The small island of Elba, once ruled by Napoleon for 300 days, offers all manner of hills for bikers and beaches for sun-lovers. The bay of Biodola, about 8 km of winding road from the ferry town Portoferraio, is a lovely cove with mostly limpid waters and a sand beach. Hotel Biodola has its own section of beach with well-kept sunbeds and parasols.
The hotel has a pool with a view, and tennis and golf can be booked in the neighboring hotel. At the top level there is a large bar terrace and breakfast is one level lower in an outdoor restaurant. The best part are the long and large dinners with 5 to 6 courses accompanied by excellent regional wine and the weekly regional buffet.
Near the beach there is a camping area and several beach restaurants with sandwiches, salads, fruit, inflatable toys, ice cream, drinks. Toward the south, some steps above Biodola Beach boat rental lead to a half-ruined path winding around the cliffs and through a cave to another not too distant cove with a pebble beach.
Biodola is a great place for other excursions to Portoferraio with its churches, forts and Napoleon’s town house, to Napoleon’s Villa di San Martino in the valley, and to Capoliveri, a tiny village high up in the mountains above Porto Azzurro.
Elba is a rather small but beautiful emerald-wooded island with beaches varying from pebbles to fine golden sand, but always with clear blue-turquoise waters. We stayed at the Biodola Beach at a fine hotel with great facilities such as 2 snack bars, an ATM outside the parking lot, a smooth-running AC and exquisite cuisine with four courses to choose from and a salad bar. Parasol pines and giant agave plants dot the landscape.
Napoleon, upon being pressed to give up his power came to this small island of Elba in 1814. Within days of his arrival he invited all higher officers and set about reorganizing the marines and rebuilding the town of Portoferraio (lit. port of iron). He had sewer canals dug to keep the water off the streets, he had the little military house dei Mulini (lit. of the mills) rebuilt for himself, he suggested improvements for the entire population of Elba, restless as he was.
One edifice Napoleon did not have to rebuild was the Forte Falcone at the north end of Portoferraio, near the Villa dei Mulini.
Every once in a while Napoleon would seek refuge in a mountain recluse Madonna del Monte where he spent two days with his Polish lover Maria Walewska Laczynska in September, and prayed and talked to his mother who at times joined him there.
Later, Napoleon fell in love with a villa in the valley San Martino that commands a fine view all the way to Portoferraio. He asked his sister Paolina if she could lend him the money. She obligingly sold some jewels and it is said she was the model for Canova’s statue in this wonderful palace. He had it renovated, decorated with his initial and heraldic signs of the Elban bee, and installed a bath that could be accessed by a trap door to the floor below. Next to the bath are a further room and the kitchen.
The husband of his niece Davidoff enlarged the two-storied villa by a large gallery of paintings on the ground level.
The so-called Egyptian room is decorated following Napoleon’s campaign there and the publication of two tomes on Egypt. In the middle of the room is a small tub in black and white tiling like the rest of the room. Hieroglyphs are painted on the walls and one table has Egyptian symbols.
Another room is known as the room with the “love knot”, a ribbon held up by two doves on the ceiling to symbolize Napoleon’s love for his wife, Maria Luisa, who did not join him on Elba.
uring one’s visit, you will also see a turn-of-the-century greenhouse with its panes and heating fully intact, built for the owner of this lovely mansion many years later. Some of the ceiling windows are reminiscent of Gaudí’s constructions.
One thing is for sure: the view through the valley to Portoferraio is superb, you will not want to miss it.
In the end, after long preparations to supply a ship, Napoleon decided to leave the island and its inhabitants in February 1815, albeit protesting he loved them very much. The aftermath, the disastrous Battle of Waterloo and Napoleon’s exile to St. Helen in the middle of the Atlantic, are well-known.
When tired of swimming and snorkeling and in the need of stretching your legs, you can climb up the picturesque but not quite easy walk “percorso salute”. The first steps are above the marine center of the spiaggia or beach Biodola to the west of Portoferraio.
The steps lead up to a flagstone path which is pleasantly shaded by the brush and steep rock face on one side and precariously leaning fence parts and steep stairs to some rocks below on the other side. You overlook the entire bay and the many boats anchored there.
You continue up and quite soon you see the entrance to a sort of tunnel through the rocks, which are yellow and ferrous red in turns with a moist flooring, almost like in a mine. In between there is another lookout, but entirely without any barrier to the rocks below.
After emerging from the rock tunnel, the path is rather deteriorated, part of the path is broken away and at times there are only remnants, so be sure to wear proper shoes. The path winds around and goes up some more steps and you reach a dirt path under trees, leading to a small pebble beach with clear, deep-blue water and more ships and boats. Happy landing in Porticciolo!
No, don’t laugh, I am trying to be serious. Once it has turned “summer” here in Central Europe, meaning hot and humid and pending thunderstorms or even drought-like weather conditions, everybody starts moaning and groaning about the high temperatures, which often entail the growth of hookworms in the local lakes.
Now, how about imagining a giant worm, a Lindwurm, a kind of greenish Nessie rising high out of your nearest lake, like Loch Ness? I often get the feeling that people like to exaggerate the temperatures and the dryness or the dampness, whichever. I also often think that each giant Lindwurm sums up a lot of anxious feelings people have about their future and / or their environment. The big green worm encompassing all kinds of hidden feelings, being grumpy at work, being grouchy to friends and enemies alike, “green behind the ears” , a “greenhorn” when it comes to experiences that weren’t too agreeable, like a wasp sting here or worms in the box shrubs now. Only they are not quite as awful as the locusts that plagued the Egyptians back in the Old Testament.
Maybe we should consider the Scottish thistle as the better symbol of our summer stings, the thistle being thorny on the outside, but soft and edible on the inside with a lovely purplish color to boot, a delicacy for donkeys:
In 1503, the marriage of King James IV of Scotland to Princess Margaret Tudor of England, seems to have been the inspiration behind the poem entitled ‘The Thrissil and The Rois’ (‘The Thistle and The Rose’) penned by the Scottish poet William Dunbar. The thistle represented King James and the rose represented Princess Margaret.
Toward the middle of the same century, historians believe that Scotlands’ highest chivalric order was founded by King James V (son of King James IV), it’s name was ‘The Order of The Thistle’. It’s heraldic symbol was, not surprisingly, the humble thistle…..
Image Attribution: Wenceslaus Hollar (Public domain), via Wikimedia Commons
The official motto of this organization is‘Nemo me impune lacessit’, this Latin translates into ‘No one provokes me with impunity’ (or in Scottish-English ‘ Wha daur meddle wi’ me?’ ) which ties in perfectly with the original legend. (source: https://www.scottish-at-heart.com/scottish-thistle.html)
Whichever symbol you are in favor of, just remember, there is no need to make a mountain out of a molehill, so think like Merlin the Magician and use your head, forget about monsters and enjoy the flowers while they bloom.
sings Ringo Starr in his “Yellow Submarine” – how true, the best place in the world at times!
This was an Easter trip – unforgettable! We met a marine biologist working for Nature for the owners of the Coco Island near Malé, Maldives. She explained all the plastic garbage / rubbish/ microplastic awfulness in the Oceans of the World.
Meanwhile I am the proud owner of two cute stuffed turtle fellas and have actively filmed and photographed as many turtles as I could. I have also checked out the corals, dead near the Family Islands in the Great Barrier Reef, ditto in the Red Sea in the Coral Park, ditto but less less awful in Malé, near Denià I didn’t see much due to the wild tempestuous weather leaving a long deep scratch that took a year to heal (no big deal).
And yes, this is the place I’d like to be most. Not only because of the snorkeling, but because of the lovely people and the great meals and the wonderful surroundings and the fantastic bungalows etc. I made more friends here than in other places, which is why we are planning to come again. I also know of others who similarly make repeat visits.
The cotton turtles are only a reminder of what still needs to be done to save these and other animals from disappearing from the face of our planet. Treating trash and residue lightly or not recycling will have fatal consequences for us all some day. Yes, I am worried about my carbon footprints, but I have not yet learned to fly on my own, anybody out there who knows how? I just can’t wait to go back in the near future.
Okay, my Austrian girlfriend had put this tick into my ear: you ought to go to Bregenz and see the See. No, sorry, see the lake-theater (German: Seebühne) built right into the water. How cool can you get! Very!!
Yes, I can very much recommend it if you like Austria (CHECK, our backyard, unless our politicians come up with stupid ideas),
if you like operas (CHECK, especially if hubby is more into the mainstream operatic ones featuring real songs he can sing) (can he sing?),
if you don’t mind being cramped up for about 2 1/2 hours on the hard plastic seat (CHECK, don’t forget fat cushions and yoga class beforehand) (forget about breaks or walking or standing up in between),
if you had a yummy dinner (CHECK CHECK at La Scarpetta in Dornbirn and the Kleines Gasthaus am See, bliss, except fot the three screechers & wailers whose parents couldn’t care less about their offspring’s wails),
So, if you don’t mind all the above- mentioned things, then a weekend trip from Munich to Bregenz (about 2 1/2 hours cramped in a car) and lotsof extra cash is just the thing!
Our Travel Agency took out a chuck by charging our credit card the minute we booked with them.- that is a NO-NO. Normally, your card gets charged for 20% immediately as a kind of promise and the rest about a week or two ahead of the event. Our agency pretended now to know about this etiquette, but I had a long talk with them. After all, there such things as a Terminüberweisung and the bank will make sure the money is transferred right on time.
The hotel chosen in Dornbirn was the right size and category and not too far off from the Seebühne, about 20 km along the B 190, but had definitely seen better days and did NOT have AC. Nor did it have appeal. However, it boasts a very good breakfast, albeit missing the more expensive choices, but I don’t breakfast that much anyway, and the employees are nice and offer cushions and shuttle bus and those things you didn’t know you’d need.
Our escapism took us first to the interesting Rolls-Royce museum in Gütle (8,-€ adult), then the Seilbahn/ incline up the Karren of Gütle (Oh yes, the view iS WORTH it! free overlook in plastic over the precipice) and a great lunch of Lumpensalat (a sausage – cheese – red-onion- vinegar – oil dressing kind) with good beer and even better Almdudler (what? you don’t know the famous lemonade with herbs?).
The hot afternoon was spent in the Waldbad / Gütleright next to the river or creek without much water in this drought, but interestingly full of big and small smooth rocks and pebbles. The Waldbad offers many treats for families, well run.
“Carmen” by Bizet is most certainly in all the operatic books and Wiki. The scoop was the fantastic Bühnenbild/ backdrop done by a lady from London with two gigantic hands tossing the cards of fate. At times, the cards will be lowered at ground level to go partially underwater, so the crowd gets emphatic with skirt tossing and head banging and running and splashing each other, which is just the build-up of suspense to Carmen’s tragic end (how did the singer manage that death scene???) – no, I’m not cheating, you go there yourself, please!
When we left home with a plan to see the Blue Grotto of Capri, little did we realize what an adventure it would turn out to be. Our trip down through Italy in the summer of 2009 went over Rovereto to Pisa to Napoli, where we left our car (thanks again guys, ah me with my 10 words of Italian + noleggio!) for the week on car-less Capri (not yet car free, but thanks to all the microbus drivers!) , then up the steep Vesuvio (in open sandals! never again) and down to Pompei and Ercolano (Herculaneum) and other volcanic sites, leaving via Roma’s periphery, up though Perugia and back home. In other words, in one line down from North to South and then about the same way up till Roma, and then switching to the East side going home.
Then again, the trip itself is not worth commenting much on: the food was always semper buonísimo, the people gentle and pleasant, the sights and the leaning Tower of Pisa and the shoe shops (was that in the right order of importance?) were marvelous, I simply adored the big museum in Napoli, where the guide went out of his way to explain the sunlight beaming in the one corner of the large palace and to move according to the lines on the floor and tell the time and season. Our car park with the noleggio worked out wonderfully for the week on Capri, too.
No, the real story started in Napoli. We drove along the outskirts on a road parallel to the coastline, where we saw many day laborers, mostly black Africans, awaiting their turn to board trucks taking them to farms to do seasonal jobs like picking fruit. All along the road, the Napoletani had placed their garbage in plastic bags outdoors at the edge of their property, hoping the communal garbage collectors would at some time pick them up. Yes, they were smelly and yes, no one came and yes again, in the heat of the day they would begin to emanate a sort of white nebulous fume, like wisps of smoke, making the bit of wind there rather pestilent. Of course we wondered why the garbage was not being picked up, of course we thought “the communal workers are on strike for better pay.” No, we did not think of the Mafiosi.
When we finally arrived at our pre-booked destination, there were countless men and boys bordering the long winding driveway to the hotel at the top of the hill. AND they started shouting in excited voices, only then they saw the Münchner Kennzeichen/ the Munich license plate and an Audi to boot, with great disappointment in their faces they turned their backs on us to wait some more.
Well? well! the national Soccer Team has their home base in said hotel with their own kickoff grounds and were regular guests. So when one of said soccer guys walked into the dining area as if he were the King of Kreation, one Italian lady sent her reluctant daughter to get an item of clothing for an autograph. We, naturally, did not recognize said King; boy, did he look mad for a moment! Another soccer player tried to sneak in, dine, and sneak out again, I actually felt sorry for those who do not seek stardom.
Two days later we arrived by ferry on Capri, a lovely, yet really tiny islet. My husband was reverse-daunted by such a teeny-weeny place, but I suggested the Blue Grotto / La Grotta Azzurra first thing the next morning, and he felt a little better. And wonderful it was! As blue as it gets and a very nice gondoliere to explain things.
Only the next morning, i.e. Tuesday, all the gondolieri and the Guardia costale and the Carabinieri and just about everybody regarded with dismay all the garbage floating in the water around and within the Grotta. Since I couldn’t quite comprehend the newspaper articles, I asked around till I found a nice person to explain to me in not quite perfect English (but I could piece together the missing parts), that the Mafia was actually blackmailing the communal representatives to give them the job of “cleaning up”. It took the poor people exactly that one week of our stay to clean up, when we left, the very first tourists were being rowed over to the Grotta again.
The way we felt about this occurrence cannot be put into words. How unutterably sad.