Elba: the best place to be exiled!

If you absolutely must go into exile... It must be what Napoleon Bonaparte thought when, back in 1814, after major military failures and after the War of the Sixth Coalition, he was forced to abdicate and was exiled to the island of Elba, on which he was given sovereignty. He was also allowed to keep the title of Emperor. So, on May 3, while Louis XVIII entered into Paris, Napoleon entered the Gulf of Portoferraio on his vessel, the ‘Indomitable’, warmly welcomed by the local authorities and the whole island.
[Photo Credits: mariejirousek]
[Photo Credits: mariejirousek]
Napoleon wasted no time in taking care of his new tiny kingdom surrounded by the sea! “Please make the residents of the island aware of this new development of things and of my choice to choose Elba as the place for my stay in consideration to the grace of their customs and the pleasant climate. They will be constantly given my utmost attention.” He started straight away by looking at the military, economic and social organization of Elba: Portoferraio became a large open-air construction site, where streets were widened and walls were torn down, while great attention was paid to improving the island’s road network. As for himself, he restored his two official residencies, the Villa dei Mulini (Palace of the Mills) and the country house of Villa San Martino. Then, on February 26, 1815, less than a year after his arrival, Napoleon left Elba. It was a short stay, yet a fundamental one. Napoleon undoubtedly left his mark on the history, architecture and politics of the island. A mark and a bond that this year will be noted and celebrated, on the occasion of the Bicentennial of Emperor Napoleon on Elba, which will take place all year round. The programme of events includes cultural and folk events and historical re-enactments, such as the exhibition displaying the Napoleon’s imperial field tent. (You can find all the information about the events calendar here). What better occasion to visit Elba and take a look at the places of Napoleon on the island, between a swim and a beach!
[Photo Credits: infoelba.it]
[Photo Credits: infoelba.it]
  In Portoferraio you can see: - Palazzina dei Mulini - located in the upper part (where there were four windmills), between Fort Falcone and Fort Stella, overlooking the sea on one side and the town on the other one; a stunning location but also very convenient one to keep an eye on the harbor and the ships entering it! Here is where the Emperor spent most of his time, along with his sister Pauline, and here is where he tried to recreate the atmosphere and the protocols of the French court, with a similar organization and arrangement of the rooms. Napoleon had also accommodation for his mother set up near the villa (Via Ferrandini). (9am-4pm, public holidays 9am-1pm; ticket 3 €, reduced 1.5 €, free under 18 years and over 65; combined ticket Palazzina dei Mulini+Vialla San Martino 5 €, valid for 3 days)
[Photo Credits: Niels Jørn Buus Madsen]
[Photo Credits: Niels Jørn Buus Madsen]
- Chiesa della Misericordia - Every year, on May 5, the church hosts a Holy Mass in honor of Napoleon. In the small adjacent museum, there is the flag that Napoleon gave to the island on May 4, 1814, the bronze death mask of Napoleon donated by Prince Anatole Demidoff and the bronze cast of his right hand. (Salita Napoleone, ticket 1€ for the museum)   - Foresiana Art Gallery – The recently restored De Laugier Cultural Centre is home to the Foresiana Art Gallery, which includes a collection of paintings, prints, drawings and furniture from various periods that belonged to art collector and scholar Mario Foresi and were donated to the municipality in 1924. There is also a room dedicated to Napoleon, with a portrait (replica of a famous painting by F. Gérard), prints, memorabilia and some books donated to Portoferraio by the Emperor himself. (c/o De Laugier Cultural Centre, Salita Napoleone; winter opening hours 9am-noon on Tuesday and Thursday; summer opening hours 9am – noon Monday to Friday)   - Theatre of the Vigilanti – The construction of this theatre was promoted by Napeoleon and was built by converting a former church (you can still admire the lateral columns and the apse, completely embedded under the stage). After several hiccups, it was finally re-opened in 1997, after having been restored, and it now houses the international festival "Elba, Europe's musical island”. (Piazza Gramsci, 9am-1pm, closed on Sunday and winter)   Outside Portoferraio, you can see: - Villa San Martino – It was purchased by Napoleon in June 1814 as his summer residence, but it then remained uninhabited due to his departure from Elba. The villa was later acquired by Prince Anatole Demidoff (Bonaparte heir by marriage), who built the imposing neoclassical gallery that bore his name. Today, Villa San Martino houses a collection of prints, relics and furniture from the period and part of the interesting library that the Emperor brought with him to the island and later donated to Portoferraio. On the second floor there is the Egyptian room, where an octagon contains papyrus plants and on the walls there is a trompe l'oeil of the Egyptian campaign; the dining room has a fresco on the ceiling symbolizing the love between Napoleon and his wife Marie Louise… who, however, never joined her husband on the island! (San Martino, about 5 kilometers from Portoferraio; ticket 3 €, reduced 1.5 €, free under 18 years and over 65; combined ticket Palazzina dei Mulini+Vialla San Martino 5 €, valid for 3 days) - Madonna del Monte Sanctuary – In the September, his lover Maria Walewska did arrive, however, to comfort him and keep him company! Napoleon took her to a place very dear to him: the Madonna del Monte, the oldest sanctuary of the island, where he loved to spend his hours of rest and inspiration. (Marciana, admission free)