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When Napoleon Bonaparte was forced to abdicate after losing the battle of Leipzig in 1814 he was rather generously given a new kingdom to rule over, albeit in exile. This was the tiny island of Elba, 20 km off the coast of Italy. Although he was only there for a year he still implemented a new system of farming and revived the army and navy. Clearly Napoleon did not know how to relax! Modern day visitors have ample opportunities to do so after catching a ferry across from Piombino (one and a half hours from Pisa).

The capital is Portoferraio, a wonderfully higgledy piggeldy coastal town of pastel coloured houses climbing up and around winding stone staircases. Legend has it that the old name for the port was Port Argo and this was where Jason and the Argonauts set off from. The whole island is verdantly green and abundant with wildflowers, so much so, it has its own perfume, Acqua dell'Elba, a lovely fusion of floral notes and ocean scents. Driving is not for the faint-hearted as the roads are as wiggly as a bowl of spaghetti, but it is worth making it to the top of Monte Cappane, for staggering views as far as Corsica and the other tiny islands of Montecristo and Pianosa. You can catch a cable car here. The drives are certainly scenic and oftentimes exhilarating.

The north-west coast is very unspoilt and Sant'Andrea is reminiscent of a Cornish fishing town with a steep descent to a small sandy cove. Another lovely town is Poggio, set amid chestnut woods, on a cool and shady hilltop, again with stunning views in all directions.

Elba is still part of Tuscany so you can expect the same delicious cuisine. The local honey is especially good. They also make their own cashmere knitwear on the island. For lovely mountain walks, quiet beaches (both sandy and pebbly) and really exceptional snorkelling you will be in seventh heaven. The sea beds around the bases of the cliffs host a rich variety of marine life. The waters are crystal clear and you can expect to find black, possibly even rare red coral, as well as starfish and shoals of Mediterranean species. For those who like some old-style pampering, there are Roman Baths at San Giovanni.

History enthusiasts will enjoy seeing the homes occupied by the exiled military genius. His summer house is decorated with sphinxes in homage to his successful Egyptian campaigns and there is also a theatre he helped to restore with his sister Pauline when he had run out of other things to do! His subsequent exile on St Helena in the middle of the Atlantic doubtless afforded far less scope for restoration. He must have wished he had never escaped.

You won't want to leave either.

Avoid the months of July and August when the island does get rather overcrowded. September is a lovely month to visit and also when the island celebrates "Elba isole musicale d'Europa" – the musical island of Europe – with events at dozens of different locations.

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