A different photography location: Isola d'Elba
Discover a marvellous island rich of history, beauty, and most of all a lot of photography spots. definitely perfect for our landscape photography and long exposures
Not as small as it could appear
Elba island is a small pearl in Tirrenian sea. Just** in front of Tuscany** coast, Elba is a very famous location for summer holidays: fantastic sea, many beaches, family friendly infrastructures.... these are some of the reasons to make this island so famous for the sea lovers.
Nightlife is of course another great attraction for the visitors: Capoliveri, for example, is tiny but incredible village, full of life, shops, and a lot of initiatives for the ones that decide to have dinner in the inner land. For the wine lovers, Isola d'Elba is quite famous for its sweet wine Aleatico.
Last but not least, the inner land is full of interesting spots... from the abandoned mines to the off-roads tracks, from the fantastic hikes on the coast to the long trail that brings to Monte Capanne (the highest mountain on the island).
Needless to say that such a great variety is absolutely a dream for landscape photographers! Seascapes, wildlife, outdoor photography, scuba shots are only few of the things ou can enjoy (speaking about photography) on that little island...
When to go
Of course, for the reasons above, the island is quite crowded in the summer season: from the end of July till mid-September, many many tourists fill all the beaches... and it is quite difficult to find calm and tranquility to enjoy our passion.
For landscape photography, then, I really suggest you to go in the low season (if not even in off season); personally I plan 2 long weekends every year: one in May, and one in mid-October. Yes, because if you are seriously into photography, probably you don't mind to get some clouds! Even better, dramatic skies are really a must....
Where to stay
This is an interesting question... and it's not possible to have a unique answer. Elba Island is small, but not so small! There is a great environmental variety: from the sandy beaches in Procchio o La Biodola, to the rocky cliffs on the western coast, the island can offer nearly every kind of sightseen. Just to name some of them, the center part of the island is quite high, and the area around Monte Capanne (1019m) is more like a mountain forest. On the opposite side, the southern coast near Punta Calamita is quite a rocky desert, with its red rock and abandoned mines.
Personally I stay in Lacona, a small town on the southern coast.
Why there? because I have some friends! :) apart from this, I do not look for nightlife or touristic attractions... So I prefer to stay in a place easy to reach from Portoferraio harbor, and in a central position compared to the spots I love.
Yes, because.. I already told that the island is not big, but do not expect highways or big roads... You have to take into account that road transportation on the island takes time; consider it when you are planning your sunrise or sunset shots.
Ok, let's go straight to the point: what are the best places where to take pictures in Isola d'Elba? There are hundreds of famous spots... as you can see on every guide (Tripadvisor here is very helpful).. but I would like to tell you something "different"... the kind of tips you probably will not find on every touristic guide.
Here it is the list o my preferred "alternative" photo location in Elba Island:
Castello del Volterraio (Volterraio fortress) and Portoferraio Bay
This ancient castle was built in front of Portoferraio town. At the moment of writing, it is not possible to visit it inside, even if a big restoration work was in progress in October 2017 (so it is possible that it will be opened in 2018).
From the Castle it is possible to enjoy the most beautiful sunset of Isola d'Elba: believe me, the sight from the top is outstanding.. moreover the strong winds usually create a great movement in the clouds...
To get there you have to leave the car and walk about 40 minutes: it is not a difficult hike, but it is quite steep. So (believe me!) take it easy, and do not forget to take spare clothes for staying on top after the climbing! You will be sweaty, and the strong wind could be very uncomfortable!
From the mountain top you will also be able to take stunning nightscapes and star trails with the fortress. But pay attention: take a torch for the way back! I also suggest you a GPS (or an App for the smartphone, like AlpineQuest, because the trail is not so visible at night (especially the part near the castle).
The western part of Isola d'Elba is not touristic at all: the most famous locations are on the east side, probably because of the rough nature of the coast between Pomonte and Zanca.
Anyway, as it happens many times, rough places keep the most marvelous secrets: Punta Polveraia is a cape near the small village of Patresi. Apart from the nice little cove, the adiacent bay is overlooked by a nice lighthouse; we all know the charm a lighthouse can have... especially when facing directly the sunset!
The lighthouse once belonged to Italian Navy; now seems that it has been sold to a private company, and sooner or later it will become a touristic place (a sort of exclusive hotel).
The road to go to the lighthouse is narrow, steep and full of sharp turns.. so pay attention. The best way to reach it is to park all the way down, and then walk back for few hundreds meters. There is no trail to get a nice photo location, you do have to dig your way into the bush.
Enfola and Viticcio
Enfola and Viticcio are 2 small villages located on the north-west coast of Isola d'Elba. On the 2 opposite sides of a small cape, they are quite renowned for summer holidays; at the same time, if you go there out of season, you will have the strong feeling of being in a ghost town. Is it a problem for you? not for me at all! I love to be there all alone, with no one around, enjoying the time for great sunsets...
From both the locations you can enjoy a great sunset, but from Enfola it is even possible to take stunning pictures of the sunrise: the cape is perfect to change side, depending on what you want to shoot (and on the time you plan to do it).
Enfola beach is a nice strip of sand with some beautiful rocks in the water; perfect for long exposures and minimals, I think it could be perfect for night shots too (but I never tried, so I cannot tell about the light pollution).
Cape Enfola has also nice trails, so you can cross all the cape and reach the farest part of the peninsula.
Viticcio, on the other side, is a very small village built on a cliff. You can walk down to the beach following the narrow way that snakes between the houses. Oh, by the way: on the way down (5 minutes) you will find a fantastic restaurant, with seaside view and unbeatable fish dishes. Believe me, absolutely a must!
The beach is made by little smooth stones, and they emit a typical sound when rolled by the crashing waves. From there, you have an outstanding view over the sunset: the sun goes down behind Enfola cape, just in front of the viewer...
Monte Capanne is the highest peak on the island. More than 1000 meters high, it is located on the center of the western region. It is possible to reach the top following a steep trail... but usually tourists prefer to get the top using the chair lift! :) Please remember: the chair lift is open from April to September only...
From the top it is possible to see all the islands of the Tirrenian sea... Capraia, Montecristo, Pianosa, La Gorgona... and even the great Corsica (France).
The sunset from the top is really an outstanding experience.. but you have to take into account that if you will stay up there waiting for the blue hour, you will have to walk your way down to the car park, because the chair lift closes very early.
Lago Terranera is a small lake separated from the sea by a very narrow strip of sand. Located near Porto Azzurro, you have to drive few minutes on a dirty road and then leave the car. I strongly suggest you to park the car and walk down on foot, because if you do not have a 4x4 it is very likely you will leave your car down there.. (like I did the first time I went there... ehehe). Otherwise, you can go to Reale beach, park there, and then follow the coastal path for about 10 minutes.
Lago Terranera and Terranera beach are two very special places: all the surroundings are full of hematite and pyrite crystals, and this makes the sand shimmer in the sun.
The lake is an emerald green jewel, and its color creates a fabulous contrast with the deep blue of the sea. The color of the lake is due to its origin: in the past, the Terranera was a mining well; when dismissed, sulfurous water (from the ex quarry) and sea water filled up the well. Pay attention: due to the sulfurous water, it is very very dangerous to swim in the lake!!!
So... what could I add?
Elba island is a great holiday destination... very famous for its beaches and blue sea... There are many dive sites, some natural reserves, and many many trails. Everyone can find something to do on the island.
But speaking about photography locations, Isola d'Elba is a place that's full of surprises: if you want to take stunning pictures, seascapes, blue hour and long exposures, the island is an hidden paradise you really have to explore.
Plan a 4 days tour in low season, spend the day discovering the top spots... but do not forget to follow my tips if you want to take outstanding pictures of not-so-famous locations around the island.