Able was I ere I saw Elba!

I remembered this palindrome from my school days as we caught the ferry from Piombino to Portoferraio.  It had been a long rail journey, not made any easier by the ticket inspector admonishing us for having a ticket for Piombino instead of Piombino Marittimo (which I didn’t know existed, and which was in any case the same price.)

Elba turned out to be a wonderful place for a holiday. It’s a small island, only 17miles long, and very mountainous. The roads have hundreds of hairpin bends around precipices and far too much traffic. We took local buses which are too long to take the corners. A toot at a blind bend was all that saved us from head on collisions, but we loved, in retrospect, the adventure.

Our hotel was perfect: family run, and with its own private beach, and garden. All the meals were cooked on the premises and eaten on the lovely terrace overlooking the sea.

The Napolean connection is everywhere, even though he was only on the island for 300 days. His two villas are worth a visit, especially the hunting lodge with its strange arrangement of the original quite modest house sitting on top of a grander classical base, a later addition.

The highest mountain has a cable car, the cabanovia, which is no more than a metal basket holding two people standing up. It leaves its terrified passengers suspended over rocks and forests, but they’re rewarded with views to Corsica in the distance, and the nearest town, Marciana, has the best restaurant on Elba to reward intrepid travellers.


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