Hotel Ilio: the only boutique hotel on Elba

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Capo Sant’Andrea on Elba: a small island in an island

A narrow and tortuous road descends towards the sea, with a few houses surrounded by thriving and unspoilt nature... In Capo Sant’Andrea, the chestnut trees sweep right down almost to the coastline, a sign of the perfect combination of sea and mountains. This should not be surprising, as the area is located right at the feet of the highest mountains on Elba: Monte Capanne, Monte Cote and Monte Giove. Where the road ends is a beach with very fine sand and a small docking area with fishermen’s rowing boats. The scenery is beautiful: the water is so clear the seabed can be seen even in the deepest parts. At the sides of this splendid beach, a pathway dug out of the rocks leads to some rocks which are unique in the world; not the usual seaside rocks, but dunes in unusual shapes formed by orthoclase crystals set in granite magma which solidified seven million years ago – an ideal place to sunbathe in an almost lunar atmosphere.

Much can be said about Capo Sant’Andrea. Not by chance was it chosen as a settlement by the Etruscans; its geographical conformation and unique granite rocks provide good protection against attacks, defending from the wind off the sea, and are both a gateway to the Tyrrhenian and at the same time a refuge. These illustrious ancestors of ours came to Capo Sant’Andrea, which was then covered in forest and rich in water, to work the iron extracted in the eastern part of the island, as the abundance of wood enabled the furnaces to be properly and safely stoked. Even today, searching among the vines and shrubs, away from the tourist trail, one can still find traces of “skimming”, residues of the fusion process used by the Etruscans to purify iron. Later on, the Romans came across the sea, as proven by the discovery of two wrecks in Capo Sant’Andrea itself, from among the many which surely perished. The first of these two wrecks is right on the tip, at a depth of about 10 metres, and the second is about 45 metres below sea level. Many of the items found in the waters around Capo Sant’Andrea can now be admired in the small but interesting archaeological museum in Marciana.

The position of Capo Sant’Andrea, its orographical conformation and weather conditions – which are unique in their kind – make the entire area almost an “island in an island”, a place rich in treasures to be discovered. The seaside at Capo Sant’Andrea can be enjoyed as anywhere else on the island, on the two beaches at Capo Sant’Andrea and Cotoncello, or one can enjoy the adventure of reaching the coastline and the most beautiful rocks on Elba, also enjoying the fascinating world of the mountains between swims. Walking along the ancient pathways, restored and indicated by CAI and the Mountain Communities, which wind their way from the coastline to Monte Giove (which reaches a height of about 800 metres), an enormous range of flora and fauna can be encountered, providing unforgettable experiences to those who enjoy new challenges. Walking along the paths means discovering cyclamen, violets, flowering heather, anemones and juniper bushes; taking in the intense perfume of helichrysum and lavender, rosemary and mint; experiencing the fluttering flight of the red-legged partridge or surprising flocks of grazing mountain sheep, or even coming across an abandoned goat-pen or the remains of prehistoric settlements.

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