Golfo della Biodola

Cultural places

The history of Elbe Island

The Elbe Island for centuries has been a conflicted land. During centuries, many populations have been trying to conquer it, because of its soil, that is rich of ferrous minerals, and its strategic position on the sea. So, there are many signs of these populations in the Elbe Island, for instance, in the cuisine, in the architecture, and in the language itself.
By the way, even today are still visible fortifications, that was used for fend from the assaults of military fleets and from pirates raids. And in the strong walls of the island, we can see the history of the Elbe Island.

Welcome to Cosmopoli

The Elbe Island is famous since the Ancient Age: at that time its name was Argo Harbour. Strabone was an historian of the I century b.C.; following his Geografia, Giasone’s Argonauts landed on first on Ghiaie beach in Portoferraio, and that’s the reason, explaining the first name of the island.
Considered this, Portoferraio is the first halt of an historical tour of the Elbe Island. Moreover, at that time the iron trade was already flourishing. And, since the Middle Age, this district was known as Ferraia, that is Portoferraio.

In 1547 Charles the 5th, sold this land to the Medici: Cosimo the 1st founded Cosmopoli, that means “city of Cosimo”. This city later become Portoferraio.

In the XVIth century, inside the docks, there was Galeazze arsenal: a true military machine for both attack and defense. For this reason, the city was impregnable. Even Dragut, the famous pirate, was forced to gave up its conquest. Two centuries after this, Admiral Nelson, took the same decision.

Napoleone at the Elbe Island

Napoleone arrived to Elbe Island in 1814, and till 1815 lived at Villa dei Mulini, a residence that is now visitable. The period during which Napoleone stayed here was crucial, since the island become the focus of European political intrigues.

Here, there are many proofs of the stay of Napoleone’s court, such as Villa dei Mulini or Teatro dei Vigilanti, a theatre located in the same historical centre of the city.
Villa dei Mulini is in a very strategical position. For this reason, was chosen not only as Napoleone’s personal residence, but also as headquartes for the control of both the sea and the land. Indeed, the residence was linked to Forte Stella and Forte Falcone.
Moreover, street topography was changed in order to create an armed square, where Napoleone could browse his army.
At last, the main part of the residence was connected to private apartments of “Madame Mère”, Napoleone’s mother, who lived with him since 1814.

Inside the residence, are visitable both rooms where Napoleone lived and the beautiful garden, facing the sea.

Near Villa dei Mulini, you can see the famous lighthouse, that Grand Duke Leopoldo ordered to build. Being part of Forte Stella, this building was considered a true product of engineering for many years.

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