Cosmopolis and the Fortresses
Experiences of Territorial Culture

Cosmopolis and the Fortresses

An ancient walled city, imbued with a magical atmosphere and sophisticated architecture aimed not only at making it a defensive outpost but also at enhancing its beauty.

Portoferraio's fortifications once contributed to the defense and military security of the town. Today, the forts and walls that frame its enchanting territory remind us of the glorious past of the ancient "Cosmopolis" and make this village one of the most evocative for its historical richness.

Getting to Portoferraio by ferry. The main ferry route connecting the Tuscan coast with Elba is Piombino-Portoferraio. The latter is one of the most important cities on the island: founded at the behest of Cosimo I De'Medici, Grand Duke of Tuscany, the ancient Cosmopoli was built to stem Turkish-Barbarian pirate raids.

The fortified port overlooking the Mediterranean. Arriving by ferry, you will first catch a glimpse of the northeastern part of the fortifications, where the grand 18th-century lighthouse, included in the older Medici fortification of Forte Stella, towers above. There is no doubt about it: Portoferraio is one of the most fascinating fortified ports in the Mediterranean, and it is easy to see why: the forts and walls are built on the basis of perfect geometric ratios, following the dictates of arcane philosophies and symbolism that characterized the Renaissance. A visit to the fortifications is worth at least a day's exploration. An ingenious water system of rainwater supply means that even today large pools can be found in the city's basement.

The city walls that embrace the town. Renaissance architects Bellucci and Camerini were able to adapt the mighty fortifications to the conformation of the terrain of this small peninsula, adjacent to the roadstead, so the entire fortified town is developed within multiple city walls that start from sea level: Blocco della Linguella to the east and Fronte di attacco to the west protect the gulf and rise to the top where Fort Falcone (known as "the fortress within the fortress") towers to the northwest, and on the opposite side, to the northeast, Fort Stella, all connected by ramparts and covered walkways. A visit to Fort Falcone, an impressive 2360-square-meter structure and recently restored, is a must: in its evocative interior spaces, interspersed with narrow passages, loopholes, bastions and tunnels, it is possible to visit the exhibition on the historical origins of Medicean Portoferraio.

Travel notes


Forte Stella

Forte Falcone

Mines of Rio Marina

Strategic location for the large amount of hematite and limonite immediately identified by the emperor as soon as he landed on the island as a strategic-military axis.
Location: Rio Marina

Paolina Beach

The beach is named after the islet a few meters from the shore, itself named after Napoleon Bonaparte’s sister who, according to a legend (probably created by a tourism entrepreneur in the 1960s) loved to sunbathe on these rocks.

Location: Marciana

San Martino Villa

Designated as a summer residence, Napoleon purchased the property from the Manganaro family in 1814, with the intention of transforming it into a comfortable and refined abode that would have nothing to envy from Parisian residences.

Location: Località San Martino (Portoferraio)

Mulini Villa

Built in 1724 by Grand Duke Gaston de’ Medici, it was Napoleon’s city residence during his first stay on Elba Island.

Location: Portoferraio

Sanctuary of Monserrato

It was built as a sign of gratitude in 1606 by José Pons y León of the Dukes of Arcos, Spanish governor of Naples and first governor of the square of Longone (part of the state of principals). In September 1814 Napoleon, accompanied by Pons and Bertrand wanted to visit the sanctuary.

Location: Località Monserrato (Portoazzurro)

MUM Mineralogical Museum

While the Elban economy today is based on tourism, the fact remains that the people of San Piero and the west coast (Pomonte) have also lived and continue to live off their granite and marble

Location: San Piero in Campo

Port and Tower of Marciana Marina

Visit the harbor where Maria Walewska landed and the armed watchtower visited by Napoleon himself in 1814

Location: Marciana Marina