Napoleon’s Elba

19 to 25 June 2017

Solenzara, Corsica to Marino di Campo, Elba N42° 44.55′ E10° 14.35′, 65nm, 13 hours

to Golfi di Biodola, N42° 48.24′ E10° 15.99′

to Portoferraio, N42° 48.9′ E10° 20.75′

Our short stay on Corsica over, we had one last view of the incredible mountains as we left at sunrise. Elba had been on our list of places to visit since Ursula and Alex waxed lyrical about it when we first met them last year. We had never heard of it before meeting them but were sold by their descriptions of its anchorages and ice cream!

Our passage there from Corisca was long and uneventful although we did see this tern hitching a ride on a piece polystyrene discarded by a fishing boat and also a group of Cory’s shearwaters having a mid sea meeting.

Getting to Elba meant sailing between Isola di Montecristo and Isola di Pianosa. Although in such close proximity to each other, it is hard to imagine two more different islands. Montecristo is a mountain emerging from the sea and up to 648 metres and was given an additional air of mystery by Alexandre Dumas in his novel, The Count of Montecristo. Pianosa is completely flat and barren at only 30 metres above sea level and was where Napoleon plonked a garrison in the tussle for sovereignty of the Tuscan islands between the French and the English. Elba is different again and our approach revealed mountainous green slopes and numerous bays.

Napoleon won the principality of Elba as a booby prize at the end of the Napoleonic wars and his presence is still felt all over the island. He apparently also coined the palindrome “Able was I ere I saw Elba”!

Our first stop was the small but lively and colourful tourist town of Marino di Campo.

We anchored with lots of other boats off the long beach of which Italian holiday makers were taking full advantage. In the increasing heat we also took advantage of the turquoise water in the bay to cool down. I even managed to colour coordinate with it in my new bikini! In our anchorage on 21 June we celebrated the anniversary of leaving home on this adventure. We celebrated with champagne and schiaccia briaca, a traditional Elban crumbly cake/biscuit topped with fruit (this one was raspberry) and pine nuts. We also treated ourselves to a meal ashore with some delicious Elban wine and an ice cream on the way home!

After three happy days at anchor we headed west around the island and got a closer look at its topography, the seams of its geology and Monte Capanne, its highest peak at 1019 metres.

We settled in Golfi di Biodola on the north coast, fringed by two tiny tourist resorts and pine covered slopes. We were very content to spend another couple of nights there at anchor, jumping in the sea to cool down in the heat, trying a bit of snorkelling and venturing to the beach for a sunset walk – that’s Pintail on the far right in the photo.

For our last couple of days on Elba, we headed passed the tiny Scoglietto island to the main town of Portoferraio.  Its three forts sit high above the harbour with its colourful houses.

On the town quay Pintail was reunited with Toy Buoy. Having changed our plans to head south rather than north meant Suzie and Mike were able to catch up with us to share in our Italian adventures and it is great to have their company again.

We enjoyed wandering Portoferraio’s lived-in alleys and squares. It was washing day in Piazza della Repubblica!

With Suzie and Mike we hiked up to Fort Falcone at the top of the hill for fantastic views across to Napoleon’s yellow house and the pink Forte Stella, back down to the town and out to the bay which Nelson, having conquered Elba for two years, described as “the most complete harbour in the world”.

Thanks Ursula and Alex for introducing us to beautiful Elba – we love it as much as you do! Having fallen completely in love with the Italian islands of Sardinia and Elba, we have high hopes for the Italian mainland …


Selfie, with our anniversary ice cream

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