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Medici Fortresses of Portoferraio

Historical Buildings

An imposing architectural complex commissioned by Cosimo de’ Medici to defend the city

Arriving by sea to Portoferraio, already from a distance one is struck by these majestic architectures that dominate the panorama: the Medici Fortresses, built by Cosimo de' Medici, are today a destination for evocative walks but, centuries ago, they made the town an impregnable outpost.

The project began to take shape in 1548 and was led by Renaissance architects Bellucci and Caterini, who were later joined by Bernardo Buontalenti. The purpose was to impeccably fortify Portoferraio, called Cosmopoli at the time, to defend against attacks by enemies and ruthless pirates. It was thanks to this ambitious construction that the city was able to resist, in 1553, the attack of the fearsome Ottoman corsair Dragut.

View of the sea from the Medici Fortresses
View of the sea from the Medici Fortresses - Credit: Danny Colangelo

The entire structure rises from the Porta di Terra until it reaches the Fort Falcone. The bastions are arranged on four levels and, together with the other fortifications, form the so-called Attack Front. The bastions, along with Fort Falcone, Fort Stella and Linguella were later upgraded and exploited as places of military residence.

Today the complex can be explored through a pathway that runs for about 500 meters and which offers enchanting views of the sea. The Linguella Tower, moreover, houses the Archaeological Museum since 1998.