“Un’isola e’ un’isola solo se vista dal mare”
October on Elba island: Visiting an island when the holiday season is over, it is one of the best choices you can make if you are looking for some Me-Time and need to detox from overwork or need to distant yourself from a hectic lifestyle.
Being on an island only surrounded by sea, wherever you look, to me has a truly therapeutic effect.
I left for Isola d’Elba on an October day, at the time of “Vendemmia” (Grape Harvest), when all over Tuscany it’s time for wine festivals, mushrooms and longer trousers. I jumped on a ferry leaving from Piombino to Portoferraio under a sky that was promising rainy days ahead but I just needed a break. A pause from everything; so I packed a few books, essential clothes, a notebook, my phone and, being an incurable optimist, also swimsuit and flip-flops…one never knows.
I had always seen Elba from the other side, from the Etruscan Coast and, approaching the harbour, I was struck by how green the entire place is!
The first thing you learn is not to take any notice of weather forecast: what is predictable on the mainland is not true for this location in the middle of the Mediterranean Sea.
The magic combination created by sea currents and winds gives this piece of paradise a wonderful climate (so my swimsuit and flip-flops came in handy after all!)
Outside of the crowded season, Elba offers to visitors its true colours, and not only as a figure of speech!
It is the aquamarine that overrides all other shades of blue, the crystal turquoise of some coves, the deep blue of the open sea. Endless variations of green cover the island profile interrupted only by the iron red of some rocks, reminding us of the minerary past of the island.
I am not going to write an itinerary guide that anyone can find by googling on internet or by reading some famous guide book. My intention is only to share my experience, the way I started to explore the island by dividing it into three main areas.
My only recommendation is not to rush.
Take your time to discover each one of them, follow your rhythm not a guide, stop where you need, where you find something that touches your heart or where you feel you need to breathe. Breathe, Relax, Stop – when you need – and Repeat.
My experiential travel started from Capoliveri that only by chance, I didn’t plan it, was celebrating Harvest Time that weekend.
The old village, in Roman times called Caput Liberum, perched on a high hill, has astonishing views and, for the Festa dell’Uva (every year in the first week of October), sees all its people feverishly preparing for the competition among four “rioni”(town districts). Every year a theme is chosen, and each area is literally transformed according to it. Expect music in the street, food stalls and wine served at every corner.
Aperitivo time is a lively moment a bit everywhere in Capoliveri. Next to the local club for older people, nicely called Third Youth Club (Circolo della Terza Giovinezza) and in the central Cafe’ Rodriguez where we loved the alcohol free cocktail “della casa”. By the way, just there I also found one of my favourite pottery shop La gabbianella, colourful house objects hand-made in Tuscany that I had been searching for long time!http://www.lagabbianella.com/
I stopped for dinner in the nice Gallo Bianco Restaurant, in the central Piazza and service and food was really nice. Small a la carte menu with “piatti del giorno” guarantees freshness and the nice small outside space makes it an ideal location for dinners “all’aperto”, yes even in October!
Another place really worth a visit is the Osteria Quattro Rioni, founded at the meeting point of the four districts in which the village is divided, the same that animates the Grape Festival. The kitchen of the Quattro Rioni is based on simplicity with hand-made pasta, bread and desserts.
All around the old village is a rural area with plenty of bike trails and trekking paths. The nearby Lido di Capoliveri is a nice cove, with a white pebble beach facing crystal clear waters, a bit too near camping areas and too easy to reach by car, which inevitably means too many people.
My B&B choice- Casa Zizzolo – was done in a rush, without too much research and I ended up in a rural house, nicely restored with warm orange coloured walls and a nice garden that actually was exactly as advertised on internet: “in a rural area, not too far from Capoliveri and Porto Azzurro, you need a car, kitchen only allowed to eat cold meals as cooking is not allowed”.
What you discover once there is that wi-fi was momentarily not working (I suspect it never was) …so my detox was complete, and the B&B owner was a bit too present in the apartment. I am one of those who, in the morning, cannot talk before coffee and need time to function. So it was for me a tremendous effort having to make small talks about nothing before a reasonable time has passed between waking up and first coffee…but this is personal I know…I was also not too impressed by breakfast, I am very interested in prima colazione wherever I go, so I know I am a fussy guest to have. Actually I just want to be on my own and breakfast is important so hand-made muffins and cakes are nice but cookies and fruit juice from local supermarkets have to not be the cheap variety and expiration date must be carefully checked before presenting it on the table. I could name (and I will in a different story) one of the best B&B near Casole d-Elsa where people come back for the special breakfast the lady makes!
Finally…have you ever felt like under scrutiny when you do anything? That is how I felt in the B&B each morning with the lady of the house who (I am sure she didn’t mean it, just couldn’t help herself) was revising as a list all the things she found that had been moved in the room from the previous day. Cherry on a cake was when she asked me if I ate a pomegranade (melograno) the night before …as she had found a couple of red bits on the floor under the sofa and she convinced herself that a stain on the sofa cover had been caused by my Pomegranate…In the end she charged me 30€ extra for the laundry ( which I did pay without even discussing because sometimes putting energy in such a petty discussion , even when we are on the right side, tends to ruin your energy aura..)
Nevertheless, putting aside the B&B experience that I cannot recommend, I loved my stay on the island and after Capoliveri I decided to explore the near PORTO AZZURRO. Stay tuned for the next visit.