On the map Elba looks like a fish, swimming placidly some 20 km off the Italian mainland at Piombino. It is biggest of the volcanic Tuscan islands, easily accessible and one of the favourite destinations of Italians themselves.
There are dozens of secluded coves, backed by rocky cliffs and topped by lavender and perfumed grass along the lanes between olive groves and vineyards. Etruscan hamlets top the hills and elegant villas sit among cypress gardens. The cafes on every cobbled square and the flag fringed harbour still share their sophisticated glamour. Elba is often busy, but is still a place to unwind.
The longest of many beaches lies on the Gulf of Lancona at the island’s southernmost point; and you can see the day’s catch of anchovies, tuna and sardines at fishing villages like centuries-old Cotone. Elba remains as seductive today as it was 2,000 years ago.
When to go: Year-round. Population: 30,000. Getting there: By ferry/car from Piombino on the west coast of Italy. Highlights: The pebbled strand of Capo Branco, where Jason is said to have paused in his quest for the Golden Fleece. The museum at Napoleon’s summer house, Villa San Martino. The panorama from Mt. Capanne, 1,019 m highest point.