The town of Portoferraio, situated on the northeast of the Elban coastline, is well known for its fortification built in the Medician era, for its natural harbour (one of very few in the world) and for the presence of the winter residence of Napoleon Bonaparte. Portoferraio is the capital of the Island of Elba, nerve centre of the local economy and home to many schools, colleges and local firms. The first impression, when one arrives on the boat, is that of a mix of old and new – ancient monuments standing alongside the more recent constructions built during the industrial boom. The chimneys of the ironworks, source of income for many Elban folk, once stood proudly until the bombardments of World War II. It is a city steeped in history: apparent from the Medician fortification which towers high and mighty over the bay; the forts of ‘Forte Falcone’, ‘Forte Stella’ and the tower ‘Torre della Linguella’ all dating back to the 15th century.
This commune, as well as offering various historical treasures, including the remains of Roman villas, is proud to boast one of the most beautiful stretches of the Elban coastline. The most popular beach in the commune of Portoferraio is the bay of La Biodola with its neighbouring ‘cousins’ of ‘Forno’ and Scaglieri, all offering everything the tourist could wish for, and as a consequence, very busy during the summer months. Equally charming are the smaller beaches and bays that unfold, one after the other, stretching from the ‘Ghiaie’ beach, just behind the town centre, along the coast as far as Enfola and Viticcio. These breathtaking bays with their crystalline waters are a sight to behold, particularly Sottobomba, Sansone, Sansonella and Capo Bianco, which is one of the most photographed on the island.
The small town of Marciana Marina, situated on the northwest coast of the island, is particularly picturesque and romantic, especially at dusk as the sun sets behind the Pisan tower which stands proudly over the port (and has become the symbol of this town) before disappearing into the sea between the islands of Capraia and Corsica. This little seaside town is actually the second smallest ‘commune’ in the whole of Italy.The ‘Marinesi’ people’s favourite and hence most frequented beach is La Fenicia situated just behind the Pisan tower, which offers every amenity the holidaymaker could wish for. This commune also boasts numerous breathtaking coves and bays such as La Cala, La Caletta, La Crocetta, Il Bagno and Le Sprizze.
The seafront, lined all the way along with tamarind trees and curious boutiques, buzzes with life in the evenings. The prettiest part of this village, without doubt, is the ‘Cotone’ – the original old town of Marciana Marina, home to the fishermen of yesteryear.
One date well worth noting in the calendar is the ‘Un Mare di Sapori’, wine and gastronomy fair with tasting of local and national specialities, which is organised by the local ‘Elbavoglio’ consortium in conjunction with the ‘Slow Food’ association and is held every May. Another is the 12th August, the feast day of St. Claire (Patron Saint of Marciana Marina). Thousands of people, locals and international tourists alike, flock here each year to enjoy the event: a special mass followed by a procession along the seafront and the grand finale - a firework display set to music.