DAY 2: Elba, Portoferraio
According to the old adage, you only get one chance to make a first impression but, on board Wind Surf, that is simply not the case. So far, there are at least four major impressions of the initial kind, and all have been unfailingly positive.
Yesterday, of course, was embarkation day, back in Civitavecchia, and we were immediately wowed by the ship’s true sense of sea-going tradition as well as the impressive quality of our opening dining experiences, with lunch at the buffet-style Verandah and then dinner in main restaurant, Amphora.
This morning, even though the ship is sailing at close to its full 310-passenger capacity, we were seriously impressed at how calm and quiet it was in the Yacht Club, the ship’s casual coffee café that also serves pastries and sandwiches at breakfast. If ever there was a feeling we were sailing on our own private (and extremely expansive) yacht, this was it.
Sure, we had already docked in the heart of picture-postcard-pretty Portoferraio, the capital of the island of Elba, nicknamed ‘Napoleon’s Isle’ from the French Emperor’s 10-month exile in 1814. But we still expected more people to be thronging this mini social hub on our boutique bateau at 8.30 in the morning, with the first tours of the day still to depart.
And yet here we were, the only ones in the café, enjoying a quick (and tasty) breakfast before joining our tour. It was a sound testament to Wind Surf’s interior design, with plenty of space to enable people to spread out and find their own favourite corners and niches.
Just to top off all these favourable ‘first impressions,’ our shore excursion ran like clockwork, a beautiful drive into the heart of Elba to see where Bony was ‘incarcerated’ (in maximum comfort, it has to be said) following the Treaty of Fontainebleau, which basically said he had been a very, very bad emperor and deserved a severe smack on the wrist with the express order not to do it again. Which, naturally, he did 10 months later, leading directly to his Waterloo.
We learnt all this from our Italian tour guide, Amelia, who gave us the full historical insight into the island and its most famous former inhabitant, along with the current highlights, which included a trip to Porto Azzurro on the other side of the isle.
If Portoferraio is a feast for the eyes, its counterpart on the south coast is an absolute stunner, a classic Mediterranean fishing harbour that has blossomed into a cornucopia of inviting cafes and boutiques, all with that inimitable Italian style that is both chic and cheerful.
We have to confess to a moment of weakness, dear readers, as we passed the umpteenth ‘Gelateria Artigianale’. Despite the fact we had been more than capably fed and watered aboard our maritime exemplar, we were beguiled by the temptation of tiramisu and chocolate ice cream, and we concluded our trip with faces full of the most delicious gelato since, well, since we were last in Italy.
Safely back on board, we were able to idle our time back in the Yacht Club with a delicious Café Mocha and marvel at the huge edifice of the 16th century De’Medici Fortress that basically encompasses the heart of the original port city in a spectacular exhibition of impregnable fortifications.
As an example of classic period style and grace, it was the perfect accompaniment to Wind Surf’s prime location – and a wonderful counterpoint to our feelings of being truly cosseted in our own maritime marvel.
Simon & Susan