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History of the Island of Elba

PrenotaElba - History

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History on the Island of Elba

The history of the Island of Elba, in addition to being famous for having hosted the exile of Napoleon Bonaparte, has seen men, events and peoples of great importance pass through its links.

Although the oldest findings on the Island of Elba date back to the Paleolithic era, it was the Etruscans who marked the importance and future development of the island.

In the 8th century BC, in fact, the Etruscan people began to discover and exploit the extraordinary riches of Elba's subsoil, building furnaces for the extraction of iron with extremely advanced technologies for the time and transforming Elba into the most important "forge" of the Mediterranean.

After the decline of the Etruscan civilization, around the 3rd century BC, the Island of Elba became Roman dominion.

Here, the rich patrician lords built sumptuous villas entirely dedicated to leisure, some of which were equipped with thermal pools, sumptuous gardens and large service areas for the numerous servants. Of the three Roman villas visible today on the Island of Elba, the best preserved is the Roman villa delle Grotte, located in the locality of the same name, facing the gulf of Portoferraio, of which the perimeter walls and the perfect construction technique can still be perfectly distinguished today. 'opus reticulatum.

From the Roman villa of Linguella, located in the historic center of Portoferraio, the splendid mosaics and part of the brightly colored plaster that embellished the interior of the house are still visible; Unfortunately, very little remains of the Roman villa of Capo Castello, near the town of Cavo.

During the Middle Ages, the Island of Elba was occupied, dominated and plundered by many powers. One of these was the Pisan domination which left an indelible mark in the history of the Island of Elba: in addition to restarting the exploitation of the iron mines on the eastern side of the island and that of the granite quarries on the western side, it built strongholds and watchtowers that still stand like watchful sentinels on the heights of the island from which you can enjoy breathtaking views.

In the 16th century it was the turn of the Medici, lords of Florence, who built what has been defined as a jewel of military architecture: the Medici Fortresses of Portoferraio. Strongly desired by Cosimo I, they were among the few Elban fortifications never conquered by pirate incursions, which were very frequent on the island at the time.

On the eastern side, however, the influences of Spanish domination are still visible: see, as an example, the Fortress of San Giacomo in Porto Azzuro, which today houses a prison, the small but extremely suggestive sanctuary of Monserrato, built on model of the Catalan one, or typical Elban recipes such as Sburrita di BaccalĂ  or gurguglione, both reinterpretations of Spanish dishes.

However, an indelible mark on the history of the Island of Elba was left by Napoleon Bonaparte, who landed on Elba in May 1814 and spent about ten months in exile here, before the famous "100 days".

During his stay he took care of every aspect of the island, completely reorganizing its economy, building roads, bringing innovations and transforming a small deconsecrated church into a small theatre, the Teatro dei Vigilanti, where it is still possible to attend shows today and representations.

The Elban residences where Napoleon lived are now national museums and attract thousands of tourists every year. The two residences, the Villa di San Martino, a country residence where he loved to spend the summer period, and the Villa dei Mulini, located in the historic center of Portoferraio and official residence of Napoleon, boast the title of the most visited museum site in Tuscany, according to only at the Uffizi.

There are many other museums, archaeological sites and places of cultural interest on the Island of Elba, so much so that providing a complete list becomes almost a "mission impossible"! The solution? Discover the numerous offers for the Island of Elba that Italiatravel has selected for you and you will see with your own eyes the immense historical-cultural heritage that this splendid area can offer!


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