You dream about Italy’s islands. Between the weather, the food, and the views, Capri, Sardinia, and Sicily are pretty much the perfect vacation destinations. Unfortunately, a lot of people agree. You could continue to fight the crowds and elbow your way to your favorite spots. Or you can keep moving. There are a lot of other islands out there.
Elba isn’t unknown. You probably connected the name to Napoleon Bonaparte, who was exiled to the island, immediately. But you’ve never ventured to the Tuscan Archipelago. Few have. It’s mostly Italians—in August—who visit Italy’s third-largest island. The rest of the year, you’ll have the beaches and the vineyards, the historic sites and a national park practically to yourself.
In Piombino, you board the ferry bound for Portoferraio. The island’s largest town was originally founded by a Tuscan duke to protect the area from attacking Spaniards. After three forts—Falcone, Inglese, and Stella—were built, Elba’s strategic location became even more important. England, France, and Austria all wanted control of the hilly island. But it’s the French emperor who really put Elba on the map. His former homes continue to be some of the most visited spots on the island.
You’ll return to Portoferraio to explore the ramparts, walk along the marina, and, yes, visit one of Napoleon’s houses, but first, go find your hotel. You decide to stay on the Gulf of Biodola. The picturesque spot on the northern coast is known for its fine-sand beach, shallow water, and wind sports when the northern winds start blowing. Sailboats bob in the bright turquoise water. German Junkers Ju 52s, transport aircrafts from World War II, are now dive sites just offshore. A whitewashed hotel overlooks it all at the edge of the sand.
Baia Bianca Suites has just as much, if not more, outdoor living space as indoor space. The spacious suites are decorated in all white. The prerequisite pop of color comes from the turquoise water that’s always visible from the terraces. The restaurant, the pool, and shady sunbeds all face the water as well, of course.
You’re heading to one of those canopied sunbeds right now, actually. With sunset approaching, it looks like the perfect spot to sip an aperol spritz and munch on aperitivos. There’s no need to wait your turn or share on Elba.