Elba was a lot of fun; it’s very biased toward beaches, but there are plenty of these, they are easy to get to and, generally, free. For my money, the best of these ones that we went to were Aquavivata (or something like that) and Sansone (next to each other — I swam to the latter) and Capo Bianco. Both of these are withing spitting distance of Portoferraio. which is the biggest town. It turns out that Capo Bianco is part of a marine reserve, which explains, with no fishing; this probably explains why the place was so rich with life that otherwise would have ended up on pasta. But, with a pebble beach, a slow sloping seabed still only 1 or 2m in depth some 50m from shore and with many rocks, and a headland it’s ideal for swimming and snorkelling.

As well as Elba, I got to Pianosa. This is an ex-penal colony, with no permanent residents. It’s a strange place, full of mystery and excellent snorkelling. It’s also full of history, occuring in two of my favorite books; first, Posthumous Agrippa was exiled and later killed here, as is told in I, Claudius. The exact site isn’t known, but the seem to have found his swimming pool. And, secondly, Pianosa is the setting for Catch-22, although it in reality, it’s too small to have contained the events; I didn’t manage to find out whether it was occupied during the war, but it didn’t have a airbase. The whole place is a marine reserve, and the snorkelling was the only place which beat Capo Bianco. Beautiful though Pianosa is, there is a fly in the ointment, which is the Zecce on the island; the place is infested with ticks, which means that you have a reasonable chance of coming home with a blood-sucking monstrosity attacked to any accessible capillary.

After Elba, I’ve come to Lake Garda. All the Italians are complaining that it’s caldissimo; of course, back in Newcastle, they all complain it’s not hot enough. Never satisfied with the weather; just like the British.

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