ISLAND SPECIAL - Stuck on Elba
Exiled to paradiseFrench Emperor Napoleon I was exiled to Elba after his forced abdication in 1814. He was allowed 600 men and had the nominal title of Emperor of Elba, though the island was watched by British naval patrols. While there, Napoleon carried out a serious of economic and social reforms to improve the quality of life on Elba. He escaped after nine months and 21 days, reaching France on 26 February 1815, and was later defeated at the Battle of Waterloo. He lived out his final exile at the more stark and isolated island of St Helena in the South Atlantic. To find out more about this legendary historical figure, a visit to his official residence Villa dei Mulini, overlooking Portoferraio, is essential. Built a century before Napoleon's arrival, the house itself is exquisite, filled with period furniture, weaponry, paintings and the Emperor's library. Just 5km away is his country pad Villa San Martino, which is also open to visit.
Island guideGETTING THERE
From Pisa take the train to Piombino (www. trenitalia.com/en/index. html), followed by a ferry or hydrofoil to Elba with Toremar (www. toremar-elba.it), for 10 each way. The journey takes 50 minutes.
WHERE TO SLEEP
Elba has many options for places to stay. In Schiopparello is Monte Fabbrello (www. montefabbrello.it), a vineyard and olive grove. Le Sughere vineyard in Rio Marina offers rooms in two restored country houses on their estate (www.lesughere.it). Escape the tourist beat by heading to the sunkissed beaches of Sant' Andrea in the northwest, where you can stay at boutique Hotel Ilio (www.hotelilio.com).
WHERE TO EAT
Elba has some really authentic restaurants. Check out Ristorante Osteria, Capoliveri (tel: +39 (0)565 935022), for the best apple desserts on the island. Capo Nord (tel: +39 (0) 565 996983), on a pebbled beach in Marciana Marina, has a fantastic selection of seafood. Ristorante Publius (tel: +39 (0) 565 99208), Poggio, offers superb local wines, and views you can practically bathe in. Ristorante Emanuel (tel: +39 (0) 565 939003), Portoferraio, professes it cooks the world's best mussels, and they're not bad at all.
WHERE TO PARTY
August sees the beaches filled with Italian sun-seekers but the rest of the year you can almost always find a strip of beach all for yourself
There are plenty of pubs and nightclubs on Elba. In Portoferraio, head to venues Baretto, Rifrullo and Inferno for fun and frolics. In Marina di Campo there is Baobab, Capoliveri has Rodriguez and Sugar Reef, and at Marcina Marina you'll find La Perla. For a more exotic experience, Morumbi in Capoliveri offers Brazilian dancers and Latin-American music.
The Elba Wine Route has an itinerary for tourists interested in food and wine. In high season it's best to reserve a tasting through the tourism office (www.aptelba.it). Highly recommended are the wine cellars of the Acquabona Estate (tel: +39 (0) 565 933013). Close by is Monte Frabbello, with dessert wines and olive oil (tel: +39 (0) 565 933324), and in Rio Marina is Le Sughere (tel: +39 (0) 565 1935239).
WHERE TO SHOP
Discover typical handmade products on Elba, such as the leather shoes at Unzipò in Marciana. Buy some exquisite jewellery at Atmosfer in Capoliveri, and look out for the locally produced perfume Aqua Dell'Elba, at numerous shops around the island. For foodies, Elba's honey is created in a variety of flavours, including rosemary and eucalyptus. The most famous sweet treat on Elba is schiaccia briaca, which is prepared with pine nuts, sultanas and a local sweet wine.