The island of Elba has always been famous for the richness of its subsoil, and today the abandoned mining sites have become great tourist attractions.
Many of the beaches of Elba attract visitors because of their peculiar black and red color, which is due to the presence of iron sediments sparkling in the sun. Just to name a few, Terranera beach in Porto Azzurro, with the lake of the same name, the beaches of Cannello or Ginepro in Capoliveri and, on the side of Rio, the beaches of Topinetti and Cala Seregola.
Several itineraries retrace the island’s iron and granite routes, crossing highly suggestive, lunar landscapes with unique geological conformations. There is a large choice of bike and walking paths crossing the old disused mines of Capoliveri as well as guided excursions in the Rio Marina Mining Park, including mining sites and deposits.
The mining heritage can also be “tasted” in the island’s restaurants: the typical miners’ meals, the so-called “convio”, adapted to the present day, are served across the island; among the most popular dishes, the Sburrita di Baccalà and Gurguglione, which can be enjoyed in combination with other local specialties like the Schiaccia Briaca cake and the Aleatico wine.
Is it still possible to visit the quarries and the mines? Sure! After the closure of the mines in 1981, many of sites have become open-air or underground museums which can be partly visited.
Moreover, the old mining equipment and the most popular minerals are exhibited in various museums around the island.
– The Mining Park: the past literally shines in the landscape of Rio Marina. Three millennia of mining and geological heritage are preserved in this park, which was created as a conversion and development project of an area historically dedicated to the extraction of iron.
The park includes several mining sites, all of which can be visited with local guides, through different themed routes and landscapes. A must-do for families is a visit of Valle Giove with the “en plein air” train”; in this large open-air mining site, it is possible to get off the train and collect pieces of hematite and pyrite.
In Rio Marina, at the the headquarters of the Mining Park, you can also visit the Museum of Minerals and Mining Art, which preserves numerous samples of minerals, the recreation of mining environments and art works inspired by the mining activity of the Island.
The history of the exploitation of Elba’s mines and of the civilizations who have inhabited the island since the third millennium BC. is also the theme of the Archaeological Civic Museum of the Mining District, located in the town of Rio nell’Elba.
– The Calamita Mines and the Ginevro Tunnel: the Ginevro tunnel is the most important underground mining site on the island. Part of the “Calamita Mines” in the Capoliveri area, it was the largest magnetite mine in Europe and was in operation from 1971 to 1981. The gallery goes down to 54 meters below sea level, but visitors can only reach the level of 24 meters, exclusively in a guided tour. In the Capoliveri area, there are many other open-air mining sites overlooking the sea to be discovered, up to the Museum of the old Workshop. Here, the daily life and work in the mine has been preserved, as if time had stopped.
The Quarries and the Granite Roads: ancient granite quarries and a large number of works that make up a real open-air museum can be admired on the southern slope of Monte Capanne, from San Piero to Pomonte. There are numerous itineraries that run along the granite roads of Elba.
As opposed to the mines, the granite quarries continue to be active, especially in the village of San Piero, albeit to a lesser extent than in the past.
– The MUM – Luigi Celleri Mineralogical Museum: Located in the town of San Piero in Campo, the MUM collects and displays the large variety of minerals present on Elba. The museum frequently organizes excursions and guided tours to the various sites of mineralogical interest and along the granite routes. The museum also displays Elbaite, a special type of tourmaline of high gemological value that can only be found on the island. More recently, researchers have discovered another type of tourmaline unique in the world, which was named Celleriite as a hommage to Luigi Celleri, famous mineralogist from Elba to whom the museum is dedicated.