The municipality of Porto Azzurro is in the central-eastern part of the Island of Elba. Visitors arriving in the town by sea or by land will immediately notice the massive San Giacomo Fort, built in the early 17th Century atop the promontory that dominates the town by the Spanish, who wished to control and defend the surrounding area. In the late XIX Century the fort became a civilian prison, and it was for this reason that in 1947, when Elba’s tourist industry was in its infancy, the decision was taken to change the village’s name from Porto Longone to the more appealing Porto Azzurro. The resort hoped to create a new image for itself and break away from its old associations with the penitentiary.
The charming seaside town grew up at the foot of the fort. The central Piazza Matteotti, overlooking the sea and recently renovated, provides a fine view of the marina, which hosts magnificent yachts in summer but is still very much alive in winter with fishing vessels and small craft. The sea front is lined with exclusive, picturesque restaurants built on stilts, while among the many narrow streets with their wealth of shops visitors will admire the Parish Church of the Madonna del Carmine and the Sacro Cuore di Maria Oratory, both dating from the XVIII Century.
Not far from the town is the Madonna di Monserrato Sanctuary, another important reminder of Spanish rule, built in 1606. Standing in fragrant, green natural surroundings, it provides a wonderful view reaching down to the sea.
The coastline around Porto Azzurro boasts unique places of natural beauty such as “Terranera” beach, famous in particular for the green Pool of the same name, which owes its colour to the minerals it contains, accessible by a path from Reale beach. Other famous beaches in the area include Barbarossa; with a mixture of sand and shingle, it is a quiet location with every amenity, provided by its beach clubs and restaurants.
Not to be missed ….
…. the “Festa del Pescatore” [“Fishermen’s Festival”]. On 25 July, to celebrate the local patron saint’s day, the streets and squares of Porto Azzurro are thronged with stalls selling food and drinks. Religious ceremonies in honour of the saint (Saint James) follow.
The feast day of the Madonna del Monserrato is also celebrated with great enthusiasm. As well as the formal religious procession, the town’s various associations also organise a large number of events on 8 September every year.