Immediately after casting off from Portoferraio, seafarers can decide whether to circumnavigate the island clockwise or anticlockwise; the wind direction will be the deciding factor.
With the Mistral, a typical summer wind, it is better to turn westward, to the white-sand beaches of Sansone, Sottobomba, Capo Bianco, then rounding Capo Enfola to the large, sheltered bay of Viticcio. Further on come the long beaches of Biodola and Procchio, just after the harbour and town of Marciana Marina, a charming holiday resort on the north-west coast. This is followed by the elegance and charm of Capo Sant’Andrea, with its wind-honed granite cliffs, the start of a beautiful, wild, harsh coastline of walls of rock interspersed with ridges of maquis running down to the sea, and small sand and shingle beaches. After rounding Punta Nera comes the first village on the south-west coast, Chiessi and then Pomonte, the sheltered bay of Fetovaia, Seccheto, Cavoli and the largest town on the southern coast, Marina di Campo, a bustling holiday resort with many hotels and campsites, shops, restaurants and leisure facilities. Continuing eastward, the sailor comes to two large, deep gulfs, Lacona and Stella. The town of Capoliveri dominates the scene from its hilltop: all around a varied coastline, with an alternation of rock, beaches and vegetation, runs around the perimeter of Monte Calamita, the location of the island’s largest mining site (closed more than 40 years ago).
The coastline now heads north, and the Tuscan coast can be seen on the horizon (Punta Ala, Follonica), as we meet the deep gulf of Mola, with the elegant, sophisticated town or Porto Azzurro, with a marina and mooring services. Continuing around the island, we come to the gulf of Ortano, with its crystal-clear water and vast Posidonia meadows; a few miles further on are the harbour and town of Rio Marina, a typical mining settlement which grew up and thrived with the mining industry until the 1970s, and has now been transformed into a holiday resort. Along the coastline which follows there are visible traces of iron ore on many stretches of the rocky coast, which shortly afterwards is covered with woodland and vegetation as far as the small village of Cavo, in the middle of a large bay surrounded by beaches.
The northern shore has now come to an end and facing us is Piombino, with its Channel, criss-crossed by ferries. We round Capo Castello and the little island of Topi, with the large bay and beach of Frugoso to port, before coming to Capo Vita: Portoferraio, our starting point, now reappears on the horizon. The northern coast we follow back into the harbour is of rare beauty, with very colourful rock formations ranging from red to white and lush vegetation, surrounding the villages of Nisportino, Nisporto, Bagnaia and Magazzini. The National Park controls a nature reserve in an area of sea at Ghiaie (Portoferraio), between Punta Falcone and Capo Bianco, including the island of Scoglietto. All fishing (both commercial and leisure) is forbidden in this area of sea, except fishing with a line from the shore and with squid jigs.