From Porto Azzurro to the Sanctuary of Monserrato
The departure point for this circular itinerary is the town of Porto Azzurro, a picturesque marina on the eastern side of Elba. The route begins in the heart of the old Porto Longone, an ancient, fortified landing place, used in the 17th century by the Spanish to control the Gulf of Mola.
The trail starts at the foot of the old San Giacomo fortress, which houses a prison facility, and continues along a well’knoen road. It follows the southern and eastern bastions down to the sea near Barbarossa beach, which still bears the name of the famous Turkish pirate who ravaged the Mediterranean coast in the first half of the 16th century. The route crosses hills and old cultivations, now mostly abandoned. From the path you have extraordinary views over the wide, ancient bay of “Longone”, the beautiful beach of Naregno, Forte Focardo and Monte Calamita.
At the pretty Barbarossa lido, we continue along the small road that leads to the provincial road system. Crossing it, a short distance away, we take another country lane that leads into the gradually narrowing Monserrato valley. On the way, we come across an imposing stone pine, a magnificent, centuries-old plant. The climb becomes steeper and soon the little church of the Madonna di Monserrato appears, crowning a rocky hillock in the centre of the valley. In the background, steep mountains suddenly rise up: these are not very high mountains, but it is the particular conformation of the place, the perfect situation of the Sanctuary in the centre of the gorge, the bristling structure of the reliefs that transmit a sense of wonder to the hiker. At the base of the small hill topped by the Sanctuary, the trail climbs up the flanks of the wild Monte Castello, characterised by its crumbly rocks. This is the most difficult part of the itinerary, since the path, after passing through an ilex grove, then winds along the bare rock. A large, flat grassy square with some pine trees concludes the most challenging part of the route. From here we continue in a southerly direction on the forest track (path no. 63), which is a section of the Grande Traversata Elbana.
The comfortable path affords beautiful views of the slopes covered with Mediterranean scrub and the Gulf of Portoferraio. Descending slightly, you come to a junction where you take the path that descends further and leads you south-east to the village of Porto Azzurro.
Sanctuary of Monserrato
A sanctuary of Spanish origin that will fascinate you with its many stories to tell. Recently restored, the festival of the Madonna di Monserrato is celebrated here on 8 September.
Until 1947 Porto Azzurro kept the ancient name of Portolongone, a name that was assigned to it the year of its foundation, in 1603 by Philip III of Spain who wanted to make it a kind of fortification to defend the territory. Today Porto Azzurro is a characteristic fishing village, surrounded by golden beaches and the deep blue waters of the sea.
Fort St. James
The Fort dates back to the 17th century, when Porto Longone was under Spanish rule. It was built in 1603, under the direction of the Viceroy of Naples Giovanni Alfonso Pimentel de Herrera, and was intended to strengthen the defence system and control maritime traffic. Today it houses a penitentiary, which is still in operation, and from the outside you can enjoy a beautiful view of the island's east coast.
Barbarossa beach is enclosed in a small, green bay facing south in front of the Calamita peninsula.