GETTING THERE: The best route to Elba is to fly to Milan or Rome, then connect to Pisa, where you can rent a car and drive about 60 miles south to the ferry port. From D.C., such airlines as Air France, US Airways and Alitalia offer service, with fall rates starting at about $670 round trip.
Ferries run regularly for the one-hour trip from the Tuscan port of Piombino to Portoferraio on Elba. Round-trip adult fare is about $16. You can take your rental car with you on the ferry for as little as $1.25 on the region's largest ferry operator, Moby. For reservations and information: www.moby.it.
GETTING AROUND: Island rental companies such as Spazio Mare (www.spaziomare.it) not only rent cars but also dinghies, motor boats, sailboats, scooters and mountain bikes. Economy car rentals run about $50 per day.
WHEN TO GO: Elba's high season is May through September. Avoid peak periods of June (German vacations) and the last three weeks of August (Italian vacations.)
WHERE TO STAY: Elba has all manner of holiday accommodations, including a string of four-star resorts. For a splurge, check out the Hotel Villa Ottone (Loc. Ottone, Portoferraio, 011-39-0565-933-042, www.villaottone.com), based in a 19th-century seaside villa. Nightly rates are about $120 to $200, depending on room and season, and include breakfast and dinner.
We found an incredibly natural seaside setting at reasonable prices at Hotel da Giacomino (Loc. S. Andrea, Capo Sant'Andrea, 011-39-0565-908-010, www.hoteldagiacomino.it) on the island's northwestern tip. Rooms are $60 to $100, based on season, and include breakfast and dinner.
In southeastern Elba, the Hotel Capo di Stella (Loc. Capo di Stella, Capoliveri, 011-39-0565-964-052, www.capodistella.com) is a handsome, modern hotel on a choice panoramic point surrounded by sea and nature. Doubles with terraces overlooking the sea start at about $85 per night in low season (April, May and most of September); breakfast included.
WHERE TO EAT: In the delightful little port of Marciana Marina, Ristorante Rendez Vous (Piazza della Vittoria 1) serves up fresh fish, seafood, homemade pasta and Elban specialties from its relaxed terrace on the bay. Lunch or dinner is about $24 per person, plus wine.
In Porto Azzuro, the Elban seafood place with a Michelin reputation is La Lanterna Magica (Via Vitaliani 5), built on stilts over the bay. Lunch or dinner runs about $35 a person, plus wine. We discovered impossibly thin-crust pizza in an impossibly cool postmodern Italian beach party atmosphere at Essenza Ristorante-Pizzeria (Lacona Beach). Individual pizzas are about $7 to $10 and full meals about $25. Friday nights, enjoy elaborate Elban menus and wines at a fixed price of about $42 per person.
NAPOLEONIC MUSEUMS: Follow the steps of the emperor's exile at two of Napoleon's residences in Portoferraio. Just above the city center is the Palazzina dei Mulini (Piazzale Napoleone; admission about $3.50), with majestic views and a few period pieces. A short drive outside town is Villa San Martino (Loc. San Martino; about $3.50), a country manor now hidden from view by a colossal neoclassical structure built as a museum after Napoleon's death. It's worth a trip just for Napoleon's Egyptian Room.
INFORMATION: Elba Island Web Site, www.infoelba.com. Italian Government Tourist Board, 212-245-5618, www.italiantourism.com.
-- Robert V. Camuto