Roman noble patricians loved to discover enchanted places where they built magnificent villas overlooking the sea. Due to its beauty, the island of Elba has as many as three such residences, in ideal positions to enjoy the view.
Two of them face each other on Portoferraio's sheltered bay: the Villa della Linguella, on the end of the Darsena, was equipped with a private aqueduct and decorated with rich mosaic floors; repeatedly enlarged from the 1st century B.C. to the 3rd century A.D., it is now largely occupied by 16th-century military structures.
The villa of the Caves, from the first century B.C., very large and articulated, descended with several levels of gardens to the sea, where it possessed its own embarkation; on the site, some walls in opus reticulatum and parts of mosaic can be admired and the pisicina with structures to heat its waters is still clearly visible. A votive altar, dedicated to Hercules, preserved at the Archaeological Museum in Portoferraio, may have come from here.
The third, the Cavo villa from the 1st-2nd centuries AD, which stood on the eastern part of the island with sloping terraces and mosaic floors, is partly embedded in more recent buildings, but the water pipeline connected to the nearby hill can still be seen.
In addition to iron, the Romans exploited the quarries of fine granite, which was also used in the Pantheon and the Colosseum. Remains of artifacts from these activities, such as some columns at Seccheto and a small ship at Cavoli, possibly from the Christian era, still remain at the quarries and nearby embarkation sites.
This destination is also known and renowned for its very ancient history. Many are the testimonies scattered over its territory. Such as the famous three Roman villas on the island of Elba: delle Grotte, della Linguella and Capo Castello.
Three stages of a kind of small tour that will allow you to discover the history of the island of Elba and experience a vacation enhanced by that extra touch of culture that never hurts.
The Roman villa of the Grotte is probably the most famous of the three. Dating back to the first century B.C., it must originally have been a very large construction intended for a particularly wealthy or important person. It was developed all around the large central pool with peristilium . And it was built in a beautiful part of the island of Elba, near Portoferraio: part of the villa was a small granite pier leading down to the bay below.
Getting there: from Portoferraio, one of the main ports for the ferries to the island of Elba , take provincial road 26 southbound and stop at the Grotte parking lot, which is near the archaeological site. By car, it takes no more than 10 minutes to get there.
In part today it is incorporated within the fortresses medicean of Portoferraio . At the end of the promontory that closes the dock of Portoferraio are the remains of what must have been a Roman villa, also dating back to the 1st century B.C. And over the centuries it was repeatedly subjected to works, until 1548 when Cosimo de' Medici in that area built the Linguella tower of the same name.
How to get there: to reach the Roman villa you need to go to Buccari cove, at the end of the waterfront in the historic center of Portoferraio .
From Portoferraio we move on to Cavo, where the third of the Roman villas on the island of Elba is located. Of the Roman villa at Capo Castello, built between the first century B.C. and the first century A.D., only the remains of the walls, made of opus reticulatum (like the Roman villa in the Grotte).
The villa of Capo Castello consisted of two main parts: the first, the stately one, stood on the promontory and from there one could enjoy a splendid view of the sea; the second, the rustic one, was probably located on the adjacent promontory of Capo di Mattea.
Getting there: from Cavo on the east coast, another major ferry port for Elba, you only have to take via Capo Castello and can get there comfortably on foot.
If you are in another of the island's municipalities, you can easily get to Cavo by car by taking provincial road 26 or provincial road 33.
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.
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.
Built in 1724 by Grand Duke Gaston de’ Medici, it was Napoleon’s city residence during his first stay on Elba Island.
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.
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
Visit the harbor where Maria Walewska landed and the armed watchtower visited by Napoleon himself in 1814