Thanks to its strategic and panoramic position, Volterraio is one of the most evocative and magical sites on the island, especially when visited at sunset.
Recently restored by the Tuscan Archipelago National Park, the Volterraio Fortress, one of the islanders’ favourite historical sites, is once again open for visitors.
The fortress stands 395 metres above sea level, giving the impression of having magically emerged from the rock. The site was chosen by the Etruscans to build a lookout post and, during this period, it was used as part of an intelligent and efficient network of fortified hilltop villages which seemingly communicated by lighting fires. The structure took on a definitive appearance at the end of the 13th century when the Maritime Republic of Pisa decided to redevelop it.
The unique panorama offers a birds-eye view of the central part of the island with its soft hills, the wide southern gulfs and the unique shape of the Gulf of Portoferraio, as well as the rugged island of Capraia and the isle of Corsica.
In the mid-15th century, presumably around the 1660s when the reinforcement of Elba’s defences had been ordered by Jacopo III Appiani, Lord of Piombino, the fortress was enlarged, taking on its current conformation. In 1544, the fortress was briefly besieged by Khayr al-Dīn and then, in 1553, by Dragut.
The military architectural complex served as a wide-ranging lookout along the northern coastline of the island and towards the sea. The complex continued to perform its functions in the 18th century, only to become a garrison for Napoleon’s troops at the end of the century. In 1798, an uprising against the French military led to the semi-destruction of the complex, which was then definitively abandoned.
What was once an impregnable fortress is now the perfect spot for views across Elba and the other islands of the Tuscan Archipelago. This breath-taking panorama along the eastern ridge of Elba stretches to the slender shape of the island of Pianosa and the austere silhouette of Montecristo. The unique location gives visitors a birds-eye view of the central part of the island with its gentle hills, wide southern gulfs and the unique shape of the Gulf of Portoferraio in front of the imposing Mount Capanne. Further to the right you can clearly see the rugged island of Capraia and, in the background, the snow-capped mountains of Corsica with Cap Corse jutting out to the north.
The Tuscan Archipelago National Park periodically organises guided tours of the Volterraio Fortress. For reservations, please contact InfoPark Tuscan Archipelago.
How to get there
Take the provincial road from Portoferraio to Porto Azzurro and turn left after about 6 km towards Magazzini / Bagnaia After a further 1.5 km turn right towards Rio nell'Elba. Note that this is a very steep road with sharp bends, so drivers should be very careful. On the left you will find a large open space where you can park your car and 50 metres further on, you will find a dirt track starts that leads to the Volterraio fortress. Note that you will need footwear suitable for rough terrain.
The Museum System in Portoferraio
History, Archaeology, Fortress