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The Best Places To Live On Elba Island, Italy, As An Expat

In the North of Italy, just off the Tuscan coast, there is a hidden gem called the island of Elba. Elba is famous for its great beaches and glistening waters. It has settlements spread all over the islands which are all charming Italian towns with great food of course.

Let’s talk about what life on Elba is like and where you should live here.

What Elba is like

Elba has often been called a small charming island and is famous for its beaches, some of which are even over a kilometer long.

It is located just off the Tuscan coast which is in the North of Italy. It has been getting more and more traction over the last couple of years as it has become increasingly popular and loads of people have decided to explore it.

The general atmosphere on the island varies depending on the season as there is a spike in a lot of the activities during the summer months due to the arrival of tourists.

Even though the island slows down a bit during the winter, the towns on the island are all quite picturesque and have a charming Italian vibe to them. The population of the island is relatively low and spread out along its coast. 

Where should I live on Elba?

Elba is a pretty small island so the scenery and overall vibe do not change so much from town to town, but more from season to season with the arrival of tourists.

Living in Elba - Porto Azzurro
Porto Azzurro – the view from the hill.

The only major differences in lifestyles usually depend on two factors, population and if you live inland or by the sea.

If you like living in a community, the locations listed down below are some great ones to definitely consider as they are almost all by the coast and have gorgeous beaches and wildlife.

If you are looking to move to an island and have the sea at your doorstep but still want quite a sizable town around you, I would recommend Portoferraio or Porto Azzurro.

Marina di Campo is great for nature enthusiasts.

1. Portoferraio

Portoferraio is the capital of the island.

Even if you have never heard of it or even of Elba, I am sure that you know who Bonaparte Napoléon is. The French emperor spent a part of his exile on Elba and more specifically in Portoferraio leaving behind many majestic buildings.

The city has also been of importance to many other civilisations through the centuries such as the Romans, the Greeks and even the Etruscans which have all left behind traces of their existence. Most of these spots have been turned into popular tourist attractions.

Being the largest city on the island and having direct connections to the mainland, it also has the most job opportunities and better provided in terms of healthcare and infrastructure.

Portoferraio is home to various high schools making it the best place to live for families with children. However, due to all of the infrastructure, it is one of the most expensive places to live on the island, at around €700 a month per person without rent. If you want to buy, a medium sized 2-bed apartment here costs around €260,000.

2. Porto Azzurro

Porto Azzurro won’t disappoint when it comes to beaches. Like its name already says (Porto Azzurro translates to Light blue/turquoise port) the water is magnificent over here, it is crystal clear and the temperature of the water in August is around 25 Celsius.

This attracts many tourists making it a very frequented place during the summer months with a lot of restaurants, bars and fun activities.

Porto Azzurro with its narrow streets and a pretty marina has been called the most beautiful town on the island.

The town has shops, restaurants, bars, local markets and a couple of schools for younger children. It would be a great place to live if you work remotely and love the beach and plenty of fun activities as you could be lying on your back floating in the water five minutes after closing your laptop.

3. Marina di Campo

Marina di Campo is a town on the south side of Elba and home to the longest beach on the island. The over 1 kilometer stretch of sand is a paradise for swimming and attracts many tourists each year.

Living on Elba - Marina di Campo
Streets of Marina di Campo, Elba Island.

Living here can be great if you enjoy nature but also love some great entertainment as there is a lot of it in the summer months due to the tourists. It could be the perfect place for you if you work remotely or are a retiree as there are not many jobs here. 

Marina di Campo is a perfect place if you want to live by the sea and have enough services to stay comfortable as it has grocery stores and a small shop area.

4. Capoliveri

Capoliveri is yet another calm, serene and historic town on the island of Elba. It sits on top of the hill and boasts amazing views.

The city that dates back to the Roman Empire is also pretty famous for its wineries and of course its wine which is produced locally and simply delicious.

It is one of the best places if you ask me to have a delicious dinner of white wine and fresh fish.

It also has a small elementary school for young kids. However, I would not really recommend it for families but more for retirees.

5. Marciana Marina

Marciana Marina is a small, historic and very charming small island town. It is located towards the North East of the island and is at sea level.

Living on Elba - Marciana Marina
Marciana Marina

It has a couple of essential shops, restaurants and caffès. There are also quite a few historical sites in the town that date back a couple of centuries.

It is honestly quite similar to Capoliveri, the only difference being its closeness to Monte Capanne which is a great panoramic lookout point.

6. Marciana Alta

Unlike all of the other towns on this list, Marciana Alta is not by the sea. It is the highest town on the island at 375m above sea level.

Marciana Alta is the starting point for the gondola that leads to Mount Capanne from where you can see stunning views on a sunny day.

This is a perfect place if you are looking for a simpler and quite life.

There are also usually fewer tourists in Marciana Alta than in other locations. You might enjoy all this if you are a retiree who doesn’t really like a constant hustle and bustle but who still likes the beach as the closest one is only about a 10 min drive away.

The town is not ideal for families or people who enjoy busy lifestyles as there are no schools and not a lot of infrastructure.

Is Elba well-connected with the mainland?

The island of Elba is really close to the mainland, it is only around 40km away on average.

Most people decide to travel there by ferry but there is also a small airport in Marina di Campo.

The easiest way is to take the ferry from Piombino as it is the closest city on the mainland to the island.

There are four major ferry companies: Moby Lines, Toremar, Blu Navy and Corsica Ferries which are all pretty similar.

The journey from Piombino to Elba is between 20 min-1h, depending on where on the island you go to. Prices are also pretty low, it is around €15 per person and around €50 if you board with a normal sized car.

These vary of course depending on the season, time of day and your vehicle’s brand and model. Just be sure to fill out the information about your vehicle correctly as they do random checks and unfortunately tend to make up for the low fares with fines.

It is also almost always better to buy your tickets in advance, especially if you are planning to take your car or any other big vehicle during the high season as the ferries fill up quickly.

It’s also worth keeping in mind that residents and second-home owners can enjoy reduced ferry-tickets depending on a provider.

If huge ferries are not for you or you want to get to the island directly it is possible to book direct flights to the island with several major airlines that fly to Elba a couple of times a day.

Flight times are generally not more than 3h from most places in Europe.

Is Elba expensive?

Pricewise living in Elba can be very different from simply going there as a tourist.

Monthly costs vary between €400-700 per person without rent.

Things such as rent and buying property are a bit cheaper than in Italian cities but some leisure activities can be pricey in the high season due to the demand.

Renting a 3 bedroom apartment usually costs around €1000 and the price per square meter tends to vary between €3000-5000 depending on location.

The tourists have so much influence over the island that some restaurants and bars even change their prices from one season to another.

Overall, when you know your way around the island you should have no problem enjoying everything Elba offers without breaking the bank.

Amenities and public services

You will find the police, the Emergency Medical Service and Fire Services all over the island with a branch in every municipality.

There is a post office in almost every town, as are bank branches, cash machines and currency exchange offices.

You can find small local shops scattered all over the island, however, for the best shopping experience everyone goes to Portoferraio.

There’s a major hospital in Portoferrairo with an emergency ward.

Mobile connection is generally good as there are aerials all over the island. WiFi is also available with some areas enjoying a fibre optic connection.

There is no natural gas on the Island of Elba. You will have to buy gas in cylinders which can be very pricey.

Final thoughts on living on Elba

When you think of Italian islands the first ones that you probably think of are Sardinia and Sicily, both are of course wonderful places (like all Italian islands) but Elba is something else!

Living in Elba is quite unique and special. The small island has magnificent beaches and a great variety of activities in the summer. It is very well connected to the mainland which is reachable by plane or ferry.

The towns on Elba are all relatively small but the biggest one Portoferraio does have all the necessary infrastructure. The Elbani (inhabitants of Elba) are also usually very nice and welcoming towards foreigners. 

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