The third-largest Italian island after Sicily and Sardinia, Elba – situated just 10km off the coast of Tuscany – isn't really on Brit holidaymakers' radars. Yet as in the rest of Italy, a general love of children in Elba is accompanied by fabulous, child-friendly food, and there's also a good choice of family-friendly hotels and other accommodation, gorgeously clear water, fine white-sand beaches and a lush wooded interior perfect for walking and cycling. Other family activities on Elba include plenty of watersports.
Le petit general, Napoléon, tends to dominate Elba's history, but the island has come under the rule of the French, Turks, Spanish and a myriad of Italian peoples (Romans, Etruscans, Medicis) – a cosmopolitan mix that has left its legacy on the architecture and the culture.
Things to do with kids in Elba
Laze by the pool or on the beach. The largest and best beach in Elba for kids, Marino di Campo, stretches for almost two kilometres and has safe shallow waters. Some areas are private, with pay access; facilities in these might include small playground areas and watersports such as windsurfing, boating, pedaloing and kayaking. Elba is also a great place for snorkelling and scuba-diving.
With teens, head for stunning Cavoli Beach, where diving from the cliffs is popular and where high summer sees plenty of beach parties and DJ sets. From here you can take a boat or pedalo to have a gander at the Grotta Azzurra (Grotta di Mare) sea grotto. The island you can see so well from here is Montecristo, famous from the Dumas novel but accessible only to a few people a year (with a long waiting list).
Go road-biking, mountain-biking or hiking. Cycle or walk through the forest and ascend Monte Capanne (1,019m) to glimpse the island's geographic diversity: it has wonderful views over craggy mountains, gentle slopes with olive groves and vineyards, dense pine forests, and the sparkling blue sea around. Don't miss the caprili – old stone shepherds' shelters. There's also La Via dell' Essenza or Trail of Essences, with 130km of coastal paths in 12 sections, each named for a local plant or herb, such as rosemary.
Kayaking in Elba.
Elban cuisine is simple and authentic, with lots of seafood. The best fish restaurants are in Marciana Marina and Marina di Campo, while Portoferraio has lots of cosy inns that have been in the same family for generations. But this being Italy, there are plenty of pizzerias for the most unadventurous of kids. Parents shouldn't miss the boozy torta ubriaca.
If you come in early October, don’t miss the Chestnut Festival in the small medieval town of Poggio, with food stalls selling bread made from chestnut flour, castagnaccio cake, cheeses, chestnut tagliatelle and polenta, and roast chestnuts, all accompanied by lots of red wine.
Scuba-diving in Elba.
When to go to Elba
The average temperature on Elba in July and August is 25°C, but during these months the island is extremely busy with mainly Italian and German holidaymakers. Hence, it's worth trying to schedule family holidays in Elba for May, June or September – the milder weather then may also suit younger kids better.
A break from mountain-biking in Elba.
Prices on Elba soar in the Italian peak holiday season of July and August, so aim to come in the quieter months. If you do come in August, don't miss Capoliveri's Notte Blu or Blue Night, a festival of youth creativity, with games, a sandcastle competition and more.
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Flying time2hrs All flight times are based on flights from UK London airports, to the capital or nearest destination airport.
Carbon footprint1.07 CO2 Estimated tonnes of CO2 produced for return flights for a family of four.
A shepherd's shelter.
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Capoliveri's Notte Blu.
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