Portoferraio Travel Guide

Your guide to travelling in Portoferraio, Elba…

Portoferraio Elba Map © Google
Portoferraio Elba Map © Google

What to see and do

Acqua dell’Elba, the island’s perfumer, creates fragrances based on Elba’s scents and colours, from deep blue to turquoise. The business does a lot to sponsor the arts and the environment in Elba.

The Costa degli Etruschi wine and oil road is a 150km route that runs along the mainland Tyrrhenian coast of Tuscany and also includes the island of Elba. Stop off at vineyards to enjoy a glass of wine or a cellar tour, and take in a visit to an olive mill or hospitality at a local farmhouse.

You can pick up a hire car at the ferry port. Elba is about 27km long and 18km wide, and has more than 60 beaches to discover. The landscape changes quickly with the geology. Rent a boat to see Elba from the water for a different perspective. See Bartolini in Portoferraio, or in Porto Azzurro take Lady Lillj.

Church of the Misericorda
Church of the Misericorda

Salita Napoleone, Portoferraio
This 18th-century church is tucked away on a side street and contains the relics of San Cristino, the patron saint of Portoferraio. Every 5th of May a mass is held in Napoleon’s honour.

Via del Falcone, 7-9 – Portoferraio
Take in the fabulous 360-degree views over Portoferraio from this imposing Medici fort. Relax under an umbrella.

Piazza Antonio Gramsci, 1 – Portoferraio
Napoleon converted this magnificent church into a theatre in the early 19th century and it has a programme of performing arts to this day. In 2015 it was dedicated to Renato Cioni, Elba’s famous tenor who died in 2014.

Don’t miss out on these

Processions, music and fireworks occur around the end of April in Portoferraio to celebrate the town’s patron saint, San Cristino. On the 25th of July, La Festa del Pescatore takes place in Porto Azzurro in honour of their saint, San Giacomo.

You can visit Portoferraio’s major historic sites with the Cosmopoli Card, including the Medici fortresses, Forte Falcone, il Teatro dei Vigilanti, the Linguella Museum and Archaeological Area, the Roman Villa delle Grotte, and the Pinacoteca Foresiana

The 23rd European Music Festival took place across Elba from 28 August to 11 September in 2022. Many concerts are held in the grounds of Forte Falcone and the Villa Romana Della Linguella, not far from the port.

Tenuta delle Ripalte is a wine estate on Monte Calamita, with a 19th-century yellow villa at its heart. Go glamping, rent a villa, play tennis, go horse-riding, bike-riding and rambling, swim in the pool, tour the vineyards, try the wine, or treat yourself to a stay in the villa itself.

Where to eat
Tuna carpaccio at Bagni Elba
Tuna carpaccio at Bagni Elba

Via Carducci, 70 – Portoferraio
+39 0565 882347
Seasonal, local fish and vegetable specialities inside the old town.

Via Alcide de Gasperi, 6 – Portoferraio
+39 0565 915178
A bar and restaurant right on Ghiaie beach. And yes, even with the sun gone down, the sea here really is turquoise. Don’t be put off that much of the food on offer is raw (carpaccio). It melts in your mouth and is deliciously fresh.

Calata Mazzini, 13 – Portoferraio
Conserveria on Portoferraio harbour. It also has a boutique full of handmade clothes. You won’t find a bad coffee in Portoferraio. Bar La Vela, near Porto Sole Rooms, has a perfect view of the marina and also serves excellent coffee.

Via Bettino Ricasoli, 21 – Porto Azzurro
+39 329 138 1159
On the back streets of Porto Azzurro, enjoy Elban specialities like dried cod (baccalà) and pine-nuts, or a dessert of red, sweet Aleatico liqueur (passito) with cantucci to dip in it. I loved the metal sculptures here.

Via del Falcone, Portoferraio
On a little beach of white sand and stones, directly beneath Forte Falcone. A fish restaurant right on the shore, open for lunch and dinner Friday, Saturday and Sunday in May. Reached down the cliff-side on a pathway through trees. Book ahead.

Lungomare Alcide De Gasperi, 20 Porto Azzurro
+39 331 242 0192
Why not have a sundowner in Porto Azzurro at a waterfront bar in a modern development beneath the old fort? Right near Belmare Hotel.

Where to stay
The pool at Hotel Plaza
The pool at Hotel Plaza

Via delle Galeazze, 30 – Portoferraio
This is the place to stay if you want the best view of Portoferraio harbour and town. It is not a hotel, as such, but has stylish rooms to rent in a listed 19thcentury house on the waterfront. The view is exceptional. Don’t be deterred by the unassuming entrance – it’s lovely inside.

Via Alcide De Gasperi, 9 – Portoferraio
Stay above Le Ghiaie beach with a view out to sea at this charming three-star hotel. Perfectly located within easy walking distance of the beach and town, as well as being just a short stroll to the Portoferraio locals’ favourite beach, La Padulella.

Strada Provinciale, 25 – Marciana
Located at the western end of the island, this three-star hotel offers you an excellent view of Porto Azzurro marina. Neptune lounges on the pavement next door. There is a pelican to be found and some dolphins on the little pebble beach close by.

Località Fanaletto, Porto Azzurro
This four-star hotel occupies a splendid cliff-top position with one side overlooking Porto Azzurro, the other the pool and the Golfo di Mola. Non-residents are welcome at the restaurant but you must book. There is a short path down to town from the hotel. The Plaza is easy to miss, being on the left going down the steep switch-back road leading to town.

Località Ottone, Portoferraio
A luxury five-star stay near Portoferraio that was the home of the counts of Toscanelli until 1920. It is situated amid dense chestnut and pine woods, which are still largely undeveloped. Each room comes with an umbrella, lounger and towel on the private beach. Relax in style. Both Tenuta delle Ripalte and Villa Ottone do weddings.

Getting there

In summer, you can actually fly to Elba, but only by chartered flight or private jet. Otherwise fly to Pisa and continue overland from there.

From Pisa Centrale head for Piombino, the mainland port from where regular ferries sail to Portoferraio. You may have to change at Campiglia Marittima, though there are direct trains. The journey takes between 1 and 2 hours, depending on the service. If you’re doing the whole journey by train, you could take the Eurostar to Milan then continue to Florence, from where you can get a bus link to Piombino – about 2 hour 30 minutes.

There are four ferry companies operating the route between Piombino and Portoferraio, plus a hydrofoil service. It takes up to an hour to make the crossing. There are also less frequent ferries from Piombino to Rio Marina and Porto Azzurro.

You can take your car across on the ferry, though Elba’s buses are good and there are car, scooter and bicycle hire firms on the island. If you do bring your own car, you would be wise to book your ferry in advance.

Find out more

You can find out more about the island at the official tourist board website for Elba. The website is pretty comprehensive, with a ‘top ten’ of the island’s attractions, a series of holiday suggestions, and ideas for themed breaks on ‘wellness’ and ‘charm’, plus in-depth information on Elba’s beaches, its museums, handicrafts and local products, wine and gastronomy, outdoor sports facilities, annual events and the like. There are even links to current travel and hotel deals.

All images © Jane Gifford unless otherwise stated

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