Strange as it may seem, despite its mere 223,50 square kilometres, the Island of Elba is divided into seven communes (that up till 2017 were actually 8) reminding us once again that up till a few years ago Elba was nothing more than a cluster of single towns,each very different from the next, each with habits, customs and economy all of its own.
Take San Piero and Marciana for example, only a few kilometres one from the other, but each with a completely different life style and economy: the former has an economy based on granite extraction, the latter, a mountainous town surrounded by chestnut trees, has always based its economy on agriculture, woodcutting and sheep farming; and what about the huge difference between Rio, a mining town, Porto Azzurro, a Spanish outpost, and Portoferraio, the main town whose walls gave hospitality to Cosimo de' Medici and Napoleon.
Even today the differences between one town and another can be clearly seen in their customs, their food and in their dialects, making the island even more fascinating and exciting.
Some interesting facts
- The Island of Elba has a population of about 32.000, 12.000 of whom in the sole commune of Portoferraio.
- The biggest commune is that of Portoferraio while the smallest is Marciana Marina measuring only 5,86 square kilometres.
- The Island of Pianosa is part of the commune of Campo nell'Elba, while the Island of Montecristo is part of the commune of Portoferraio.
- The biggest beach on the Island of Elba is in Marina di Campo, while the beach of Bagnaia is "contended for" by Portoferraio and Rio nell'Elba.
- Napoleon Bonaparte was the first to unify the communes under one flag on the Island of Elba.
- In February 2011, the Category Associations of the Island of Elba got together and formed a Committee in favour of the regional law that would make the eight communes into one for all the Island of Elba. After the petition had enough signatures, a referendum was held on April 21st and 22nd, but 60,35% voted against a single commune so things stayed as they are.
- In 2017 the Mayors of Rio Marina and Rio nell'Elba organized a referendum so the two Communes could be made into one. The result of the referendum was approved by the Region on January 1st 2018, and since then the Commune of Rio became official.