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Native name:
Isola d'Elba
Bandiera Elba.svg
Italy Tuscany location map.svg
Red pog.svg
Location Tyrrhenian Sea
Coordinates 42°46′58″N10°17′11″E / 42.782711°N 10.286335°E / 42.782711; 10.286335 Coordinates: 42°46′58″N10°17′11″E / 42.782711°N 10.286335°E / 42.782711; 10.286335
Archipelago Tuscan Archipelago
Total islands7
Major islandsElba, Gorgona, Capraia, Pianosa, Montecristo, Isola del Giglio, and Giannutri
Area224 km2 (86 sq mi)
Length29 km (18 mi)
Width18 km (11.2 mi)
Coastline147 km (91.3 mi)
Highest elevation1,018 m (3,340 ft)
Highest point Monte Capanne
Region Tuscany
Province Livorno
Communes of Elba Portoferraio, Campo nell'Elba, Capoliveri, Marciana, Marciana Marina, Porto Azzurro, Rio
Largest settlement Portoferraio (pop. 12,013)
Population32,162 (December 2014 [1] )
Pop. density140 /km2 (360 /sq mi)
Map of the Tuscan Archipelago Tuscan archipelago.png
Map of the Tuscan Archipelago

Elba (Italian : isola d'Elba, pronounced  [ˈiːzola ˈdelba] ; Latin : Ilva; Ancient Greek: Αἰθαλία, Aithalia) is a Mediterranean island in Tuscany, Italy, 10 kilometres (6.2 mi) from the coastal town of Piombino, and the largest island of the Tuscan Archipelago. It is also part of the Arcipelago Toscano National Park, [2] and the third largest island in Italy, after Sicily and Sardinia. It is located in the Tyrrhenian Sea about 50 kilometres (30 mi) east of the French island of Corsica.

Italian language Romance language

Italian is a Romance language of the Indo-European language family. Italian, together with Sardinian, is by most measures the closest language to Vulgar Latin of the Romance languages. Italian is an official language in Italy, Switzerland, San Marino and Vatican City. It has an official minority status in western Istria. It formerly had official status in Albania, Malta, Monaco, Montenegro (Kotor) and Greece, and is generally understood in Corsica and Savoie. It also used to be an official language in the former Italian East Africa and Italian North Africa, where it plays a significant role in various sectors. Italian is also spoken by large expatriate communities in the Americas and Australia. Many speakers of Italian are native bilinguals of both Italian and other regional languages.

Ancient Greek Version of the Greek language used from roughly the 9th century BCE to the 6th century CE

The Ancient Greek language includes the forms of Greek used in Ancient Greece and the ancient world from around the 9th century BCE to the 6th century CE. It is often roughly divided into the Archaic period, Classical period, and Hellenistic period. It is antedated in the second millennium BCE by Mycenaean Greek and succeeded by medieval Greek.

Mediterranean Sea Sea connected to the Atlantic Ocean between Europe, Africa and Asia

The Mediterranean Sea is a sea connected to the Atlantic Ocean, surrounded by the Mediterranean Basin and almost completely enclosed by land: on the north by Southern Europe and Anatolia, on the south by North Africa and on the east by the Levant. Although the sea is sometimes considered a part of the Atlantic Ocean, it is usually identified as a separate body of water. Geological evidence indicates that around 5.9 million years ago, the Mediterranean was cut off from the Atlantic and was partly or completely desiccated over a period of some 600,000 years, the Messinian salinity crisis, before being refilled by the Zanclean flood about 5.3 million years ago.


The island is part of the province of Livorno and is divided into seven municipalities, with a total population of about 30,000 inhabitants which increases considerably during the summer. The municipalities are Portoferraio (which is also the island's principal town), Campo nell'Elba, Capoliveri, Marciana, Marciana Marina, Porto Azzurro, and Rio.

Province of Livorno Province of Italy

The province of Livorno or, traditionally, province of Leghorn is a province in the Tuscany region of Italy. It includes several islands of the Tuscan Archipelago, including Elba and Capraia. Its capital is the city of Livorno. The province was formed in 1861 included only Livorno and Elba Island. It was extended in 1925 with land from the provinces of Pisa and Genoa. It has an area of 1,211 square kilometres (468 sq mi) and a total population of 343,003 (2012). There are 19 comuni in the province. The coastline of the area is known as "Costa degli Etruschi".

Portoferraio Comune in Tuscany, Italy

Portoferraio is a town and comune in the province of Livorno, on the edge of the eponymous harbour of the island of Elba. It is the island's largest city. Because of its terrain, many of its buildings are situated on the slopes of a tiny hill bordered on three sides by the sea.

Campo nellElba Comune in Tuscany, Italy

Campo nell'Elba is a comune (municipality) on the island of Elba, in the Province of Livorno in the Italian region of Tuscany, located about 140 kilometres (87 mi) southwest of Florence and about 90 kilometres (56 mi) south of Livorno.


Elba is the largest remaining stretch of land from the ancient tract that once connected the Italian peninsula to Corsica. The northern coast faces the Ligurian Sea, the eastern coast the Piombino Channel, the southern coast the Tyrrhenian Sea, and the Corsica Channel divides the western tip of the island from neighbouring Corsica.

The island itself is made up of slices of rocks which once formed part of the ancient Tethyan seafloor. [3] These rocks have been through at least two orogenies, the Alpine orogeny and the Apennine orogeny. The second of these two events was associated with subduction of the Tethyan oceanic crust underneath Italy and the obduction of parts of the ancient seafloor onto the continents. Later extension within the stretched inner part of the Apennine mountains caused adiabatic melting and the intrusion of the Mount Capanne and the La Serra-Porto Azzuro granitoids. These igneous bodies brought with them skarn fluids which dissolved and replaced some of the carbonate units, precipitating iron-rich minerals in their place. One of the iron-rich minerals, ilvaite, was first identified on the island and takes its name from the Latin word for Elba. More recently, high-angle faults formed within the tectonic pile, allowing for the migration of iron-rich fluids through the crust. The deposits left behind by these fluids formed the island's rich seams of iron ore.

Tethys Ocean Mesozoic ocean between Gondwana and Laurasia

The Tethys Ocean, also called the Tethys Sea or the Neotethys, was an ocean during much of the Mesozoic Era located between the ancient continents of Gondwana and Laurasia, before the opening of the Indian and Atlantic oceans during the Cretaceous Period.

Orogeny The formation of mountain ranges

An orogeny is an event that leads to both structural deformation and compositional differentiation of the Earth's lithosphere at convergent plate margins. An orogen or orogenic belt develops when a continental plate crumples and is pushed upwards to form one or more mountain ranges; this involves a series of geological processes collectively called orogenesis.

Alpine orogeny orogeny

The Alpine orogeny or Alpide orogeny is an orogenic phase in the Late Mesozoic (Eoalpine) and the current Cenozoic that has formed the mountain ranges of the Alpide belt. These mountains include the Atlas, the Rif, the Baetic Cordillera, the Cantabrian Mountains, the Pyrenees, the Alps, the Apennine Mountains, the Dinaric Alps, the Hellenides, the Carpathians, the Balkan Mountains and the Rila-Rhodope massif, the Taurus, the Armenian Highlands, the Caucasus, the Alborz, the Zagros, the Hindu Kush, the Pamir, the Karakoram, and the Himalayas. Sometimes other names occur to describe the formation of separate mountain ranges: for example Carpathian orogeny for the Carpathians, Hellenic orogeny for the Hellenides or the Himalayan orogeny for the Himalayas.

The terrain is quite varied, and is thus divided into several areas based on geomorphology. The mountainous and most recent part of the island can be found to the west, the centre of which is dominated by Mount Capanne (1,018 metres/3,340 ft), also called the "roof of the Tuscan Archipelago". The mountain is home to many animal species including the mouflon and wild boar, two species that flourish despite the continuous influx of tourists. The central part of the island is a mostly flat section with the width being reduced to just four kilometres (2.5 miles). It is where the major centres can be found: Portoferraio, Campo nell'Elba. To the east is the oldest part of the island, formed over 3 million years ago. [4] In the hilly area, dominated by Monte Calamita, are the deposits of iron that made Elba famous.

Geomorphology The scientific study of landforms and the processes that shape them

Geomorphology is the scientific study of the origin and evolution of topographic and bathymetric features created by physical, chemical or biological processes operating at or near the Earth's surface. Geomorphologists seek to understand why landscapes look the way they do, to understand landform history and dynamics and to predict changes through a combination of field observations, physical experiments and numerical modeling. Geomorphologists work within disciplines such as physical geography, geology, geodesy, engineering geology, archaeology, climatology and geotechnical engineering. This broad base of interests contributes to many research styles and interests within the field.

Mount Capanne Mountain in Italy

Mount Capanne is the highest mountain on the Italian island of Elba and in the province of Livorno, Tuscany, Italy. It is located in the western part of the island, reaching a height of 1,019 metres (3,343 ft) in elevation above the Mediterranean Sea.

Mouflon common name

The mouflon is a subspecies group of the wild sheep. Populations of O. orientalis can be partitioned into the mouflons and the urials. The mouflon is thought to be the ancestor for all modern domestic sheep breeds.


Rivers rarely exceed 3 kilometres (2 miles) in length, and it is common for the shorter ones to dry up during the summer. The largest rivers, sorted by length, are:

Between Poggio and Marciana, at the foot of Mount Capanne, is a spring called Fonte Napoleone, known for its quality.


The climate of the island is predominantly Mediterranean, except for Mount Capanne, where winters tend to be moderately cold. Precipitation is concentrated in autumn and comprises a normal rainfall. The island lies in the rain shadow of the large and mountainous island of Corsica, so precipitation totals are somewhat reduced from the mainland (most of the island receives less than 750 mm (30 inches) annually). Snowfall in winter is rare in the lowlands, and melts quickly. The table below shows the average temperatures for the islands by month.

Rain shadow

A rain shadow is a dry area on the leeward side of a mountainous area. The mountains block the passage of rain-producing weather systems and cast a "shadow" of dryness behind them. Wind and moist air is drawn by the prevailing winds towards the top of the mountains, where it condenses and precipitates before it crosses the top. The air, without much moisture left, advances across the mountains creating a drier side called the "rain shadow".

Climate data for Elba
Record high °C (°F)16.2
Average high °C (°F)9.6
Daily mean °C (°F)7.4
Average low °C (°F)5.3
Record low °C (°F)−7.4
Average precipitation mm (inches)59.5
Average precipitation days (≥ 1.0 mm)
Average relative humidity (%)77767576767368727680817976
Mean monthly sunshine hours 133.3118.7155.0183.0195.3237.0275.9257.3201.0151.9117.0114.72,140.1
Source #1: Servizio Meteorologico (temperature and precipitation data 1971–2000) [5]
Source #2: Servizio Meteorologico (relative humidity and sun data 1961–1990) [6]


The map of Elba in The Rise and Fall of Napoleon, 1814 cartoon by Johann Michael Voltz
Napoleon on Elba.jpg
Napoleon on Elba
Beaume - Napoleon Ier quittant l'ile d'Elbe - 1836.jpg
Napoleon Bonaparte leaving Elba on 26 February 1815

The island was originally inhabited by Ligures Ilvates, who gave it the ancient name Ilva. It was well known from very ancient times for its iron resources and valued mines. The Greeks called it Aethalia (Αιθαλία, "fume"), after the fumes of the metal producing furnaces.

Ligures ethnic group

The Ligures were an Indo-European people who appear to have originated in, and gave their name to, Liguria, a region of north-western Italy. Elements of the Ligures appear to have migrated to other areas of western Europe, including the Iberian peninsula.

The Ilvates were a Ligurian tribe, whose name is found only in the writings of Livy. He mentions them first as taking up arms in 200 BCE, in concert with the Gaulish tribes of the Insubres and Cenomani, to destroy the Roman colonies of Placentia and Cremona. They are again noticed three years later as being still in arms, after the submission of their Transpadane allies; but in the course of that year's campaign they were reduced by the consul Quintus Minucius Rufus, and their name does not again appear in history. From the circumstances here related, it is clear that they dwelt on the north slopes of the Apennines, towards the plains of the Padus, and apparently not very far from Clastidium ; but we cannot determine with certainty either the position or extent of their territory. Their name, like those of most of the Ligurian tribes mentioned by Livy, had disappeared in the Augustan age, and is not found in any of the ancient geographers. Charles Athanase Walckenaer, however, supposed the Eleates over whom the consul Marcus Fulvius Nobilior celebrated a triumph in 159 BCE and who are in all probability the same people with the Veleiates of Pliny, to be identical also with the Ilvates of Livy; but this cannot be assumed without further proof.

Iron Chemical element with atomic number 26

Iron is a chemical element with symbol Fe and atomic number 26. It is a metal, that belongs to the first transition series and group 8 of the periodic table. It is by mass the most common element on Earth, forming much of Earth's outer and inner core. It is the fourth most common element in the Earth's crust.

Apollonius of Rhodes mentions it in his epic poem Argonautica, describing that the Argonauts rested here during their travels. He writes that signs of their visit were still visible in his day, including skin-coloured pebbles that they dried their hands on and large stones which they used at discus. Strabo (5.2.6) presents a slightly different account: "because the scrapings, which the Argonauts formed when they used their strigils, became congealed, the pebbles on the shore remain variegated still to this day." [7]

The island was invaded by the Etruscans that called island Elba [8] and later (after 480 BC) by the Romans. In the middle ages, it was invaded by the Ostrogoths and the Lombards, and then it became a possession of the Republic of Pisa. After the battle of Meloria, the Republic of Genova took possession of Elba, but it was regained by Pisa in 1292. [9] The island was retained for two centuries by the Appiani family, Lords of Piombino, when they sold Pisa to the house of Visconti of Milan in 1399.

In 1544, the Barbary pirates from North Africa devastated Elba and the coasts of Tuscany. [10] In 1546, part of the island was handed over to Cosimo I de' Medici, Grand Duke of Tuscany, who fortified Portoferraio and renamed it "Cosmopoli", while the rest of the island was returned to the Appiani in 1577. In 1596, Philip II of Spain captured Porto Longone and had two fortresses built there. This part of Elba came into the direct power of Spain through the State of the Presidi, including Porto Longone. In 1736, the sovereignity of this part of Elba was claimed by the Kingdom of Naples but remained abandoned.

The British landed on the Island of Elba in 1796, after the occupation of Livorno by the French Republican troops, to protect the 4,000 French royalists who had found asylum in Portoferraio two years earlier. In 1801, the Peace of Luneville gave Elba to the Kingdom of Etruria, and it was transferred to France in 1802 by the Peace of Amiens. [11] [12]

The French Emperor Napoleon was exiled to Elba, after his forced abdication following the Treaty of Fontainebleau (1814), and he arrived at Portoferraio on 30 May 1814. He was allowed to keep a personal guard of 600 men and was nominally sovereign of Elba, although the nearby sea was patrolled by the French and British navies.

During the months that he stayed on the island, Napoleon carried out a series of economic and social reforms to improve the quality of life. After staying on for 300 days, he escaped to France, on 26 February 1815.

At the Congress of Vienna, Elba was restored to the Grand Duchy of Tuscany. In 1860, it became part of the new unified Kingdom of Italy.

The island was liberated from the Germans by the French 1er Corps d'Armée on 17 June 1944, in Opération Brassard . Faulty intelligence and strong defences made the battle more difficult than expected. [13]

Schiaccia briaca (drunken cake) from Elba and Aleatico (Elban wine) used in the recipe Elba Drunken cake.jpg
Schiaccia briaca (drunken cake) from Elba and Aleatico (Elban wine) used in the recipe

More recently, the island has become famed for its wine and is a noted tourist destination. [14]


The island is connected to the mainland via the four ferry companies, Toremar, Moby Lines, Blunavy and Corsica Ferries - Sardinia Ferries, [15] all offering routes between Piombino and Portoferraio, the capital located in the north, Cavo, Rio Marina and Porto Azzurro, on the east coast of the island. [16] [17] [18] [19] [20]

There is an airport on the island, Marina di Campo Airport. It is served by Silver Air with flights to the Italian mainland. [21]


The island has a network of trails for road racers looking for more technical routes for their training, trails and dirt roads for bikers to have fun on, and accessible routes for families with children who need safe and relaxing routes. On the road from Rio nell'Elba going to Porto Azzurro is the "Fonte di Coppi". Towards the end of his career Fausto Coppi, the "campionissimo", came here to train on the roads of Elba. He still retained a celebrity status but was no longer at the peak of his career that ended with his death a few years later. The plaque on the fountain reads: "1960–2010, here the champion quenched his thirst, since fifty years on the run".

See also

Related Research Articles

Province of Grosseto Province of Italy

The Province of Grosseto is a province in the Tuscany region of Italy. Its capital is the city of Grosseto. As of 2013 the province had a total population of 225,098 people. The CIMA Festival is a gathering of classical music lovers in Monte Argentario.

Pianosa island in the Tuscan Archipelago, Italy

Pianosa is an island in the Tuscan Archipelago in the Tyrrhenian Sea, Italy. It is about 10.25 km2 (3.96 sq mi) in area, with a coastal perimeter of 26 km (16 mi).

Montecristo island

Montecristo, formerly Oglasa, is an island in the Tyrrhenian Sea and part of the Tuscan Archipelago. Administratively it belongs to the municipality of Portoferraio in the province of Livorno, Italy. The island has an area of 10.39 km2 (4.01 sq mi), it is approximately 4.1 km (2.5 mi) wide at its widest point and is 3.4 km (2.1 mi) long; the coasts are steep, and extend for 16 km (9.9 mi). The island is a state nature reserve and forms part of the Tuscan Archipelago National Park.

Calamita is a large hill lying on the south-east side of the island of Elba, known for a remarkable landscape and views of Portoferraio and Monte Capanne. The hill's development dates from Elba's ancient periods, when Calamita was a major iron mining center.

Tuscan Archipelago island group

The Tuscan Archipelago is a chain of islands between the Ligurian Sea and Tyrrhenian Sea, west of Tuscany, Italy.

Porto may refer to a number of people, places, things may also refer to:

Gorgona (Italy) island in the Tuscan Archipelago

Gorgona is the northernmost island in the Tuscan Archipelago, a group of islands off the west coast of Italy. Between Corsica and Livorno, this diminutive island has been valued most for its wildlife, especially marine birds, and its isolation. The latter quality resulted in the foundation of Gorgona Abbey in the Middle Ages. After its closure the monastery grounds and buildings were appropriated in 1869, at the foundation of an agricultural penal colony, which is currently in use.

Porto Azzurro Comune in Tuscany, Italy

Porto Azzurro is a comune (municipality) in the Province of Livorno in the Italian region Tuscany; it is on the island of Elba, located about 130 kilometres southwest of Florence and about 90 kilometres (56 mi) south of Livorno. It was formerly called Porto Longone, and in 1557 Iacopo VI Appiani, Prince of Piombino, granted Spain the right to build a fortress there, so it was transferred to the State of the Presidi and then to France in 1801, when Napoleon established the Kingdom of Etruria.Eventually it was trasferred to Granducato di Toscana.

State of the <i>Presidi</i> former state on the Apennine Peninsula

The State of the Presidi was a small state in Italy between 1557 and 1801. It consisted of five towns on the Tuscan coast—Porto Ercole and Porto Santo Stefano on the promontory of Monte Argentario, as well as Orbetello, Talamone and Ansedonia—and their hinterland, along with the islet of Giannutri and the fortress of Porto Longone on the island of Elba.

Corsica Ferries - Sardinia Ferries company

Corsica Ferries - Sardinia Ferries is a France-Italy based ferry company that operates traffic to and from the islands of Corsica, Sardinia and Elba.


Toremar is an Italian shipping company which operates in routes from Tuscany to the Tuscan archipelago.

Arcipelago Toscano National Park national park

Arcipelago Toscano National Park is a large Tuscan Archipelago national park and marine park in the Provinces of Grosseto and Livorno, western Tuscany, Italy.

Schiopparello Jet Former Isle of Wight passenger catamaran ferry

MV Schiopparello Jet is a passenger catamaran ferry, formerly known as Bo Hengy and Red Jet 5. She operates on routes from Tuscany to the Tuscan archipelago on behalf of ferry operator Toremar. She carries the IMO number IMO 8954415 and was built in 1999.

Siege of Porto Ferrajo

The Siege of Porto Ferrajo was a French attempt to force the surrender of the Tuscan fortress town of Porto Ferrajo on the island of Elba following the French occupation of mainland Tuscany in 1801 during the French Revolutionary Wars. The Tuscan garrison was heavily outnumbered, but received significant support from British Royal Navy forces who controlled the Mediterranean Sea and ensured that supplies reached the garrison and that French supply convoys were intercepted. The French began the siege with 1,500 men in May 1801, later reinforced to more than 5,000, but could not make an impression on the fortress's defences, instead seeking to starve the defenders into submission with the support of a squadron of French Navy frigates operating off the coast.

Flag of Elba

The flag was used during the period of stay of Napoleon Bonaparte as sovereign of the island of Elba, from 4 May 1814 to 26 February 1815. The flag, donated by Napoleon on his arrival on the island, was hoisted on the highest point of Portoferraio on the day of the landing of the emperor on the island. The original flag is kept in the Napoleon residence, Palazzina dei Mulini in Portoferraio. The meaning of the insignia chosen by the Emperor has long been and continues to be, a matter of debate among historians.

Biancone di Portoferraio is a white Italian wine grape variety that is grown almost exclusively on the island of Elba off the coast of Tuscany. Some ampelographers have speculated that the grape may have originated on the French island of Corsica where the grape shares a close genetic relationship with the Corsican wine grape Biancu Gentile.


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  4. "Login". ofioliti.it.
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  7. Race, W. H. (2008). Apollonius Rhodius: Argonautica. II. Loeb Classical Library. pp. 654–58, 381–3. See note 95, p. 383 for Strabo quote.
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  10. David, Robert C. (2004). Christian Slaves, Muslim Masters: White Slavery in the Mediterranean, the Barbary Coast and Italy, 1500–1800. Palgrave Macmillan. ISBN   1-4039-4551-9.
  11. "Elba". Catholic Encyclopedia.
  12. "History of Elba Island". Elbaworld.com.
  13. McGrann, Bill. "Operation Brassard The Invasion of Elba". Peoples' War Stories. BBC. Retrieved 16 March 2010.
  14. "Food and Wine". Elba Island World. Archived from the original on 2010-03-16. Retrieved 16 March 2010.
  15. "Traversate traghetti Sardegna, Corsica e Isola d'Elba". CorsicaFerries / SardiniaFerries.
  16. "Ferries to Elba". Tuscany Live. Retrieved 16 March 2010.
  17. "Ferries to the island of Elba". Ferry Elba Reservation. Retrieved 16 March 2010.
  18. "Blunavy ticket reservation (EN)". Blunavy. Archived from the original on 2011-06-19. Retrieved 19 June 2011.
  19. "Toremar ticket reservation (IT)". Toremar. Retrieved 19 June 2011.
  20. "Moby Lines ticket reservation (EN)". Moby Lines. Retrieved 19 June 2011.
  21. "Home – Elba Island Airport" . Retrieved 16 July 2016.

Further reading