Explore the unique ancient iron mines of Italy’s Elba Island on foot, by train or even by donkey
A Mediterranean gem, Elba Island is the third largest of the Tuscan Archipelagos after Sardinia and Sicily. There’s an abundance of activities to enjoy on the island, many of which have been designed with families in mind.
One of the most exciting of these gives families the chance to marvel at the largest iron deposit in Europe. Visitors can explore the unique landscape of the mines on foot, by bike or train, or even on the back of a donkey.
Elba’s iron mines were closed in 1981, bringing almost two thousand years of activity to an end, and now Elba Underground (#Elbaunderground) has brought them back to life. The mines at Elba are thought to be the largest mining basin in the world, with 200 varieties of mineral and more than a twentieth of all the earth’s minerals present on the island, allowing families to take a real journey into history and science.
Tours of the mines include galleries and collections of minerals, as well as a mineralogical trekking path that leads to the stone processing plants, stone deposits, historical mining sites and dedicated museums.
There are also activities specifically for families, including family trekking routes. In the company of expert nature guides, children will feel like geologists as they collect minerals and search for precious stones with an ice axe!
Alternatively, there’s the option to take a train tour of the mining area. The 80-minute train ride takes passengers through the fascinating, Martian-like red landscape, allowing them to discover the most important and ancient mine on the island, Valle Give. During this trip, visitors can search for pyrite and hematite samples.
For those who prefer a more leisurely experience, there are routes along the granite roads, where you’ll discover the west coast on the back of a donkey, the ancient method used until the middle of the last century to travel the most inaccessible paths of the island.