Capoliveri: a jewel of Elba Island amid mines and beaches

Capoliveri is situated in the southeast part of Elba Island, in the Tuscan Archipelago. Strategically located on top of a ridge at 167 meters above sea level, Capoliveri was founded as a fortress in the Etruscan-Roman era, from which it was possible to control the southern and western seas, and in some higher places also the northern sea and the town of Portoferraio. It was inhabited by the Etruscans thanks to the considerable economic importance of the iron mines and renamed Caput Liberum by the Romans, meaning sacred to Bacchus (in fact, Bacchus was also called Liber and since ancient times it has been a land of vineyards and fine wine). Today, it is one of the major tourist destinations in the National Park of the Tuscan Archipelago thanks to the many beaches and coves, but also to the historical and cultural places of interest. Capoliveri covers 38 square kilometres and it’s perfect for those who love small villages, crystal-clear seas and the mountains. The village has kept its medieval appearance, with narrow streets, intricate ups and downs, and a main square, piazza Matteotti, a perfect viewpoint over the roofs of the village.
The hamlet of Capoliveri [luiginter]
The hamlet of Capoliveri [luiginter]

Main sights

Piazza Matteotti: It is the centre of the village and is surrounded by bars, restaurants and shops. Tourists gather here, but it is also frequented by Capoliveri residents. You can’t possibly leave without having taken a photo of Capoliveri from here! San Michele Church: During the Middle Ages, Pisans fortified Capoliveri to protect it from the continuous attacks of Saracen pirates. Proof of that period are the remains of the Romanesque San Michele church, in particular the apse, just outside the village. One of the most important historical facts about this place is a mass held here in 1376 by Pope Gregory XI. Focardo Fortress: The fortress was built by the Spanish in 1678 and was used as a defensive system in the Gulf of Mola. This coastal fortification is situated near the village of Naregno. Today, it belongs to the Navy. Sanctuary of Madonna delle Grazie: The sanctuary was built during the 16th century and has a Latin cross plan with an Eastern-style dome. You can easily reach it along a paved road, two kilometres from the centre. You can also approach it via a very steep pedestrian street that is medieval in origin. Mount Calamita: It owes its name to magnetite, the mineral in rich abundance in local mines. It is 413 meters high and is situated in the south-eastern part of the island. The promontory is known for the presence of iron extracted since Etruscan times and the entire area is protected by UNESCO for the quantity and mineralogical variety that characterizes Mount Calamita. The abundance of magnetite in the area has contributed to the stories of shipwrecks along the coast. According to island lore, the mineral attracted the metal parts of ships, making them crash fatally against the cliffs of Punta Calamita. Ginevro Mine: The Ginevro Mine overlooking Mount Calamita is the only underground tunnel on Elba Island that can still be visited today. It is 54 meters deep below sea level. Work began after the Second World War to extract a large deposit of magnetite, a mineral with a high percentage of iron. The excavation is on several levels of galleries. Il Museo della Vecchia Officina (The Museum of the Old Laboratory): Along the old miners’ road there is a small museum located inside the mine’s mechanical laboratory. It tells the story of the life and traditions of the miners of Mount Calamita. Here you can find some typical working environments and an archive with documents and old maps. The museum can be reached by car from the village following the road to the mine, or with hiking and biking trails. It is open every morning from 9:30 am to 12:30 pm, from June to October. The beaches: Capoliveri and its surroundings are famous for the wonderful beaches of the area. Going in the direction of Marina di Campo you come across the beaches of Norsi and Acquarilli, divided by a panoramic promontory, and the Gulf of Lacona with its long sandy beach. Moreover, Capo Stella and Capo Fonza are a paradise for divers. On the western side of Capoliveri there are the beaches of Madonna delle Grazie, Zuccale, Barabarca, Morcone, Pareti and Innamorata. On the eastern side there are the beaches of Straccoligno and Naregno.
Capoliveri by night [Photo Credits: Claudia Colnago on ViviCapoliveri Faceboo page]
Capoliveri by night [Photo Credits: Claudia Colnago on ViviCapoliveri Faceboo page]

Events

Capoliveri Legend Cup: a weekend of May It is a series of mountain bike races along the steep streets of Capoliveri and around Mount Calamita. Read more here. Festa del Cavatore: the weekend before Pentecost This event celebrates the ancient mining origins of the Island. Every year on the Sunday before Pentecost, a group of men dressed as quarryman walk through the streets of Capoliveri with the Convio (light meal) in the basket, singing the “romanza del cavatore” (the romance of the quarryman). This festival pays homage to the history of the village remembering the years of hard work in the mine. Festa dell'Inamorata: July 14 The event is connected to the legend of Lorenzo and Maria, a young couple of lovers. The story of the Innamorata relives between tradition and legend and takes us back to the Middle Ages, when the island was shaken by wars and invasions. In that period, two young people from different social backgrounds, Lorenzo and Maria, in love and thwarted by their respective families, must give up their love forever. A pirate ship kidnapped Lorenzo and the desperate Mary fell into the sea, leaving her shawl on a rock. Domingo Cardenas, a young Spanish exiled in Capoliveri in the second half of the 17th century, was fascinated by the legend and decided to revive their love each July 14, when a thousand torches light up the land and the sea in search of the two young lovers. Festa dell’uva (Grape feast): October 2-4, 2015 Three days of events, games and races among the local “rioni” (neighbourhoods) of Capoliveri. It is a great opportunity to taste local wines and many other traditional products and to get to know a true Capoliveri with all its inhabitants participating in the event.
A view from Capoliveri [Photo Credits: ViviCapoliveri Facebook page]
A view from Capoliveri [Photo Credits: ViviCapoliveri Facebook page]

Tip

During summer it can be really hard to find a car park near the beaches. For this reason Capoliveri has an extensive bus service that takes you to the numerous beaches of its territory for 1.50€ each way; it is called Marebus. It operates from June to September.