Monday 26 August 2013

Cruising around Isola di Elba

July 2-9, 2013
 We were looking forward to getting back over to Elba and exploring the historic island properly but first came the bag drag at the supermarket to stock the boat with provisions for the next ten days or so. With that done, after casting off we made a stop at the fuel dock and topped Alcheringa’s diesel tank to the brim ready for the next stage of our travels.

Two of the friendly locals at our Capo a Vita anchorage

 As is often the case in this part of the world, there was very little wind in the morning but by waiting until after lunch we were able to enjoy a very pleasant sail from the marina at Salivoli over to Capo Della Vita on the north eastern tip of Isola di Elba (The island of Elba). Well it was pleasant apart from the stress of dodging the constant stream of huge, fast ferries that run constantly to and from the island from the mainland.

Thankfully we have AIS on the boat but even than dodging these guys
coming for you from all directions gets a little stressful.
Salivoli to Capo Della Vita, Elba – 6.0 Nautical Miles – 1 Hours 17 Minutes
Average Speed 4.7 Knots – Max Speed 6.3 knots

The anchorage at Capo Della Vita was beautiful with more crystal clear water, a small islet just off the coast which provided some shelter, a vibrant but uncrowded beach scene and a range of lovely villas dotted amongst the tree filled hillside backing the shoreline. We wasted no time getting into the water straight off the back of the boat while Marc and Caroline took the dingy ashore to check out the café on the point and enjoy the beach.

We were treated to a great dinner of whole, baked fish Karen prepared and an awesome sunset. It was followed next morning by an even better sunrise for those of us up early enough to witness it.

We began our trip around Elba with a short four mile hop to a nice little bay at Nisportino for a lunch stop which turned into an overnighter when we decided it was just too good a spot to leave just yet. More swimming, relaxing, good food and wine. Who could ask for more.

Nisportino could be described as a relaxing spot



Capo Della Vita to  Nisportino – 4.0 Nautical Miles – 1 Hours 11 MinutesAverage Speed 3.4  Knots – Max Speed 5.8 knots

Next morning we headed into Portoferraio, the main port and capital of Elba. As nice as the town wall moorings looked, we resisted their attractions and anchored out in the south side of the harbour along with forty or so other yachts. We’d been pre-warned that the mooring charges in Portoferraio during summer are amongst the highest in the entire Mediterranean. A free anchorage is always more attractive to us than a marina anyway but we do enjoy the atmosphere of town wall docks when available at a reasonable cost.
One of the little holiday shacks we sailed past on Elba
Approaching Portoferraio on Elba
We resisted the attractive but very expensive moorings on the town wall in Portoferraio
Nisportino to Portoferraio– 3.4 Nautical Miles – 0 Hours 46 Minutes
Average Speed 4.5 Knots – Max Speed 6.6 knots
We took the dingy across the bay to the main town and headed off to explore the old historic areas with Marc and Caroline heading one way and we another to all enjoy some ‘just us’ time.  The harbour and old town clinging to the steep, rocky headland behind it are both extremely beautiful. We had a great time climbing up the narrow laneways lined with brightly coloured bougainvillea flowers cascading over the stone walls as we made our way towards the Castillo and one of the two residences used by Napoleon during his exile on the island.

Our climb to the top of Portoferraio was punctuated by colour

The Castillo atop Portoferraio  was our ultimate target
The 360 degree views from the top were well worth all the effort in the heat. Whichever direction you looked you were either treated to visions of the azure blue waters surrounding the island or character filled stone buildings which no doubt could reveal some many amazing stories if only they could speak. Unfortunately we found Napoleon’s coastal residence was closed for restoration works but considering all the other jewels we discovered on our climb we didn’t really care.

The Castillo atop Portoferraio provided fantastic views


We found a billboard with this great illustration of the old areas of Portoferraio

Before leaving the boat, Karen had consulted the ever reliable to research our lunch options and as a result we made our way to Caffescondido and were well rewarded with an outstanding but well priced meal in an extraordinary location on a small terrace overlooking the harbour. The husband and wife, chef, wait staff team provided excellent and very helpful service as we enjoyed our fantastic, fresh seafood and local wine. Rob’s calamari in octopus ink did turn his tongue and lips very black for a while but the cleansing attributes of the crisp local white wine solved that problem. On the way back to the dingy we booked a small hire car for the for the following morning to explore more widely around this very unique island.


While Marc and Caroline elected to enjoy a day on the beach at Portoferraio the next day, we made a beeline for Napoleon’s main residence on Elba. For a guy who was exiled to the island by the Brits after losing a battle or two he didn’t exactly do it tough on Elba. The reception room of his little shack is seventy metres long while the entire exterior is lined with huge Ns for Napoleon and his personal crest.

This is how the Brits punished Napoleon by banishing him to live in this hovel on Elba.



This reception room stretched for 70 metres.

Karen by Napoleon’s front door. Note the N and personal crest all the way around the top of the building.
All the upper floor, was hand painted to resemble the interior of the campaign tent he used during his conquests in Egypt. It must have been some tent, that’s for sure. From his bedroom he could look over the largest terrace we’ve ever seen, straight down his half mile long, tree lined driveway and across the valley to the waters of Portoferraio itself. He really should of stayed here and enjoyed his retirement instead of sneaking off back to France to get his but whipped at the Battle of Waterloo. As a result of that little adventure he ended up dying a lonely man in exile on the godforsaken rock island of St Hellena deep in the cold South Atlantic.
What was Napoleon’s bedroom on Elba


Napoleon’s Egyptian room.

Yes that is real gold and yes it is worth an Emperor’s ransom.
When he had it so good on Elba we still can’t understand why Napoleon left the place.

Travelling further west along the coast we passed many very attractive bays and crossed a number of rocky headlands before heading up into the steep mountains behind the coast. Here we came across the very old village of Poggio with a delightful little church called Chiesa si San Niccolo and glorious stone houses clinging to a ridgeline on the side of the island’s highest mountain, Monte Capanne. It had truly spectacular views down the valleys and over the Mediterranean.  We just had to stop and have a wander around the narrow, flower filled lanes and take in the limitless charm of this delightful medieval settlement.

The north coast of Elba features many great bays and beaches.
The medieval village of Poggio was awash with summer flowers

We enjoyed some excellent coffee and even better views in Poggio
Karen in Poggio with Marcianna in the background.
After a coffee looking out over the views, we followed the narrow twisting road to Poggio’s neighbouring village. If we liked Poggio, we fell in love with Marcianna. It is one of the most ancient and interesting medieval towns on the whole island. The local citizens enthusiastically embrace the town’s heritage and not only eagerly protect its historic appearance but they even ALL dress up in medieval attire for a weeklong festival each year. Here we were able to explore a Pisan fortress, a series of delightful religious buildings and meander up and down narrow cobble stone lanes and alleyways lined with very old stone buildings, all looking identical to how they would have appeared hundreds of years ago.

Marcianna is even higher on the side of Monte Capanne than Poggio


The climb to the top of the fortress was well worth the effort.

Every building in Marcianna was perfectly presented.

Poggio on the left and Marcianna on the right viewed from the water when we sailed by next day.
After a very nice lunch enjoying yet more great views of the Tuscan archipelago and all the way across to Corsica, we followed the winding road further upwards and crested the mountain range just to the east of Monte Capanne and twisted our way down past a 12th century watchtower overlooking Marina di Campo on the south coast. As we planned to bring the boat around here the next day we went and checked out the moorings on the town wall and the town itself discovering a thriving tourist centre based around a stunning, 1500 metre long, golden sand beach. We then had a nice drive along the southern coast before cutting back through the centre of the island to Portoferraio and the end of a fantastic day’s exploring.

Climbing up Elba’s mountain range through chestnut forests.

We had a great view over Marina di Campo from the top.

12th Century watchtower to keep a lookout for Moorish pirates.


A fantastic sunset in Portoferraio to end our day
We were up and away reasonably early next morning but with very light winds we unfortunately needed to motor-sail all the way along the island’s north coast and indeed down the west coast as well. As we rounded the south west corner of the island though, a nice breeze sprang up and we were able to enjoy a really good sail the rest of the way and right into the large bay at Marina di Campo where we elected to anchor off the long beach for a couple of days of sun, sand and swimming.

Leaving Portoferraio


Anchored off the 1500 metre long beach at Marina di Campo             .

The Italians are a pretty laid back mob.
On July 6th we celebrated one full year since we moved onto Alcheringa in Palma Mallorca.
Karen’s art studio isn’t as fancy as her previous one but the view’s a lot better.
Portoferraio to Marina Di Campo – 24.8 Nautical Miles – 5 Hours 03 Minutes
Average Speed 4.9 Knots – Max Speed 7.1 knots
By Monday morning our water tanks were getting low so we raised the anchor and headed for the town wall moorings in the small harbour area of Marina di Campo where we could top up. Most of the wall is taken up with permanent berths for local fishing, dive and tour boats but the five spots on the end of the wall are available to visiting boats on a best in best dressed basis. We made our way over and hung around circling just outside the harbour until a couple of yachts that had spent the night vacated. This was our first true Mediterranean mooring experience. Rather than ground lines to the harbour floor being in place, we needed to drop our anchor at ninety degrees to the wall directly in front of our berth and reverse in letting out the anchor chain as we went. We then run lines to the dock to hold the stern but it is up to our anchor to hold the bow in line and in place.
With Marc handling the stern lines and Rob on the helm, Karen was on the bow and dropped the anchor precisely on his call as we backed towards the dock crowded with onlookers. Despite a reasonable cross wind blowing and a few first time nerves all seemed to go perfectly. With Alcheringa nicely secured Rob and Marc were busy congratulating each other when Karen quietly pointed out how close we had gone to coming unstuck. There was less than half a metre of our 45 metres of chain left in the anchor locker. If we had dropped the anchor even a few seconds earlier as we reversed back we would of run out of chain and embarrassingly pulled up short of the dock. All’s well that ends well but we will certainly know not to cut it so fine next time.

Med moored on the town wall at Marina di Campo

They love their RIBs in the Med. Bigger the better.
Marina di Campo was such a contrast to Portoferraio. Whereas Portoferraio has the unenviable reputation as one of the dearest walls in all of the Med to dock against, just a few kilometres across the island Marina di Campo provided exactly the same service FREE. All we had to do was pay a very small charge for metered electricity and water. We certainly weren’t going to decline the hospitality so we spent the night moored up. The only downside was the two old locals that turned up at 4.30AM complete with their chairs and began fishing, one either side of the boat, while they chatted loudly back and forwards. Oh well, it was a public area.
Later that morning Marc and Caroline left us to head off and do a bit more land travel in Italy and we moved on five and half miles along the coast to spend a final day on Elba in the great anchorage off the beach in the Golfo Di Stella we had enjoyed so much the previous week. The following morning we would be heading to the Island of Giglio, the first stop on our way south to Porto Roma, our base to explore the ancient treats of Rome.

A popular dive spot at the entrance to Golfo di Stella
 For more about our travels and lots more photos check out and 'like' our Dreamtime Sail facebook page at

If you have only recently discovered our blog and would like to read how it all started, or work through our previous adventures, click the link to go back to our first blog entry. We hope you enjoy reading the previous posts to catch up on our story.