The Romans on Elba

Since the decline of the Etruscan civilization, Romans inherited the iron industry, exploited the granite quarries and discovered the curative mud baths of San Giovanni Thermae, the beauty of the landscape and excellent wines. "The Island of good wine" said Pliny the Elder.

In this age flourished an intense traffic of ships loaded with amphorae: many of which are preserved nowadays in the Archaeological Museums of Portoferraio and Marciana, which together with other surprising sea treasures, tell the history of ancient navigation. In the most scenic gulfs of the island, Romans built the stunning patrician villas of Linguella, Grotte and Capo Castello, now as then, charming places.

The Romans called Elba "Ilva" and, during the first centuries of domination, continued the utilization of its mineral heritage. They founded the first trading posts on each island of the Archipelago, and then started a forerunner tourist tradition. The patrician houses start rising significantly leaving today fascinating remains in Giannutri, Pianosa and Elba.

At the fall of the Roman Empire, the trades in the Archipelago decreased the population underwent a remarkable demographic crisis which became responsible for the depopulation of almost all the islands.

The eclipse of the iron from Elba

During Roman times the Tyrrhenian mining district suffered from the general crisis that involved the entire Italic mining industry. The competition against Spanish industries led to a progressive reduction in production, which definitively ended with a law mentioned by Pliny the Elder (Nat. Hist. III, 20, 138; XXXIII, 21, 78). A confirmation of the progressive dismantling of the iron activity in Populonia, is given by the the geographer Strabo, who lived in the Augustan period, and describes the area as a poor town with mines, scattered around, appearing abandoned for long time (Geog. V, 2, 7 ).

The territory experienced, in fact, a different type exploitation focused this time on farming: it is proved by the many ruins of villas on the islands (such as the Villa delle Grotte in Portoferraio) and along the coast.

The situation didn't changed during the Roman Empire: the traveler Rutilio Namaziano arrived in Populonia in the winter of 417 AD, in front of an abandoned town, where «you can no longer recognize the monuments erected in the past, huge buildings have been consumed by the greedy time, and only survives the trace of the time spent between collapsed and destructed walls, where roofs are lying buried in vast ruins.»

Saint John pieve

Saint John pieve

It is an ancient XII century pieve, an important Romanesque remain between Sant’Ilario town and San Piero town.

Linguella villa

Linguella villa

Remains of an ancient Roman villa stood between the I century BC and the III century AD at the entrance to the port of Portoferraio.

Villa delle Grotte

Villa delle Grotte

First century BC Roman luxury villa dominating the gulf of Portoferraio


The Roman villa of the Grottos, with his always visible remains gave its name to the promontory on which it stands in a panoramic position in front of the ...

Villa di Capo Castello

Villa di Capo Castello

From Capo Castello, a panoramic view on the sea and country of Cavo

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