the Mediterranean maquis, is not to be missed. And to transport the precious ferrous cargo, they equipped the northeastern coast with developed ports in a direct line to Baratti and Populonia. As evidence of these ancient structures, in the rightmost part of Procchio Bay-just before the Guardiola-you can make out a cipollino marble column rising from the sand.

Discovering the villas and wrecks of Elba. The Romans built the towns of Fabricia (the one that later became Portoferraio) and Caput Liberum (the one that later became Capoliveri), strategically located to manage mining activities. The more affluent lived in patrician villas overlooking the sea, such as that of the Grotte and Linguella near Portoferraio or Capo Castello at Cavo, still a destination for scholars and history buffs.

The populations that inhabited the island. During the Pax Romana , that is, until 400 A.D., the Romans intensified the iron and granite trade, building quarries and exporting it for the construction of monuments such as the Pantheon, located in Rome. In the San Piero area, columns and other artifacts still sprout from the Mediterranean scrub, and you can discover them on an exciting thematic hike. From the island, wine, agricultural products and fish also departed, filling those amphorae that, as a result of maritime dramas, reside by the hundreds on the seabed of the Archipelago: again, you can admire these artifacts with your own eyes with a guided dive.

In addition to the evidence scattered throughout the territory, you will find in the Archaeological Museum of Linguella in Portoferraio and in the Museums adjacent to the Park houses in Marciana Alta and Rio, as many archaeological finds of enormous value. Compelling stories, to be seen and heard, are waiting for you to relive the glories of these great civilizations.

Travel notes


Procchio Bay

Elba Wrecks

Capo Castello

San Piero

Guided dive

Mines of Rio Marina

Strategic location for the large amount of hematite and limonite immediately identified by the emperor as soon as he landed on the island as a strategic-military axis.
Location: Rio Marina

Paolina Beach

The beach is named after the islet a few meters from the shore, itself named after Napoleon Bonaparte’s sister who, according to a legend (probably created by a tourism entrepreneur in the 1960s) loved to sunbathe on these rocks.

Location: Marciana

San Martino Villa

Designated as a summer residence, Napoleon purchased the property from the Manganaro family in 1814, with the intention of transforming it into a comfortable and refined abode that would have nothing to envy from Parisian residences.

Location: Località San Martino (Portoferraio)

Mulini Villa

Built in 1724 by Grand Duke Gaston de’ Medici, it was Napoleon’s city residence during his first stay on Elba Island.

Location: Portoferraio

Sanctuary of Monserrato

It was built as a sign of gratitude in 1606 by José Pons y León of the Dukes of Arcos, Spanish governor of Naples and first governor of the square of Longone (part of the state of principals). In September 1814 Napoleon, accompanied by Pons and Bertrand wanted to visit the sanctuary.

Location: Località Monserrato (Portoazzurro)

MUM Mineralogical Museum

While the Elban economy today is based on tourism, the fact remains that the people of San Piero and the west coast (Pomonte) have also lived and continue to live off their granite and marble

Location: San Piero in Campo

Port and Tower of Marciana Marina

Visit the harbor where Maria Walewska landed and the armed watchtower visited by Napoleon himself in 1814

Location: Marciana Marina