If you love paradoxes, perhaps you will enjoy this corner of Elba, which I think you can’t find so easily in the tourist guides and certainly not on Trip Advisor. If you really want to visit, I’m not even sure that the guides of the Park will take us there willingly: what guide that would accompany its clients to a landfill …?
We are indeed within the old iron mines of Rio Marina, in Pistello yards, abandoned for half a century. It is accessed from the main road that connects Rio Marina to Cavo, over the beach of Cala Seregola, on Google Maps you can identify it immediately and it shows you the name too. If you stroll not too early in the morning along the wide, easy dirt road that winds through the old quarries, it is almost certain that you will hear the hoarse cry of the red grouse (a native variety of the island of Elba) if you do not make too much noise you could see a fair number as they graze on the thin soil: and you’ll also see the orange part of the tail, which stands out against the rest of the plumage which is a dull grey-brown.
You will always be encased in red during this walk, every other colour does nothing but enhance its infinite nuances. The red visual essence of an inordinate amount of iron oxides between which and on which you are walking. It’s a strange, and to me, haunting blend of Nature and manipulation on the part of the human race who dug deeply into the veins of this land, which seems to have passively resisted the insistent mining for centuries. Where man has pick-axed with determination and fatigue, red occupies every nook and cranny, every particle, dyes the water and the earth, and even the air you breathe seems to colour the lungs scarlet. From nature’s point of view, we are in an environment that says “heavily compromised by generations of miners” which is an understatement. Now the industrial archaeology is in the past, but if you listen to the silence of the wind that roams through these parts, you can in it hear the breath of Nature, which is treating the wounds, and at the same time bringing peace to those who have the patience to listen. All this preface just to tell you about a landfill?
Therein lies the paradox.
And I’m not talking about a dump of archaeological and / or mining artefacts, but a real deposit of waste disposed of over a few years: glass, plastic, water heaters and many car tires. It is not a matter of taste for the grotesque, elsewhere it would be disgusting, but here descending into the red, landscape it has altogether a different effect. At the lowest point of the landfill a small pond has developed, surrounded by never ending bottles and car tires all overgrown with an unidentified alchemy. I saw plastic that wanted to return to its original element, glass bottles bent at the neck by the heat and the presence of chemical solutions.
The day after at the red on the Island of Elba
A dead landscape, killed and violated countless times by a dangerous featherless biped, which was around these hills for centuries, and which was the first to extract the precious metal from the veins of this earth and then to fill it up with its waste. They are the same beings who are now watching this large colourful and certainly toxic puddle..
My impression is that the red of the pond marks the end of a journey and together, a new enigmatic beginning. In this vermilion silence you feel disoriented, restlessly admiring shapes and colours as if they were a metaphor for something, which yet has to manifest itself.
With all the things “beautiful and natural” that you can see the Island of Elba, I don’t feel quite right in recommending this place, but if you are curious, you could combine this visit with a hike to the mines of Rio, accompanied by a licensed guide. Notice that the site in question has for years been seized by the judiciary, therefore, it will be interesting to see how far you can get even with the guide. If you need to call the office of the Mining Park of Rio Marina (0565 962088) Mark will certainly be the person to answer, he is a passionate lover of the mines and minerals of the land who, along with Giovanni, another Rio man, has for years made great sacrifices in his life in order to keep this faltering institution going. It is also likely that the guide will be Antonello, a reserved character and scholar to whom you can ask anything about the island of Elba, he always knows an extra something.