In the footsteps of the Emperor
Experiences of Territorial Culture

In the footsteps of the Emperor

Give yourself evocative impressions by sharing the atmosphere of Napoleon

In April 1814, Napoleon, after signing the abdication of Fontainebleau, chose the island of Elba as his place to live. Having retained the title of Emperor, he had full sovereignty over the island, which became under him a principality, a nation. He officially landed there with full honors on May 4, 1814.

The Emperor's houses. The Villa dei Mulini, located high between Forts Falcone and Stella in the municipality of Portoferraio, was chosen by Napoleon as his principal residence. The description of one of his servants, the Mamluk Ali, is interesting:

"...situated on the highest part of the town of Portoferrajo, from one facade it looked over the town and from the other you could see the coast of the district of Piombino, on that side of the house there was a square and long garden, bordered by a parapet built on the rock, beyond which was a rough and rugged cliff that descended to the sea. The Emperor used to stroll in the morning and evening on this terrace..."

It is also reported that Napoleon occupied the entire ground floor of the villa, consisting of about eight or nine rooms. A curtain had been erected along the entire length of the driveway and was opened on sunny days at the time of the Emperor's walk. Walking along that parapet will remind you of these suggestions.

The Napoleonic residence surrounded by greenery. Villa San Martino, the Emperor's Maison Rustique, as he liked to call it, is located a few kilometers from Portoferraio and can be reached by horseback in about half an hour. Always Ali tells us that Napoleon went there almost every morning:

"...The dwelling, though modest in appearance was well distributed with a large dining room overlooking the courtyard and on the other a terrace and living room of the same size overlooking the valley..."

Napoleon had modifications made to both residences and called a Turin painter, Vincenzo Antonio Revelli, to do the decorations.

Love of theater. We know for a fact that Napoleon loved theater, and after having a small theater built in the Villa dei Mulini, he decided to make one for the population and his officers. So he used the volumes of a deconsecrated church dedicated to Our Lady of Mount Carmel to implement this project. Work began in 1814, and before long the Teatro dei Fortunati was built, inaugurated with a lavish ball in 1815. Today it is called the Vigilante Theater and still features three tiers of boxes.

The fortress, massive walls and enchanting views. Another characteristic building in Portoferraio is the recently restored English Fort. Commissioned by Cosimo III Grand Duke of Tuscany in the 1700s, it was designed to defend the citadel in case of attacks from land and called Fort of San Giovanni Battista. It is located on the hill of San Rocco, in the upper part of the modern part of the city, from which you can enjoy a wide view. In its history, the fort has gone through many ups and downs: dismantled and rebuilt according to the political and strategic vision of the moment, it took the name "English Fort" because during the 1796 rule Admiral Nelson's men settled there for about nine months. Then from 1802, under Napoleon's French rule it was renovated and rearmed. The structure was then enlarged and upgraded with more guns and garrison men. It is also said that there were secret passages joining the fort to escape routes. Today it has been completely restored, and will offer you evocative impressions of the last centuries of history.

Travel notes

Mulini Villa

Forte Stella

San Martino Villa

Vigilanti Theatre


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