Napoleon on the Island of Elba,
visiting the places dear to the Emperor
WHAT HE DID FOR ELBA’S inhabitants
In just nine months of stay, Napoleon did what no one else had ever managed to do in centuries of activity on the Island of Elba. Recently landed,he unites this island under a single flag, the same one that still waves above the Torre della Linguella, widens the streets and makes new ones, introduces the mandatory use of bathrooms in the houses and builds the first theater that the Elbans had. Famous people began to arrive on Elba and in the streets of Portoferraio you could attend real city fashion shows made of elegant clothes and sumptuous hats, amid the wonder and amazement of the locals.
The Elbans, even today, are proud of the fact that Napoleon chose their island which certainly will never stop remembering it, just as Napoleon himself remembered Elba at the end of his life.
The "Villa dei Mulini"
The Villa dei Mulini in Portoferraio was the official residence of Napoleon, and as soon as you step through the gate it is immediately clear why the emperor chose it as his home: the large garden overlooking the sea is so beautiful that the house takes second place. As far as we can imagine him clean and with impeccable clothes, Napoleon was a man who was not frightened by the hoe or the sound of hammer blows. In the haste to go to live there, he helped firsthand the workers. On the ground floor we find the living room, the library with original volumes that the emperor brought with him from Fontainebleau, and then the bedroom. The upper floor is perhaps the most particular, here we find the party room, the study and the room of the valets.
The "Villa San Martino"
Villa San Martino in Portoferraio is Napoleon’s summer home. Located in the countryside of the same name, unlike the Villa dei Mulini, the first impression it gives is that of a true imperial residence. Inside you can see interesting rooms such as the one dedicated to the countryside of Egypt and that of the knot of love that honors the tormented story between Napoleon and Maria Luisa. If we visit its rooms thinking that one of the greatest men who ever existed lived inside, everything will seem even more beautiful and evocative.
The tallest and richest church in the village of Portoferraio, deconsecrated at the beginning of the 19th century, was transformed into a theater by Napoleon starting from 1814. Since its inauguration on February 22, 1815, the theater experienced fame and fortune until the early 20th century, when Europe went through a moment of crisis. Between ups and downs, only since 1997, after careful restoration, has it returned to being that little jewel desired by the Emperor for his sister Pauline. The internal horseshoe-shaped structure with four tiers of boxes and the gallery, and the original frescoes, are interesting. Today the Vigilanti Theater is dedicated to Renato Cioni, an Elban tenor who died in 2014, and hosts theatrical performances with actors of national fame too.
The Sanctuary of Madonna del Monte
The summer of 1814 must have been particularly hot, so as to push the emperor to seek the coolest place on the Island of Elba: Marciana. In this mountain village there is one of the oldest places on Elba, the Sanctuary of the Madonna del Monte. In this pilgrimage site where Napoleon stayed for a few days in the company of his lover Maria Walewska, in addition to the mystical beauty of the sanctuary, you can admire incredible views and contemplate in silence all the magnificent nature that is around it.
The Church of Mercy and Napoleon's Relics
In this church located in the historic center of Portoferraio and built in 1677, a mass is celebrated every May 5 in memory of Napoleon Bonaparte. The exterior appears very simple, with a sober façade with soft colors, but the interior is richly decorated in the typical Baroque style. Inside you can see the funeral mask of Napoleon and the flag that the emperor conceived and donated to the city of Portoferraio on the day of his landing, on May 4, 1814.
The Paolina Beach
Pauline Bonaparte, Napoleon’s sister, loved this beach to the point of going there whenever the social commitments allowed it. Legend has it that, having been very open-minded for the time, she preferred to swim in this sea without any clothes to cover her. This beach is located in the municipality of Marciana and its peculiarity is that of having an “islet” very close to the shore and therefore reachable by swimming: snorkeling here is a real pleasure.
Napoleon’s chair is nothing but a rock placed on the west coast of Elba. To get there we have to take the road that runs alongside Punta della Zanca (which among other things is also an excellent point for diving) and go down to the lighthouse of Punta Polveraia: Napoleon’s chair is located exactly here. During his forced vacation on the Island of Elba it seems that the Emperor often reached this curious rock where he sometimes remained standing and sometimes sat down to better contemplate the sea, with his gaze always turned to his beloved Corsica.
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