Which is Italy's most beautiful island?
Well, I've now been fortunate enough to spent time on each of Italy's three largest islands, Sicily, Sardinia and, most recently, Elba. While Sicily has a unique history and culture, and the crystal clear waters and immaculate beaches of Sardinia are almost impossible to beat, for me Isola d'Elba is Italy's most beautiful island.
A lush, green, mountainous interior with hidden bays, quaint fishing villages, and vibrant beaches, it seems better cared for than its southern neighbour Sicily and more authentic than the ever-popular Sardinia. The beach resorts are discreet, seldom rising above a single storey and the back drop is invariably green, the ubiquitous Italian stone pine, providing a natural and soothing alternative to the concrete that defines other resorts.
We focussed our attention on the north-eastern corner of the island, staying in Nisporto and making day trips to various beaches in the area. The furthest we ventured was to the vast sandy beach of Lido Capoliveri and the refined luxury of Biodola.
While our accommodation at Nisporto was basic (barely satisfactory if the truth be told), lacking both air conditioning and mosquito blinds that are essential luxuries in the height of summer, the location was spectacular, just a stones throw from an intimate stoney bay, the frequently passing ferries on the horizon a constant reminder of the islands summer-time appeal. With some gentle persuasion, we even came to love the immaculate rounded pebbles on the beach which, with the correct footwear, made for a refreshing alternative to sand. Take-away pizza on the beach followed by a late-night family swim was one of the memorable highlights of our week's stay on the island.
The food, as you would expect from Tuscany, was unfailingly fresh, delicious and abundant. Prices compared favourably to the often over-priced Sardinia and service was unfailingly good-natured and friendly.
In terms of history and culture, we found little of genuine interest. But then again, we were barely looking.
A future trip, perhaps avoiding the harsh heat of the Italian high summer, beckons.
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Richard Hough writes about history, football, wine, whisky, culture + travel.