Discover Elba Island history and legends. Napoleon and Paolina Bonaparte, his sister.

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Discover Elba history and legends

Life on Elba has never been easy. The strategic position in the Mediterranean sea and the richness of minerals made our Island a good target for various tribes. Conquered first by Ligures Llvati, who gave the ancient name Ilva, followed by Greeks, who called it Aethalia after the fumes of the furnaces for the metal production, and than by Etruscans and Romans, who developed a small borough, called Fabricia, in the area where Portoferraio is found today. Being at the crossroads of the principal mercantile routes, Elba became soon the main port for the commercial ships directed to the markets of the Roman Empire.
In the early 11th century, the Island became a possession of the Republic of Pisa, to be acquired later by the Appiani, Lords of Piombino, who had reigned for 2 centuries. The years to come saw pirates from North Africa hung over as a threat to residents and refugees. Divided into 3 areas (Portoferraio, Porto Longone - todays's Porto Azzurro, and the rest), in 1548 the Appiani sold Portoferraio to the Grand Duke of Tuscany, Cosimo I, who founded and fortified the port town of Cosmopolis (Portoferraio). In 1802 Elba became a French possession, and its economy flourished. But none of them did so much as Napoleon Bonaparte. During its ruler of 300 days (1814-1815), our island was recognized as an independent principality. Thereafter Elba was restored to Tuscany, with which it passed to unified Italy in 1860.

Read the articles from Elbaper2 magazine

Paolina Bonaparte, Napoleon's sisterCyclone Paolina on Elba gets local women discover the art of fashion
By Umberto Gentini (2010 Elbaper2 magazine)
Every evening the favourite activities of Napoleon's court were reading the Bible or going to the nearby home of Madame Mère to play cards. The arrival of Paolina Borghese on the Island turned the mundane life of his brother's court upside down. The active princess loved organizing gala events to which Elba high society was invited. "Do not invite more than 200 people" used to say Napoleon, worried about the proverbial extravagance of his delightful sister... | read more |

*Napoleon Bonaparte arrived on Elba as an exile on 3th May 1814 and escaped to France on 26th February 1815 for the Hundred Days. Napoleon's main residence, Villa dei Mulini, overlooks the sea on the top of Portoferraio. Villa San Martino, Napoleon's summer residence, is set on a hillside outside Portoferraio. His sister, Paolina Borghese, helped him to purchase it. Napoleon bought it as a barn and then convert it into a villa where Paolina used to organize her gala events. However, Napoleon's main concern were not his sister's events but the modernization of the Island. He overtook so many public works, like road-building, iron-ore mines improvement, marsh draining, that Elba inhabitants, almost 200 years later, still say a Mass each May for his soul at Chiesa della Misericordia (Misericordia church, Via della Misericordia, Portoferraio).

Related Topics

Elba Museums
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The colors of archeology in the Island of Elba

Article from 2014 Elbaper2 magazine by Franco Cambi on the colors of archeology on the Island of Elba


The Gran Duke Ferdinando II of Tuscany, 1660A wedding marble!

Article from 2011 Elbaper2 magazine by Giuseppe Battaglini on the words engraved on the two marble slabs on the top of Portoferraio ancient "Porta a Mare" (door to the sea).


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