The best way to enjoy the Tuscan archipelago is to charter a boat with crew. And that’s just what Getaway did.
The tiny island of Elba is just nine kilometres off Italy’s east coast and remains influenced by Tuscany. People return over and over for its fine local food, wine and the natural beauty of its pine forests, sandy beaches and vineyards. Near the island’s main town, Portoferraio, you can explore the remains of an ancient Etruscan civilisation.
For such a small place, Elba has a fascinating history. In 1814, while France was being attacked on all frontiers, its allies made it clear they were not anti-France, just anti-Napoleon. Austria, Russia, Prussia and Great Britain bound themselves together for 20 years and vowed not to negotiate separately until Napoleon was overthrown. Eventually, by the Treaty of Fontainebleau, he was granted the island of Elba as a sovereign principality, a healthy annual income and permission to retain title of emperor.
Two hours west of Portoferraio is Marciana Marina, one of Elba’s best anchorages, with a majestic watchtower dating back to 1100 guarding the bay. The ancient village of Marciana dates back to the Roman era and at 375 metres on the slopes of Mount Capanne, has beautiful views over the marina and Poggio village.
A walk through Marciana’s narrow streets is a pleasant experience. There are arches, balconies dressed with flowers and charming village squares.
It is certainly worth a taxi ride to Villa San Martino, which was purchased by Napoleon during his exile. He enlarged the original villa and added a pleasant garden. The large library contains many of the books he left in France and the unmistakable N is in evidence everywhere.
The villa has temporary and permanent collections of Napoleonic prints, plates, lithographs and etchings. There are many portraits of him as a general and emperor, his family, Josephine and scenes from his private life. He also created an important theatre and many of the island’s main roads.
A gentle four-to-five-hour sail takes you to Isle of Capraia, the archipelago’s most northern island, third in size of the seven sisters of the Tuscan archipelago. The beautiful island has delightful coves and ancient watchtowers and inlets where seagulls nest. The spectacular Cala Rossa is made of fire red rock, the remains of craters. It has wonderful aromatic Mediterranean vegetation and diving and snorkelling are excellent.
This was once a colony of several hundred maritime convicts, which made the island off-limits to travellers post-1873. It was de-commissioned in 1986, leaving it the wildest and most natural of the Tuscan islands.
From Capraia it was off to Corsica, a territory of France which has been ruled over the centuries by the Carthaginians, Romans, Vandals, Goths, Saracens and the Genoese, who eventually sold it to France. It has an independent spirit, rugged beauty, olive oil, wine and citrus fruits and its major industry is tourism. Its most famous son is Napoleon Bonaparte.
Known as 'mountain in the sea', its highest point is Monte Cintu at 2710 metres. It has 20 other mountains over 2000 metres; the average altitude is 560 metres. Balzac most aptly said of Corsica, it was “a French island basking in the Italian sun”.
The island has innumerable natural recesses offering corners of paradise to many people. There are inlets, villages, slopes, valleys, mountain lakes and canyons to be explored by boat and on foot. Those who want total relaxation can be found enjoying the clear water lapping the shoreline or enjoying local cuisine under shady plane trees in villages.
In the Mediterranean, off the Tuscan coast.
Sunsail has bare boat or skippered yacht charters starting at $519 per person for seven nights.
Qantas flies daily to London, with British Airways connections to Nice, starting at $2466 from Melbourne, $2482 from Sydney, $2511 from Darwin, $2518 from Adelaide, $2556 from Perth and $2563 from Brisbane per person. Prices include charges/taxes and are current at time of writing but may vary at time of booking. Seasonal surcharges and conditions apply.
Ph: 1800 803 988, (07) 4948 firstname.lastname@example.org
Tuscan Archipelago National Parkwww.islepark.it
French Tourist Bureau
Level 20, 25 Bligh Street
Ph: (02) 9231 5244www.franceguide.com
Qantas: 13 13 13