In 1814, the legendary French emperor Napoleon Bonaparte was exiled to the island of Elba after he was forced to abdicate his role in France. As punishments go, there are certainly worse options, as the island is quite beautiful and Napoleon lived quite the life of luxury while there. More than two centuries later, you can be quite sure that anyone coming to this part of the world is doing so through choice.
On Elba, there are many places worth seeing. Among the most worthwhile options is the town of Capoliveri, a commune with much to recommend it. With walks and climbs to be enjoyed as well as some excellent beaches and watersports, this is an ideal holiday getaway. Read on to learn more about the best things to do in and around Capoliveri!
1. Feel the sand between your toes on Spiaggia di Barabarca
… or in English, Barabarca beach. This beach in the south of the town is reckoned to be the area’s most beautiful beach; one glance at the panorama available to you as you sunbathe or swim your afternoon away will have you convinced. You can take the opportunity to go snorkeling in its pristine waters or just watch as others do. Either way, it’s the perfect way to get over your journey and prepare yourself for the rest of your holiday.
Spiaggia di Barabarca
Address: Capoliveri, island of Elba
Website: Spiaggia di Barabarca
2. Take a bike ride up Monte Calamita
The natural glories of Capoliveri are a major part of what makes it such a special place, and among the finest of those is Monte Calamita. A steep climb that offers magnificent views over the Mediterranean, it’s one best undertaken with a partner. So hire a couple of bikes and ride up as far as your legs can carry you, to get the best possible views of, and from, one of Capoliveri’s true gems.
Address: Capoliveri, island of Elba
Website: Monte Calamita (in Italian)
3. Take one of the many boat tours available
As with many islands, perhaps the most stunning way to see Elba is by boat. Take the chance to book yourself on one of the many boat tours on offer in Capoliveri to see around the general area, or even go wider and see the island at large to get the very best from your trip. The spectacular scenery, including the many hills and valleys in the area, is even more remarkable when seen at speed and from the water.
Capoliveri Boat Tours
Address: Various addresses in the town
Website: Capoliveri Boat Tours
4. Learn a little history at Museo del Mare
Elba’s history does not begin and end with Napoleon’s exile here; about thirty years after his time on the island, it was the scene for a shipwreck that has become a treasure hunt. The Pollux, which was on its way from Naples to Marseille sank with a hoard of coins on board worth approximately 12 million GBP (about 15.3 million USD). The museum is home to an exhibition on that shipwreck among other aspects of Elba’s maritime history, and well worth visiting. Entry for an entire family is a very reasonable 5 EUR, or about 7 USD.
Museo del Mare
Address: Via Palestro, 6, 57031 Capoliveri LI, Italy
Website: Museo del Mare (in Italian)
5. Let your defences drop at Forte Focardo
Forte Focardo was built in 1678 during the period of Spanish rule over the island. The name comes from the man who ordered its building, Don Ferdinando Gioachino Foscardo, who at the time ruled the island and wished to protect it against attacks from the sea. Today, many parts of the building are still used by the Italian Navy and for that reason visitors are not allowed inside - but it is imposing enough from the exterior to make it more than worth visiting.
Address: Località Naregno, 2, 57031 Capoliveri LI, Italy
Website: Forte Focardo
6. Stretch your legs on Passeggiata Carmignani (Carmignani Walk)
If you’re spending any amount of time on an island like Elba, you’re letting yourself down if you don’t go for a long walk or two to take in your surroundings. In Porto Azzurro, close to Capoliveri, one of the finest walks in all of Europe is on offer; the Passeggiata Carmignani. Finishing off at Barbarossa Beach, this walk takes you along the sheer cliffs looking out to sea; there are benches along the way if the walk is challenging and the views from those, and all other points along the way, are simply staggering.
Address: Porto Azzurro, Island of Elba
Website: Passeggiata Carmignani
7. Visit the Santuario della Madonna di Monserrato
The story behind the Sanctuary of the Madonna is about a tribute from the then governor of Naples, Jose Pons y Leon, who was adrift at sea in a storm, and prayed to the Madonna of Monserrato to keep and protect him. Back on dry land, in thanks he built at Porto Azzurro this magnificent sanctuary. He chose the location because the surrounding wild countryside reminded him of Monserrat. It’s good that he felt that way, because it makes for a stunning place to visit (and completely free of charge, too).
Santuario della Madonna di Monserrato
Address: 57036 Porto Azzurro Province of Livorno, Italy
8. Be magnetically drawn to the Miniere di Capoliveri
These mines are based primarily on Monte Calamita, a promontory which gets its name from the iron mineral that is mined here. Also known as magnetite, it is the most magnetic naturally-occurring material on Earth, and at Miniere de Capoliveri you will find the largest reserves of it anywhere in Europe. The whole structure is impressive and indeed imposing, and that’s before you look over the comune of Capoliveri from here; those views will stay with you for a lifetime. Entry to the museum is just 2.50 EUR, or around 3 USD, a wider tour will set you back about 18 EUR (21 USD).
Miniere de Capoliveri
Address: Via Calamita, 57031 Capoliveri LI, Italy
Website: Miniere de Capoliveri (in Italian)
9. Get your wheels spinning at Capoliveri Bike Park
Italy is home to one of the most vaunted cycle races in the world - the Giro d'Italia. One reason that so many people here take to their bikes must be the added frisson it gives to some of the already remarkable views, an experience you’ll come to sympathise with if you visit Capoliveri Bike Park and head off on one of their five specially designated rides. Make no mistake about it, this is the best way to see Capoliveri and its surrounding area. Just get in some practice beforehand - you want to be looking at the views, not close-up at the ground.
Capoliveri Bike Park
Address: Localita’ Vaccarelle, 57031, Capoliveri, Elba Island, Italy
Website: Capoliveri Bike Park (in Italian)
Follow in Napoleon's footsteps: Capoliveri is perfection
There may be a lot that Napoleon got wrong, but after a short while on Elba he was struck by its wonders and natural beauty. There is beauty everywhere you look. Whether it be in the older buildings, or just what the Earth has bestowed, you can be sure that this is a trip you’ll want to make again and again.
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