Elba, the Argonauts’ island
The legend is true, this place is a real golden fleece
Elba is an amazing place, because it is different. I visited Capoliveri, a village at 700 meters high, in the middle of the island. Its name comes from Castrum Liberi, the Romans defined it this way because people had never been enslaved here.
Capoliveri is near Elbane mines, which has been closed in the 80s because it is more convenient to import copper and iron from South America. Up to 20 years ago, a lot of miners lived in Capoliveri, nowadays their sons and grandsons still honour the miners with celebrations and rituals. Today Capoliveri if full of tourists, but the pride in the local customs didn’t change. The mines have been turned into a Mining Thematic Park and Mineralogical Museum: you can cross the Park through a panoramic way running along the mountains and enjoy an amazing view of the whole island.
Here I met Gino Brambilla, an 84 years old man, passionate of Etruscans and of their ability in the iron making. With experimental archaeology, Gino found out how the Etruscans used to melt the iron and the quantity of noble mineral they managed to mine. He also discovered two sunk ships, where the iron were selected and moved to the mainland.
His passion is addictive! He drove us to the village of Poggio Alto, to visit a little museum that he assembled, with a demonstrating melting furnace. Then the village of Secca Bianca, where he wore the clothes of an Etruscan melter: he looked like a wonderful mix between a gnome from a fairytale written by Grimm Brothers and one of the typical figures painted on Etruscan vases! He reminded me the figure of the skilful artisan, wearing leather, clogs and the typical cone hat.
Gino told me that the black and white gravel on which I was walking was that of the Argonauts beach, where Jason and his men got the white gravel dirty with their sweat. There is something real in this legend: Elba island was known as the Fire Land and the mineral diggers who arrived here, found a mineral reserve unique in the whole Mediterranean Sea and Europe! A real golden fleece…