Portoferraio, it means “Iron Port,” a very big deal as the Iron Age took hold. In meeting customer demand and island greed, the island was stripped of trees for the smelters and forges. The air pollution — the Greeks called Elba Aethalia (Fume) — was so bad the remaining islanders decided to go out of the business or go completely out of business as humans. Lack of wood helped the decision along. Although there are Roman structures, most of what one sees begins with the era of Pisan Republic control. When the Barbary pirates took most of the work capable islanders slave and slaughtered the rest, Cosimo I de’ Medici took over Portoferraio and fortified it. Eventually the French took over in 1802 and Elba moved from subsistence to an import/export economy again. Which brings up Napoleon. He was exiled here after involuntary abdication. He was here with a private guard of 600 men since he could not keep on the move as was his style. He stayed for 300 days and did take an interest in improving the lot of the Elbans, but not an enduring one. While he was here the Royal Navy maintained a cordon sanitaire around the island. It didn’t work.
The day we were on Elba the sky was quite hazy, and since it had rained, trash fires were burning, and looking up into the hills one could see the last quarry. Hints of antiquity. However as we toured the beauty of this place really showed through.
From the ship we were driven out to Marina Marciana for a wine tasting that pretty much didn’t happen. We and four others stopped in the shop and sampled, and we felt so badly for the people who had come in expecting a bus load we bought a local cake (Drunken Cake). It felt good to do so. Later when we decided to have it, it was the texture of a cricket ball. Not their fault — stale dates here tend to be a few days from purchase. We strolled through the waterfront of this clean and quiet little town and felt a bit of the frenzy of Rome drop away.
From here we followed the switchbacks up to the cable basket to Monte Capane. The pictures tell more than I can other than to say if one of those cars came off the cable in the upper half of the trip, it would have bounced and ricocheted and rolled almost 1000 feet before reaching a point where the body could be extracted in a few days. Glad we did it; don’t feel the need to do it again (maybe if the view was guaranteed). At the mountain top the weather had taken a turn and we had to imagine the beautiful view. As is often the case, the return from the cable basket was a reversal since this was an up the hill — down the hill trip.
This is another place we could imagine returning to linger a while (but not till we’ve had some Tuscan Sun).
Back aboard we had another returnee cocktail reception. Here we began to sense a soap opera developing. We won’t say more than adults should know better, but then none of us are 100% adult (or at least we hope not).
Please enjoy the photos. Photos without captions don’t really need them. Click on first one to scroll.