The Rio Elba Project
The principle economic activity of the North-Eastern part of the Island of Elba was iron mining and when other towns on Elba started to develop a tourist industry Rio continued to rely on mining jobs, in part because a lot of the land of the area was owned by the state.
But, what at one time seemed like a lack of progress, now turns out to be good luck because the area has not suffered the excesses of tourist development, thus giving it a great opportunity to think about a different type of tourism. Here you can stay in a healthy environment, without polluting industries, smog, traffic and with truly enviable security and privacy.
In Rio, even in the high season, you can live well, far from the chaos of Capoliveri or Porto Azzurro, without the traffic jams or overcrowded beaches of Fetovaia or Cavoli, in the Rio area of the island you can enjoy peace and tranquillity.
Rio finds itself in the splendid position of having a large territory full of greenery, hydrofoil and ferry connections to mainland Italy from Cavo and Rio Marina, two splendid towns that have not been affected by tourist developments, beautiful beaches, a population density of 89 people per sq km, which is very low when compared to that of Elba (143 per sq km) or Italy (200 per sq km). In fact it is an area with one of the lowest population densities in the whole of Europe!!!
Our "Rio Project" was born because we felt the need to do something to show this beautiful area’s unique features, its high quality of life and a different way of spending your holidays
We are selecting houses and apartments both in the historic centre and the surrounding area.
We begin this presentation with a small showcase of properties chosen for their location, view, characteristic interior and price.
We will be happy if you follow us on our site, and on Facebook and Instagram, where we will be delighted to answer any questions you may have.
Elba Real Estate on the Rio Project
I started Elba Real Estate agency in 2011, after fifteen years of previous real estate experiences on the Island of Elba. In the past I put a wide variety of properties on the market without any precise selection: agricultural land or a rustic building, an apartment in a condominium or a villa with swimming pool, a hotel or a shop, or an activity such as a restaurant.
The factors that helped me decide to open a new agency are manifold: the real estate bubble that was created in the years following the introduction of the euro, the deep financial crisis of 2008, sales legislation modification and the attention that the notaries paid and claimed on the urban planning part of a property, the world wide web and internet innovations that radically changed the "modus operandi" of the real estate agent.
The large worldwide showcase of the web, with search engines dedicated to the housing market, the exchange of information, photos, urban and cadastral data exchanged with simple emails, the use of digital technology, online advertising, smart phones and telephones that transmit live images and videos have profoundly altered the work of a real estate agent.
Smart working was born: the office is at home, work connectivity is continuous, answers to questions from customers are immediate, timetables are no longer fixed, a website is the new display window, the quality of photos, descriptions of the houses , translation into multiple languages speak for you.
Working with no more than forty properties for sale, all of them carefully selected and preferably with exclusive rights and following through with professionalism and attention to detail.
The importance of taking the utmost care in choosing the properties to be offered for sale, which must have the particular characteristics of value, beauty and location. Preferably single houses and not apartments; a market position in the medium-high range; not too touristy or low-quality areas of the island.
Paying close attention to the urban planning aspect of the property, helping our customers, who often live outside Elba, in the preparation for the sale or purchase of a house, providing help at the local council planning offices, finding suitable experts who are able to solve urban planning problems that affect almost all of Elba’s properties.
The Rio Elba project was born out of a love for the area, a desire to let people know about the beautiful villages and the superb wild countryside of the North-Eastern part of the Island of Elba. We would like to share with our clients the great passion that drives us in running our business.
Rio District Area
On the 1st January 2018, following a referendum in October 2017, the two Districts of Rio nell'Elba and Rio Marina came together and took the name of Rio. The new District geographically includes the entire North-Eastern part of the Island for a total of 36.5 sq km and a population of 3,251 people (as of 30/06/2019).
The union of the two districts has significantly expanded the scope of this area. Now Rio borders Portoferraio to the west and Porto Azzurro to the south.
Bagnaia, which is on the other side of Portoferraio’s large bay, is a well quipped holiday resort with a beautiful pebble beach, bathing establishments, boat rental, bar, restaurants and a wonderful sunset; from Bagnaia continuing along a scenic road called the Falconaia, which is immersed in the Mediterranean maquis, you reach Nisporto and Nisportino bays.
To the north there is Cavo, a pleasant and historic seaside resort, with its splendid promenade, beautiful beaches and a fine marina with ferry and hydrofoil connections to Piombino. Then, going along the scenic road which looks towards the mainland of Italy, you first get to Cala Seregola and Topinetti beaches with their black shiny sand and then you arrive at Rio Marina. Continuing on towards Porto Azzurro you find the beautiful bay of Ortano with the tourist complex of Capo d’Arco.
Inland, the Volterraio hill and castle dominates the area; there are countless hiking routes such as the GTE (Great Elban Crossing): an interweaving group of paths where in four days you can cross the whole island from East to West taking in breathtaking views. There are also numerous semi-deserted routes and paved roads, also with fine views for bike or mountain bike outings.
Arriving by ferry on the Island of Elba you pass along the steep sided shoreline of the wild and sparsely populated north-east coast and your gaze will sweep over the green of the oak and cork forests and the intricate undergrowth of the Mediterranean maquis which is typical of the Island of Elba.
It is a vast territory with a surprises at every street corner: from the sunsets of Bagnaia to the "fin de siècle" atmosphere of Cavo, from the roads along which traces left by the old mines are still visible, to the views of the mainland of Italy over the blue of the sea and the shiny black beaches of Rio Marina. But all this would still be nothing without the Elban people, with their peculiar nicknames that become hereditary, with a ready joke and with their typical personality that reveals a smiling Tuscan dry wit.
Since ancient times the Island of Elba has been known for its beauty and for the riches it contains underground, that is the presence of iron in the Rio district, indeed it was one the first settlements on the Island.
The name Rio Elba derives from Latin "Rivus" (river), and it is a reference to the copious stream of water that flows to the north of the town and with which the inhabitants have always deeply identified. Early evidence of the existence of the village dates back to 1260, when Rio was called: "Comune Rivi".
Rio has been an important mining centre since ancient times, giving it both pride and wealth, but also fragility, exposing it to numerous attacks from marauders. Throughout history many rulers have controlled Rio, from the Etruscans to the Romans, from the Pisans to the Appiani, from Napoleon to the Grand Duchy of Tuscany.
After many years of crisis, the mines closed in 1989, putting an end to a long history of hard work and sacrifice and of tales of a proud people and their strong link to their land. The economy today, which is almost exclusively based on tourism, is a result of the natural beauty and scenery of the area.
Rio Elba looks like a small medieval village, perched on a 165 metre hill, it turns its back on the peak of Volterraio and its castle and it looks towards Rio Marina, the Ortano valley and the sea of the Piombino Straits.
The town grew around the majestic fortified church of San Giacomo Apostolo, located in the centre of the village, it is of Romanesque origin, it was enlarged in the 1500s and renovated in the 1700s. It contains numerous works of art and the town’s archives, which are an important source of community history.
In Rio Elba you can find some typical architectural elements of a medieval village, such as the aforementioned church, the ancient washhouses from which the Rivus water can still be drawn, and traces of the buttresses and walls. Over the centuries, small historic apartments have been created, featuring old frescoes, ceilings with exposed beams, old terracotta floors with their windows opening onto spectacular views.
Pleasant granite-paved alleys branch off from the Church, and from the adjacent Piazza del Popolo. Walking through the narrow and winding streets, you often find yourself in front of an opening, a widening in the road or a small square from which you can admire the view. Even today you can breathe the air of typical country life while walking through the alleys, perhaps you may to be stopped by some inhabitant who will ask you where you come from and will probably begin to tell you episodes of their life and those of the town.
The Hermitage stands on the eastern slopes of Monte Serra and overlooks the fortress of Monte Giove, and it also looks down on the place where the small community of Grassera once stood.
In past times the altar was surrounded by votive offerings and the image of St. Catherine with the Child painted by Giovanni da San Giovanni in the 16th century stood out above all, now it is preserved in the church in Rio Elba.
The place is quiet and solitary, surrounded by the greenery and perfume of the Mediterranean maquis, and even today there is an unmatched view onto Monte Giove, the Valle dei Mulini and the town of Rio Elba During the summer there are shows and cultural events.
In this place devoted to silence there is also the Elban “Orto dei Semplici”, a botanical garden where unique examples of native plants of the Island of Elba are cultivated and preserved, such as ancient fruit trees, medicinal herbs and a large number of plants of great interest from a naturalistic point of view.
Another example of the people of Rio’s love of social life and communal activities is the tradition of gathering to celebrate Easter Monday at the Hermitage of Santa Caterina d'Alessandria, protector of mariners. On this day of celebration, girls used to prepare “Sportelle”, a typical dessert of the Mediterranean, they gave them to the young men with whom they were in love on the occasion of this traditional outing to the hermitage.
The spring festival ends with the celebration of Easter rites on the lawn in front of the hermitage, which thus becomes a not to be missed reason for a picnic with friends and relatives.
Ancient villages often had places of social importance for village community life which had a unifying effect in making citizens feel an integral part of the town where they lived.
In Rio Elba, as in any Italian village, people met on Sunday in the church or in their free time in the town square, Piazza del Popolo, and almost every day at the washhouses, the beating heart of Rio social life.
Miners who did not have water in their houses came there to wash off the dust after a hard day’s work in the mine before going home to dinner with their wives and children. Every morning the village women came down to the sinks with large baskets full of dirty clothes which they washed and took home clean.
And while they washed their clothes they chatted, gossiped, exchanged information on village life, about villagers and on family life. Social norms and news about the village were discussed.
How much this place influenced the creation of a community spirit and the typical conviviality of the locals is still evident today and is found every time you speak with the town’s inhabitants.
Even now, when you visit this place, you can comprehend through the silence its history, the conversations and the small talk among the gurgling water, indeed you almost seem to hear the voices of those ancient people of Rio. They are remembered today by their traditions and through the photos hanging on the walls inside the Washhouses of bygone people who transmit, through vivid expressions and poses, the strength of those miners and peasants.
Historic maps of the area show that in 1841 there were 22 mills in the valley below Rio Elba, all equipped with a millpond. Over the years, however, this activity waned and in 1934 there were only 16 mills remaining, of which only three were still able to function.
You can visit the Valley of the Mills, which stretches for two kilometres between Rio Elba and Rio Marina, by going down the Via di S. Giuseppe which was the ancient road connecting Rio to its Marina. Following the course of the water, it is easy to find the ancient path and get an idea of the succession in which the mills were arranged.
The Valley of the Mills was born from a copious source of water located north of the town of Rio Elba. Today this water is channelled into the village by the Fonte dei Canali built in 1818, but in more ancient times it was pushed downstream to feed the numerous hydraulic mills that stood on either side of the canal that ran from Rio nell'Elba to the first houses of Rio Marina. These mills were used for grinding cereals that were transported to Rio from different parts of the island, and at the peak of activity also from the Tuscan hinterland.
Agricultural activity has always been considered a complementary activity in Rio, almost secondary, however every family had its own small plot of land for growing vegetables.
Traces of the millponds can still be found along the valley and were at a higher level than the millwheel, these were basins where water was stored before passing along a feeding channel from where it fell on to the millwheel. The fall increased the energy produced by the water. The millponds varied in size from 200 to 400 sq m and were on average two metres deep.
Project realized with the collaboration of Maria Cristina Nicoletti and Alessio Mussetti for photographic support.