Sunday, November 4, 2012

Napoleon's Elba Hideaway

Medicean fortress, Portoferraio
The Etruscans and Romans called this port on the island of Elba Fabrica since they  used it for their mining  activities.

The  true birth of Portoferraio is linked to Cosimo I de’ Medici  who had his military architect, Bernardo Buontalenti, construct the massive fortifications around  the  port  in 1548 to  protect the island from  Saracen pirate invasions.

Elba's flag was invented by Napoleon

map of Elba 

 In  honor of the Tuscan ruler, the town was  named Cosmopolis  but this name never stuck.
rooftops, Portoferraio

It soon resumed the name Portoferraio, (port of minerals) and  Admiral Nelson called it  the safest port in the world, choosing it  for Napoleon Bonaparte’s  “house arrest” in  1814. 

 Bonaparte was free to move around the island yet he was closely watched  by a Scottish officer. One weekend, when his guard was in Livorno visiting his mistress, the former French  emperor escaped  to France with several ships and several hundred followers to begin another chapter  in his legendary life-The  100 Days. 

death mask of Napoleon Bonaparte 
During his short stay on Elba, the official  residence was the Palazzina Napoleonica (dei Mulini) overlooking the town and port. The nearby Museo della Misericordia  still holds mementos of Napoleon including a death mask in bronze  done by Dr. Antonmarchi who was with Bonaparte on St. Helena.
Empire style dress  1814

view of the port  from Villa San Martino 

 Every year on  May 5th a requiem mass in memory of the former emperor is held at the Church of the Misericordia and  costumed interpreters reenact  the arrival of Bonaparte  and his companions in Portoferraio in 1814.

The former emperor was visited on Elba by his younger sister,  Paolina, who caused quite a stir for her beauty and vivacious  personality.

fountain and statue Villa San Martino 

Napoleon was able to purchase a private summer house located in  San Martino, a short drive from Portoferraio.  
Napoleon's Tuscan hideaway on Elba 

Egyptian motifs decorate the living area 

marble bath on the lower floor

dining room in Empire style 

bedroom Villa San Martino
The visit to Villa San Martino,  is a  surprise for the size of the parking lot and number of souvenir stalls contrasts with the modest size of the  home/museum. 

entrance  to  Demidoff museum hall 
Just below the modest villa is a massive museum hall, constructed  by Bonaparte  descendent, Prince  Demidoff. It  is impressive for its size and contents, but disappointing for its poorly kept  condition.   

statue of Paolina Bonaparte (later Princess Borghese) 

1 comment:

  1. Lucky old Napoleon! When he abdicated in 1814 after a series of disastrous battles he was exiled to Elba, the Italian island that thousands now choose for summer holidays.
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