"CULTURE" WALK

MAIN ATTRACTIONS IN PORTOFERRAIO

The area surrounding Portoferraio is of significant historical and archeological interest. We would be more than happy to arrange for a cultural and historical itinerary.

Cosmopoli. Situated within modern Portoferraio, it has been inhabited since the ancient Etruscans and Romans through the Napoleonic era to present day. You will find fortifications (some are splendidly restored and open to the public, others in great need of restoration) within in the gulf’s splendid natural, historical, cultural, and architectural setting.

Two Napoleonic Residences and the First Flag of Elba

Napoleon arrived in Portoferraio on board the English frigate “Undaunted” on May 3, 1814 after having signed the Treaty of Fontainebleau that granted him sovereignty over the island of Elba. Napoleon remained on the island for little more than 10 months.

The Medici Fortresses and the Permanent Exhibit at Fort Falcone

Portoferraio is undoubtedly one of the most fascinating of all Mediterranean fortified ports. It is easy to understand why: the fortresses, bastions, and walls are all built in perfect geometric harmony.
Cosmopoli is one of the earliest examples of the “ideal city,” earlier even than Terra del Sole (Eliopoli) in the central region of Emilia Romagna and Palmanova in the northern region of Friuli Venezia Giulia. Its irregular shape (unlike Palmanova’s geometrically concentric design) is one of the reasons for its uniqueness.

Roman Villas and the Archeology Museum

The Romans built magnificent villas on every island in the Tuscan Archipelago during the splendid height of the Augustan era. There are three on Elba. The Villa delle Grotte is the most spectacular and is very close to the Hotel Fabricia. Another one is located in the historical center of Portoferraio, next to the Linguella Archeology Museum. Fabricia, the earliest Roman settlement, is today buried under Fort Stella in the Medici citadel.

The National Park of the Tuscan Archipelago

It is the largest sea park of the Mediterranean because it covers seven large islands, numerous small ones and reefs in the Tyrrhenian Sea at the heart of the International Pelagos Sanctuary, a marine protected area since 1999.

Volterraio Fortress

The fortress is very close to the Hotel Fabricia, at the entrance to the Nation Park of the Tuscan Archipelago. It dates back to the 11th century and is most probably built on the site of a pre-existing Etruscan building. The fortress was built on a high point due to the strategic importance of the island of Elba in the Tyrrhenian Sea as early as the 4th century BC to protect it from pirate incursions.

Vigilanti Theater

Situated at the heart of Portoferraio, this small masterpiece (it has three levels of box seats) is but one of the many traces of Napoleon’s brief stay in Elba. Built in the 19th century on the site of the pre-existing church of the Madonna del Carmine of the 17th century, it hosts performances at an international level.

De Laugier Cultural Center

It is located in the historical center of Portoferraio, at the top of the rose-stone Salita Napoleone {Napoleon’s Stairway). Built on request of Cosimo I De’ Medici in the mid 1500s as bulwark against Moorish pirates, it was also to be seat of the Order of the Knights of St. Stephen. Today it is a cultural center named after Cesare De Laugier, a Napoleonic officer, whose mother was from Elba. It holds a historical archive, a conference hall, a movie theater, the Foresi Art Gallery and the Public Library.

The Foresi Art Gallery

Located in the 16th century Medici built De Laugier barracks, the Foresi Art Gallery offers visitors a wide range of drawings, paintings and art objects from the Foresi family’s collection.

The Church of Santo Stefano alle Trane

Placed on a hill behind the Hotel Fabricia and surrounded by olive trees and mimosa bushes, this 12th century church is the best-preserved example of Romanesque architecture on the island. The church is adorned with bas-reliefs and a crucifix attributed to the school of the famous sculptor Bernini.

Ottonella Botanical Garden

Very close to the Hotel Fabricia, it is one of Italy’s earliest “acclimatization” gardens dedicated to the conservation of exotic species of palm trees. The Florentine Giorgio Roster created the garden in the 1800s.

“Elba today is almost all garden, of Mediterranean shrubs – be they naturally occurring or wrought by man – and forests of oak, arbutus, pine, palm and cypress trees and ornamental bushes throughout the streets, yards, and gardens, and succulent plants in vases and planters. Once there was a barren Elba, deforested, and veiled by the smoke from the mines. Then came an agricultural Elba, full of terracing and vineyards. Then the Elba of acclimatization gardens...”

Maria Pia Cunico and Paola Muscari, Elbans by adoption

"The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeing new sights, but in looking with new eyes."

Marcel Proust, In Search of Lost Time

COSMOPOLIS: A RENAISSANCE IDEAL CITY

Portoferraio-Cosmopoli, a complete itinerary
by Cecilia Pacini and George Guida (from Elbaper2)

BLUE, GREEN AND SOOT – THE COLORS OF THE ARCHEOLOGY IN THE ISLAND OF ELBA

by Franco Cambi

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