Elba, the largest island of the Tuscan Archipelago, is today a part of the Italian province of Leghorn and is separated from the mainland by the Channel of Piombino. The island is traversed throughout by treeless mountain ranges, the highest peak being Monte Capanne (about 3343 feet); its area is 86 square miles; according to the census of 1901 it had 25,556 inhabitants, mostly Catholics. Politically the island forms the district of Porto Ferrajo; the chief town is Porto Ferrajo on the north coast, a place with 3940 inhabitants; the commune contains 6701 inhabitants. Outside of Porto Ferrajo the principal towns of the island are Orte Rio, with 2478 inhabitants, and the strongly fortified Porto Longone, which has a good harbor and a population of 4761. Ecclesiastically Elba belongs to the Diocese of Massa Marittima and contains eleven parishes: Porto Ferrajo, Porto Longone, Marciana, Marciana Marina, Poggio, Capoliveri, Rio, Rio Marina, Marina Campo, Sant’ Ilario in Campo, and San Pietro in Campo. The Sisters of Mercy of St. Vincent de Paul have a house at Porto Longone, and the Sisters of St. Vincent, or Ladies of Christian Love, founded by the Venerable Cottolengo, have one at Porto Ferrajo; these are the only houses of religious on the island. The chief industry of Elba is the mining of the rich iron ore which was famous even in antiquity, but which, on account of lack of fuel, is generally smelted on the opposite coast of the mainland (the Maremma). The agricultural products are wheat, maize, wine, and semi-tropical fruits, and there are very profitable tunny and anchovy fisheries. The commerce is carried on through five ports, which were visited in 1900 by 2549 merchant vessels with a total of 492,418 tons burden. The smaller surrounding islands of Capraja, Pianosa, Palmaola, and Monte Cristo are connected in government with the island of Elba. Concerning the famous monastery of San Mamiliano, now in ruins, on the island of Monte Cristo, see Angelli, “L’Abbazia e l’Isola di Montecristo” (Florence, 1903), and for other information Kehr, “Regesta Pontificum Romanorum; Italia Pontificia” (Berlin, 1908), III, 276-78.
In the tenth century Elba came into the power of Pisa, from which it was wrested in 1290 by the city of Genoa. In 1399 Gian Galeazzo Visconti gave the island and the principality of Piombino to Gherardo Appiano in exchange for the lordship of Pisa. After that the island belonged as a Spanish fief to the Dukes of Sora and the Princes of Piombino. The Emperor Charles V gave a part of Elba to the Grand Duke Cosimo I of Tuscany, who built the citadel of Cosmopoli and thus laid the foundation of the later Porto Ferrajo, the chief town of the island; another district including Porto Longone came into the power of the Kingdom of the Two Sicilies. In 1736 the whole of Elba with the principality of Piombino passed under the jurisdiction of the Kingdom of Naples; in 1801 the Peace of Luneville gave it to the Kingdom of Etruria, and in the following year, by the Peace of Amiens, it was transferred to France. After the first abdication of Napoleon Elba was made over to him as a sovereign principality. He landed on the island, May 4, 1814, but left it on February 26, 1815; during his short administration Napoleon did much for the benefit of the island, especially in the improvement of the roads. The Congress of Vienna, in 1815, restored the island to Tuscany, with which it was finally incorporated into the united Kingdom of Italy.