Circumnavigating the Isla d’ Elba

A room with a view. 200 meters from the surf. You can hear it push on the beach. Moving the white stones with its perpetual motion. From my vantage point, it is out of sight, hidden by the wooded slope. A sea of green against another of blue. The cliff face to my left is just begining to collect the rays of the early rising sun.

Elba is not a huge island. Mearly 28km long and at most, 19km across at its widest. This small land mass is still able to produce varied terrains and differentiated climates. The cental and eastern sections are the remnants of a collapsed Apennine wall most now submerged benieth the sea. The western sections built by volcanic activity.

This was the island of Nepoleon, or at least one of them. A forced vacation. Not such a bad place to be exiled.

Today I will try to explore the majority of the coastline with someforrays into the interior. Not all of the edge is accessable. At least not by paved road. Many parts of the island are national parkland.



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West. A counter clockwise approach. An endless view across the Tyrrhenian Sea. Limestone cliffs hiding small coves. Some dedicated to sun bathers, others to small boats. Some find sand with multi-colored umbrellas, others with long polished stones. Many with additional man made surf brakes of stone and cement. Extending the lines of protection already provided by the arms of the land. Small open hulled fishing boats motor past ankored sail boats as they work their way towards the open sea. In search of fish and squid.

Up over the ridges and then down into the port towns. As I swing up, I swing in. And then returns to the towns and the water. This stretch is heavily forested. Thick with trees and shade. The water is calm. Sapphire. Good for a dip, but useless for surfing.

As I round the western point, the wind begins to pick up from the east. The trees thin and the land begins too look less like a mediteraininan forest and more like west Texas. The climate here seems much more arid. More scrub and rock. The trees are more spindlie and the view is more open. But that also means I am more exposed. To the sun and the breeze. The mountains running east-west along the spine of the land must play a larger roll in rainfall than I would have guessed.

Lizards sun themselves on the road and rocks. Scurrying away from my approach. Other cyclists are actually on the road today. A split between roadies and triathletes (the first I have seen this trip). Many Germans, Elba being one of their preferred Italian getaways. And they wave as I pass. I nice change from the Italian road stoicism.

As the southern coast disappears behind me, I move further inland to reach the northeastern peninsula. To reach Cavo. An old mining town and it shows. The hills are bare in places. And eroding. The ochre slopes disintegrating, from past abuse and current lack of use. Rusty gantries, unrepairable, make their last stand against the test of time. The beach is unable to escape from a similar mood. It languishes unused, and from the look of it, unloved. Unclean.

I only stop long enough to refill my water bottle and turn on to small roads to make my way through the interior of the Parco Nazionale dell’ Archipelego Tuscano. Through Rio nell’ Elba and then up the ridge past Volterraio.



The rest is a winding descent down into the valley basin. No additional climbing, but a constant headwind off of the water. The sea. Releasing absorbed warmth from the day. A exhalation, reducing both of our energy reserves.


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