Marina di Scarlino – Portoferraio
After a nice breakfast, we leave Marina di Scarlino for Portoferraio, the small “capital” of the Island of Elba, which took on a role of international importance with the exile of Napoleon.
A small detour for a swim at the islet of Cerboli, in the Piombino Channel, is a must. Its crystal clear blue sea will make us immediately breathe vacation air.
Arriving in Portoferraio, we can moor in the ancient landing place frequented, in the past, by Etruscans, Greeks and Romans, the “Darsena Medicea”, or at the moorings of the Shipyard “Esaom Cesa”. There is always the possibility of anchoring in the roadstead. Behind the port “Darsena Medicea” lives Portoferraio and its historic center, with its beautiful views and cheerful and dynamic atmosphere, bars and characteristic restaurants, stores and boutiques.
Portoferraio was founded at the behest of Cosimo I, Grand Duke of Tuscany, from whom the city took its first name (Cosmopoli) in 1548, conceived as a military district to defend the coasts of the Grand Duchy and the island of Elba. The city, Tuscan exclave of the Principality of Piombino, at the beginning was only a set of fortifications (still visitable and well preserved), as the three forts: Forte Stella, Forte Falcone and Linguella and the beautiful city walls, whose remains, still in good condition and made habitable, surround the historic center of Portoferraio. The imposing curtain of ramparts that rises from the roadstead to the Falcone Fort is still largely visible today. It remained under the control of the Grand Duchy of Tuscany until the 18th century when the island, due to its strategic position, found itself at the center of a war between France, Austria and England. In April 1814, the island was entrusted to Napoleon Bonaparte as the seat of his first exile who chose Portoferraio as the capital of the island. In the city are still present and visitable the two villas that were his residence, that of San Martino and the Villa dei Mulini.
It was with the reign of the French emperor, that Portoferraio and the whole island, grew in importance and modernity exponentially, thanks to the infrastructure created and the development of iron mines of Rio Marina. In this period Portoferraio became the port used to transport iron from the Elban quarries to the continent, and from which derives its present name.
Later Portoferraio returned under the dominion of the Grand Duchy of Tuscany until the unification of Italy in 1860. The island of Elba and Portoferraio had an economically stable period, thanks to the deposits, until the seventies, when the iron industry went into crisis. The mines were quickly dismantled but Portoferraio, thanks to its beaches, was able to open up to the tourism industry, which still represents the main source of wealth.
Not to be missed: the wonderful panorama from the lighthouse of Forte Stella. All around the island of Elba with its sea and the Tuscan Archipelago National Park.
Portoferraio – Isola di Capraia
Let’s leave the moorings for the island of Capraia. Rocky and volcanic, lonely and far away, it becomes an obligatory stop for lovers of sailing and the sea. The island of Capraia is very exposed to the winds of libeccio, scirocco and mistral: better to moor in the small port of the island or take advantage of the buoys in the roadstead. It is a ‘perfect oasis for those who love snorkeling, scuba diving and swimming alone.
In ancient times called “Aigylion” by the Greeks and then “Capraria” by the Romans, its name derives from the presence of wild goats on the island, but according to another hypothesis could derive from “karpa” with the meaning of “rock”. In 1055 it was conquered by the Saracen pirates, then it was dominated by the Pisans and passed definitively under the orbit of Genoa after the battle of Meloria, which placed there the lordship Jacopo de Mari in 1430. From 1540 was built by the Genoese the fortress of San Giorgio and the three watchtowers Torre del Porto (1541), Torre dello Zenobito (1545) and Torre delle Barbici (1699) to be able to see the ships of pirates and avoid raids. After the annexation of the former Republic of Genoa to the Kingdom of Sardinia with the Congress of Vienna in 1814 and the proclamation of the Kingdom of Italy, it was part of the province of Genoa until November 1925, when it passed to the province of Livorno. From 1873 to 1986 was also home to a penal colony.
Isola di Capraia – Saint Florent
Let’s take off: destination Saint Florent! The small town, extremely linked to its history, is surrounded by beautiful beaches, coves and coves and teems with life.
The history of Saint-Florent dates back to Roman times, but it was in the Christian era that the city had an important expansion, although initially the center developed away from the sea and the coast, as evidenced by the ancient Cathedral of Nebbio. It was only later that the town moved to the Fornali roadstead, occupying the small peninsula with the old seafaring quarter and the Citadel, which almost merge creating a perfect architectural harmony. The Genoese fortress is a particular and unusual construction compared to the typical Corsican strongholds. Built just before the middle of 1400, it was completed only in 1568 and its lines are those typical of some Genoese fortresses.
Saint Florent – Calvi
Let’s hoist the sails: Calvi will surprise us! We take a break for a dip before arriving at our destination: Saleccia is perfect, beautiful white sandy beach and crystal clear sea.
Calvi is a city enclosed between sea and mountains, it attracts us for the walls of the citadel pushed in the middle of the crystal clear water, the huge bay and the beautiful beach that seems endless.
Already inhabited in the Neolithic period by the Corsican people of the Cervini, it was only under the Emperor Tiberius that it was permanently inhabited. The city was then destroyed by the Vandals and the Saracens during their sackings.
In 1268 a Corsican vassal of Genoa, Giovaninello de Loreto, refounded it, colonizing it with families coming from Liguria; also Calvi, as Bonifacio, obtained many privileges from the Genoese Signoria for its fidelity to the Republic, fidelity that still appears in its motto (“Civitas Calvi semper fidelis”, “The city of Calvi always faithful”). The city was fortified by Giovanni degli Avogari, to make it a perfect point of military support and became known for its impregnability. This is demonstrated by the many attacks suffered in 1553 by the Turks and the French, but they were not able to make it fall. In 1768 it was the last city in Corsica to become part of France. In 1793-1794 it was a French stronghold against Pasquale Paoli, in fact Napoleon Bonaparte took refuge there between May and June 1793 and for this reason it was destroyed by the English Admiral Orathio Nelson.
Calvi – Ajaccio
Let’s sail towards Ajaccio! The Corsican capital will fascinate us with its immense history. Ajaccio is a unique and magical city: the lively markets and the narrow streets of the old town are not to be missed.
It takes its name from the Greek Agation (meaning “good port”) because of its favorable geographical position. Subsequently, under the Roman domination it took the name of Adiacium and then Ajax. Conquered by the Vandals and the Longobards, around the year one thousand it was occupied by the Pisans and then passed to the Genoese, who in 1492 built a fortified citadel and populated it with families from Lunigiana, including the Buonaparte, who arrived in Ajaccio in 1510. Later on, it became larger thanks to the migration of the inhabitants of the internal areas of the island. The French arrived in Ajaccio for the first time in 1553, but in 1559 it was given back to the Genoese with the peace of Cateau-Cambrésis. In the eighteenth century it became a stronghold of the independentists of Pascal Paoli, but in 1768 it was occupied again by the French following the Treaty of Versailles. In 1769 its most illustrious citizen was born there: Napoleon Bonaparte. From 1793 to 1796 it was part of the Anglo-Corsican kingdom of Pascal Paoli, to return definitively to France in 1796. In 1811 it covered a role of extreme importance becoming the capital of the whole island in substitution of Bastia. During the Second World War, in November 1942 it was occupied by the Italians, to which were substituted, after the 8 September 1943, the German troops. The 10 September 1943 was freed by the Corsican partisans and by the Italian troops, that had refused to surrender to the Nazis and had joined the local Resistance. On September 13, 1943 Algerian troops landed there and it was the first departmental capital of metropolitan France to be liberated.
Not to be missed: taste the typical dishes, they will make you lose your head.
Ajaccio – Bonifacio
Bow on Bonifacio! The beautiful city, on the other side of the Strait of Bonifacio, is perched on a small limestone fjord, the view of the sea and the beaches under the high cliffs are sensational.
Bonifacio’s history began approximately 6,500 years ago, as evidenced by artifacts found in a cave along its high cliffs. Within the bay, the settlement was populated by Greek merchants and Roman soldiers; after them, the city fell into the hands of pirates for a long time. According to tradition, the name was given to it when Boniface II of Tuscany, in 833, re-founded a village here to defend himself from Saracen raids. Inhabited by Tuscan settlers, for two centuries it remained under the control of the Republic of Pisa until it was conquered by the Republic of Genoa, which expelled in 1490 all the settlers of Tuscan origin. Legend has it that the Genoese managed to enter the city by taking advantage of a wedding and the state of drunkenness of the population. The Genoese made it an unassailable fortress, facilitated by the strategic position from a geographical and topographical point of view. The city of Bonifacio was the scene of numerous assaults, but only the French and the Turks succeeded in massacring the population favored by an epidemic of plague that spread in the city in those years. Only in 1768 became the domain of France when Genoa ceded it with the Treaty of Versailles.
Today is a lively tourist town rich in history and enviable geographical location.
Bonifacio – Isola della Maddalena
Head to the island of La Maddalena! The largest of the islands of the homonymous archipelago, La Maddalena, is known worldwide for its beaches and clear, transparent waters reminiscent of Caribbean landscapes. La Maddalena and the entire archipelago are included within the National Park of La Maddalena Archipelago, a protected marine and terrestrial area of national and community interest. A small group of shepherds coming from Corsica, starting from the middle of the seventeenth century, took possession of the Archipelago and, above all, of the largest island creating the first communities of residents. The town of La Maddalena, dating back to the eighteenth century, rises to the south of the main island. Let’s have a nice walk through the old town, among stairways and alleys, and reach Piazza Garibaldi, animated by cafes and clubs. It has in its territory many beaches, such as the famous Pink Beach, a beach with maximum environmental protection located northwest of the Archipelago in the island of Budelli.
Isola de La Maddalena – Isola di Caprera (Cala Coticcio)
Stage: Island of Spargi
Let’s move to the island of Caprera, the second largest island of the La Maddalena Archipelago. A dive to the island of Spargi will relax us: the third island of the archipelago of La Maddalena is truly a delight for the eyes: the emerald sea, white sand and rocks shaped by the wind make it a jewel of the Mediterranean Sea.
Caprera is enchanting with its cliffs that plunge into the sea and its coastline that offers inlets and coves of spectacular beauty including the famous Cala Coticcio, where we could anchor for the night.
The island is best known for being the last home of Giuseppe Garibaldi. In fact, he bought, with his brother’s inheritance, the northern half of Caprera since 1856, initially living in a small house. A few years later Garibaldi built the famous “white house”, now a museum. A few years later, a collection of children and admirers allowed him to buy the other half of the island, until then belonged to an Englishman.
On the island of Caprera, Garibaldi began to make the life of the farmer, devoting himself to the cultivation of fields and animal husbandry. In Garibaldi’s room, the clock and calendars hanging on a wall still mark the date and time of death of the hero: June 2, 1882 at 18.21.
Isola di Caprera (Cala Coticcio) – Porto Cervo
Let’s weigh anchor! Our destination today is Porto Cervo! Undisputed capital of the social life of the entire Costa Smeralda, Porto Cervo offers much more: from the Piazzetta delle Chiacchiere to the Sottopiazza, there are narrow streets, windows, balconies, built in the typical style of the Costa Smeralda that deserve a nice walk.
Not to be missed: the view from Porto Cervo Marina.
Porto Cervo – Isola di Giannutri
A long crossing awaits us! Let’s get ready to face it in the best way. The island of Giannutri is the smallest of the Tuscan Archipelago but definitely worth a visit. It is frequented mainly by divers, attracted by the charm of its intact seabed, rich in fish, corals and wrecks of ancient ships to explore. The almost rocky coastline is full of wonderful caves and charming coves, with two small pebble beaches in the Cala dello Spalmatoio and Cala Maestra.
The island of Giannutri was occasionally inhabited during the Bronze Age and saw its greatest splendor with the Romans, when the port and a villa were built on the west coast of the island. Finished the splendor of the Roman era, the island remained uninhabited for many centuries, being in the open sea with an almost flat land that did not allow natural shelters in case of pirate raids. Only the pirates, often, landed there to rest in the caves of the island, before sailing to assault the coasts of Tuscany. Becoming part of the State of the Presidi in the second half of the sixteenth century, the island was considered by the Spaniards the weak point of their territory, which had an efficient defensive system. For several centuries the Spanish rulers studied the possibility to build a defensive structure in Giannutri in order to allow the development of residential settlements. Many projects of fortifications were conceived, but they remained only on paper.
Despite the impossibility of realizing these ambitious projects, at the beginning of the nineteenth century was built by the French, during the Napoleonic period, the Fort of Discovery, which, however, no trace remains. In 1861, when the island became part of the Kingdom of Italy, was built along the southern coast of the Lighthouse Capel Rosso, to report the island to ships in transit.
Isola di Giannutri – Isola del Giglio (Giglio Porto)
Early in the morning we set sail for the island of Giglio! The entire coast of the island is jagged with numerous rocks interspersed only by coves and bays. Giglio Porto is the only port on the island, small and picturesque, it is also a very quaint town with colorful houses and narrow between them, forming alleys and narrow streets.
The island was inhabited since the Iron Age. Later it was perhaps an Etruscan military base and even under Roman rule was a center of a discrete importance in the Tyrrhenian Sea mentioned, for example, by Julius Caesar in “De bello Gallico”. At the edge of the town of Giglio Porto, slightly below sea level, there are the remains of the beautiful Roman villa that includes perimeter walls, remains of mosaics and frescoes, starry terrace and a long hanging balcony; the whole area is called “I Castellari”. In the following ages it was governed by various noble families of central Italy and from 1264 by the Pisan government, which then had to cede it to the Medici. In the Middle Ages it passed under the dominion of the family Aldobrandeschi, subsequently to the commune of Perugia. In 1544 the pirate called Barbarossa sacked the island, killed anyone who opposed and deported, as slaves, more than 700 gigliesi. Following this bloody raid, the Medici family repopulated the island with people from the Sienese lands.
Do not miss: Watch carefully the sea: you may encounter schools of dolphins, sperm whales or minke whales.
Isola del Giglio (Giglio Porto) – Porto Azzurro
Let’s go back to Elba Island and moor in Porto Azzurro, a lively and welcoming town of Spanish origin.
It was, in fact, founded in 1603 by Philip III of Spain, at the foot of the gulf on the east coast of the island, who also erected a fort on the promontory that closes the inlet to the east.
Together with Forte Focardo, on the other side of the gulf, it constituted the defensive system of the gulf of Mola, base of the fleet of the Spanish king Filippo III. This defensive system aimed to stop the military rise of the Grand Duchy of Tuscany that with the fortification of Portoferraio had a strategic stronghold in the Tyrrhenian Sea, which could seriously endanger the Spanish interests in this part of the Mediterranean. It was annexed to the kingdom of Naples in 1714, to which it remained until 1801, when it was ceded to the French who had occupied all of Tuscany.
In 1815, after the fall of Napoleon, Porto Azzurro was then annexed to the Grand Duchy of Tuscany until the Unification of Italy. In the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, along with Portoferraio and Marciana Marina, was the largest center of fishermen on the island of Elba, encouraging immigration. In the surrounding territory there is, side by side with the bathing tourism, an important agricultural activity (above all fruit and wine growing).
The cheerful Piazza Matteotti is in fact the main meeting point of the portoazzurrini. During the summer season, numerous musical, cultural and historical shows animate even more the square and all Porto Azzurro. The port, often, in summer, is very crowded. In this case we can stay in the roadstead in front of Porto Azzurro, or move to Golfo di Mola.
Porto Azzurro – Marina di Scarlino
Our sailing vacation is over. We calmly return to the Marina di Scarlino. For a last dive, Cala Martina is perfect. The small cove, near the port of Scarlino, is ideal for taking the last photos.