Elba: while the rest of Europe seems to be moving at the pace of a cheetah, this little island is happy to move more sedately. Situated west of mainland Italy, and part of the Tuscan region, it’s like the land that time ignored.
Getting there is no mean feat, there is no airport and so if you really want to go, you’ve got to put in some effort.
A flight to Pisa then a two-hour train ride to the port of Piombino followed by a ferry ride to the island. Cavo is the nearest stop; taking around 20 minutes, ferries stop at other places across the island also. Ferries move regularly between Elba and the mainland.
The little harbour town of Cavo reminds me very much of the Italy I remember from my childhood days. Everyone is friendly and helpful and the shops are small. Big boy commercialism doesn’t seem to have made it this far: you won’t find a Mc Donald’s or a Starbucks.
The streets are lined with local bars and restaurants that serve local beer and freshly made foods – pizza, pasta, and seafood dishes seemed to be the preferred option for most. The staff are friendly and will attempt to accommodate you with English but the odd bit of Italian would ease things as they see very few english speaking tourists here.
From the harbour, you can hire boats for the day and if you are self-catering there are many a food wagon selling fresh fish and produce to take home. Shops of all kind take a siesta from 1pm until 6pm so make sure you have enough supplies to bridge the gap. Bars, however, remain open all day.
There is an abundance of both public and and private beaches: the public beaches are free but if you’d like to hire an umbrella and loungers for the day on a private beach, expect it to set you back around €20.
In cavo there are no sandy beaches so jelly shoes would be an advantage unless you want to brave walking across the pebbles to the water’s edge – not pleasant as we discovered!
Jellyfish lurk the waters of Elba and a sting (no matter how small) is not comfortable. Effects of a sting last a couple of hours and the remaining ‘burn’ lasts for weeks after as poor William found out!
Boats and ferries leave regularly to other places around the island but the mode of transport isn’t cheap.
To get to Portoferraio we spend €88 return for a family of four. There are buses which work out a lot cheaper but aren’t overly reliable I was told.
There is no car hire available in Cavo so if this would be your preferred method of exploring the island you’d need to hire on the mainland or hire from Portoferraio.
We were happy to stay in Cavo as it was fairly quiet and had everything we like from a holiday. There were no loud, rowdy drinkers or nightclubs throwing out tunes all night, other towns that are bigger possibly offer a livelier experience.
The cost of accommodation is primarily what pushed us to stay in Cavo, it is by far the cheapest town on the island. We opted for a self-catering apartment in the ‘vecchia scuola’ , the old school.
We paid £1200 for a family apartment for a week, the apartment had a bedroom, kitchenette with pull out sofa and a small bathroom. The bedroom was directly over the Mistral bar and although music played until around midnight, with the balcony doors closed all the sound was muted.
An airconditioning system meant we didn’t need to worry about dying in stifling heat.
The kitchen was fully equipt but you need to provide washing up liquid, and toilet paper yourself.
Top Tip: fill the fridge with beer from the supermarket rather than buying from the bars. The bottles are bigger and much cheaper.
The apartment is on the habour front, a great view to enjoy a morning coffee to and in minutes you can be on the beach.
Elba has something for everyone, you can do nothing or you can do everything, from Cavo you can:
- hire boats
- scuba dive
- hire bikes
- lay on a beach and enjoy a beer
There is a small children’s play park with the usual things you’d expect to find if you need to tire them out some more, you can enjoy an ice cream while they play.
We can’t recommend Elba enough as a real slice of Italy away from all the usual touristy places. Once you arrive you really won’t want to leave.