From Roman Fabricia to Medici Cosmopoli, the gateway to the island


With its more than twelve thousand inhabitants, Portoferraio can be considered the "capital" of the island of Elba. The present city was built in 1548, on the ruins of ancient Fabricia - as the ancient Romans called it, the passage of which can still be seen in the remains of the Roman villas of the Grotte and Linguella - at the behest of Cosimo I de' Medici, lord of Florence, taking the name Cosmopoli.

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The most important fortification works in the city are Fort Stella, Fort Falcone and, recently restored, Fort English, the last witness of Napoleon's grand imperial plan. In Portoferraio's beautiful dockyard, however, you will find the Martello Tower at the entrance to the old harbor. There are also numerous other forts and buttresses that create an unprecedented defensive complex, considered a true masterpiece of military architecture.

The city of Portoferraio has not, perhaps because of its recent past as a steel industrial center, developed a tourist vocation: this very aspect has been preserved almost intact in its ancient urban structure. The recoveries of the fortresses that surround and overlook it, carried out in recent years, preserve all its magical charm.

Approaching Portoferraio across the sea, the Martello Tower will be your first bulwark with the imposing fortifications of the wide horseshoe-shaped inlet behind. The Darsena Medicea is a high-security port, so much so that it was classified as a "port of refuge." Precisely for this reason, even on days of raging winds and rough seas, the Dock and the entire roadstead welcome ships even of considerable tonnage that drop anchor there while waiting for better weather. In the center of the Darsena is the Porta a Mare, the entrance to the city's historic center. All around branches off a crown of pastel-colored houses that follow the perimeter of the ancient walls.

Surrounding the Darsena is the picturesque old town of Portoferraio, which offers splendid views and a cheerful, lively atmosphere: quaint bars and restaurants, specialty stores and cute boutiques, and the traditional indoor market where you can stock up on provisions. There are several attractions you can visit in the city: the Napoleonic residence of the Mills and the Napoleonic Theater of the Vigilantes; the Linguella Archaeological Museum, the Foresiana Picture Gallery, the Misericordia Church, the Fortresses of Falcone and Stella, and the last jewel, namely Fort Inglese.

Not only history and culture, but an exceptional natural heritage surrounds the city: paradisiacal beaches, the St. John's Spa Park, and headlands with striking views await to make your vacation unique and unforgettable.