The island of Elba is the largest remaining stretch of land from the ancient tract that connected the Italian peninsula to Corsica, after the other islands of the Tuscan Archipelago. The northern coasts are bathed by the Ligurian Sea, the eastern coast skirts the Piombino Channel, the southern coast embraces the Tyrrhenian Sea and the Corsica channel divides the western tip of the Island from neighboring Corsica.
The terrain is quite varied, and divided into several parts depending on its conformation and geology in which it was formed. The mountainous and more recent part of the Island can be found to the west, the center of which is dominated by Mount Capanne (1018 m asl), also called the "roof of the Tuscan Archipelago." The mountain is home to many animal species including the mouflon and wild boar that flourish despite the continuous influx of tourists who visit the mountain. The central part of the island is a mostly flat section with the width being reduced to just four kilometers. It is where the major centers can be found: Portoferraio, Campo nell'Elba. To the east, is the oldest part of the island, formed over 400 million years ago. In the hilly area, dominated by Monte Calamita, are deposits of iron that made Elba famous.
Following the Treaty of Fontainebleau, French emperor Napoleon I was exiled to Elba after his forced abdication in 1814 and arrived at Portoferraio on May 3, 1814 to begin his exile there. He was allowed to keep a personal guard of six hundred men. Although he was nominally sovereign of Elba, the island was watched (more or less) by British naval patrols.
During these months, partly to pass the time and partly out of a genuine concern for the well-being of the people, he carried out a series of economic and social reforms to improve the quality of life on Elba. Napoleon stayed on Elba for 300 days. He returned to France on February 26 for the Hundred Days. After his defeat at Waterloo he was subsequently exiled again, this time to the barren and isolated South Atlantic island of Saint Helena. Napoleon's stay on Elba is the basis for the famous English language palindrome: "Able was I ere I saw Elba." It is for the connection with Napoleon that Elba is best known internationally.
In the Congress of Vienna the island was given to the Grand Duchy of Tuscany. In 1860 it became part of the new unified Kingdom of Italy.
French troops landed on Elba on June 17, 1944, liberating the island from the Germans. Faulty intelligence and strong defences made the battle more difficult than expected.
More recently, the island has become famed for its wine. It is today a renowned tourist resort.