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Travel Story: Our new walking tour from Pisa to Elba

Christina tells of her wonderful experiences on the Tuscan coast
Flower meadow on the Monti Pisani

It's hard to believe what versatile hiking areas there are on the Tuscan coast. On the walking tour from Pisa to Elba, something completely different from the well-known areas such as South Tyrol and Trentino awaits you. Certainly no high mountains, but still an exotic selection of wonderful hiking impressions on the hiking holiday in Tuscany.

Flower meadow on the Monti Pisani

Let's start at the Leaning Tower

The Leaning Tower is still crooked, but for me as a mountain enthusiast it is less attractive than the surrounding Monti Pisani (the Pisan Mountains), for these are a true paradise for hikers. Although they only rise to an altitude of 500 - 800 metres, they are a remarkable mountain massif, high above the plain of the Arno river. There is the "Sentiero Pisano, number 00", which leads me through extensive chestnut forest and lonely hills to the Dante Pass. Around Passo Croce I experience the barren plateau with distant views of Pisa and rocky slopes with fragrant herbs. Then I'm with Dante, who must have enjoyed the view here as much as I did. Down I go to San Giuliano Terme, where I have an espresso in a bar - it's a must in Italy, no matter how many you've had before. 😊

Hiking route in the hills of Livorno

Traversing the Livorno Hills

The next day starts in Quercianella, a small village on the coast. Apart from a brief view of the rocky coast and the salt in the air, the sea is still hidden from me. I'm about to walk into the valley and turn my back on the water. A sandy dust road leads me deep into the Colli Livornesi (the hills of Livorno). There, oak forests and solitude await me again. Wonderful! I feel comfortable here and am not afraid. But if you're more into a big hiking party, you won't be happy here. I also have to take my own provisions today, as there are no places to stop for refreshments. Instead, the singing of the birds and the rustling of the leaves is my valued company. Up and down we go over the high plateaus of the Pian dei Lupi (Plateau of the Foxes).

I follow a rocky path over the flanks of the hills, from where the view stretches far inland. Sheep graze in the distance, I see no people. I continue over to Poggio Pelato, the bare mountain made of volcanic rock, which offers a fantastic view of the blue sea and the green hills. I hike down into the valley on gravel tracks made of black stones. In the evening I am in Castiglioncello, one of my favourite places in Tuscany. On the very nice Piazza Centrale, there is of course coffee in all varieties again. As usual, a typical Italian café-bar is my first port of call.

And then I jump into the waters of the sea. Refreshing and invigorating. Salt water on my skin and sand on my feet. This is how a hiking day on the coast must end!

Coastal and beach hiking par excellence

The following day, a real coastal hike is finally on the agenda. I cross seemingly endless pine forest before passing through a seaside resort of the classic kind, with hotel castles and beach bars, where all hell breaks loose in summer and I now have everything to myself. With luck, one bar is open. So at least I get my classic cappuccino.

I continue through the sand. It's a fun change and very varied, depending on whether you walk along the water's edge, the dune or in the middle of the beach. The ground is sometimes soft, sometimes hard, sometimes wet, and it always goes along the sea. Sometimes it's a bit tiring, but (as I walk barefoot) the foot massage is already included. I cross the Oasi di Bolgheri nature reserve and am completely alone with the seagulls and the waves. I already see my hotel on the beach and walk straight from the beach to my room with sea view.

Coastal path

On the trail of the Etruscans

For the next stage, I am picked up at the hotel and taken to Baratti, the ancient port of the Etruscans, which lies directly below the famous archaeological sites of Populonia. Today, a rocky, furrowed, forested promontory separates me and my destination: the Promontorio of Piombino. Even the first steps are spectacular, and it gets better and better: narrow paths wind along the steep coast, fantastic deep views of the sea and fragrant macchia accompany me. Again and again I descend to lonely bays and climb back up into the forest on the other side. Up and down I go with a view of Elba, the island is already directly in front of me.

I meet a couple of mountain bikers on a wild ride towards the valley, at the rest area two sweaty holidaymakers are sitting on their way back from the beach. I take a break at Spiaggia Lunga beach and descend to the sea. Here I have everything to myself. There are no places to stop, but fortunately I have enough provisions with me. The route is quite demanding, but I love the rocky wilderness. When civilization and the bar at Calamoresca finally appear, I'm glad. Now I take a coffee break and then it's off to the hotel.

Boat trip to Elba

The ferry takes me in a leisurely hour across the sea to Portoferraio, the main town on the island. On deck, I let the wind blow around my nose. I watch the approaching fortress on the peninsula and the docking manoeuvres of the harbour staff. I take a taxi to my destination, Porto Azzurro, and am back at the hotel by noon. It is surprisingly hot for this time of the year, so I first take a dip in the pool and then set off for a hike.

Ferry ride on Elba

Pure colour exoticism

Today's tour is really phenomenally beautiful, so much so that it is impossible to put it into words. It leads on promenade paths along the sea to the beach of Barbarossa and further on gravel paths over to Terranera, the "black earth". Everything there is exotic and colourful. A bright green lake, the deep blue sea, the black sand and the red earth create a picture that you simply have to see for yourself. I go back the same way, it's so beautiful! I stop for a swim at Spiaggia Barbarossa, and on the way back I stroll through the beautiful alleys of the fishing village of Porto Azzurro and, of course, stop at the coffee bar at the harbour.


High trails and summit ridges

On the circular walk on Elba, I can't decide which of the many options to choose. Or do I just want to lie on the sunny terrace right by the pool after a hearty breakfast and then go to the beach? No, because I can extend my holiday for that! Today I'm going hiking - and I won't regret it!

Directly behind Porto Azzurro is a mountain range of reddish rock. I walk leisurely through vineyards towards it until I come across the route of the GTE (Grande Traversata Elbana), the complete crossing of Elba. I follow it for a while until the gigantic Castello di Volterraio comes into my field of vision, a ruined castle built high up on a rocky spur, like an imposing eagle's nest!

At the pine tree square I have to decide: I take the alpine path over the summit ridge to the huge cross of Monte Croce. The steps are well secured, but require the utmost attention. Again and again I stop and marvel at the surroundings: wild goats jumping around on the rocks, the hermitage Madonna di Monserrato hidden in the narrow valley deep below me and the summit ridge and the sea in front of me. At the top, I am almost above the harbour of Porto Azzurro and can clearly see the fortress, the boats and my hotel. After the summit rest, I descend on pleasant paths through a pine forest and reach Porto Azzurro along the promenade path. The obligatory cappuccino is now due at the piazza - and today there's a big ice cream to go with it, after all, the successful hiking trip must be duly celebrated. 😊

Panorama return flight with the mini-plane

Normally the return journey is always more of a nuisance than fun, but this time I'm looking forward to it: Because I'm going to fly! And I'll be flying on a mini-plane from the airfield in Elba. It's not an international airport, because it only has a small runway. The pilot is still having breakfast at the bar, then everything happens very quickly at check-in. We are only six passengers and have a wonderful panoramic flight. A good half hour in the air, where I can once again observe my wandered coastal region, the harbour and even the hotel in Piombino from a bird's eye view. And then I'm already at the destination airport and on to the train station. A really exciting experience! I enjoyed it very much.

Hiking selfie from Christina

It was great!

After the warmth in the south, the misty grey autumn greets me in the north. I look forward to my bathtub and a few days of relaxation at home before it's time for the big office work and follow-up to the trip.

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