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La Palazzina dei Mulini (a destra) vista dal mare, Portoferraio, Isola d'Elba, Livorno. Author and Copyright Marco Ramerini.

Napoleon on the Island of Elba: Portoferraio

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If, on Elba, you are following in the footsteps of Napoleon Bonaparte, you absolutely cannot miss a visit to the Palazzina dei Mulini in Portoferraio, where Napoleon resided for almost ten months, between 1814 (on 4 May 1814 he landed on the island of Elba) and 1815 (on February 26, 1815 he left for France), in addition to this, it is worth visiting the Villa di San Martino which was the country residence of the former emperor.


The Mulini building is located in Portoferraio, near the Stella fort, in the northern part of Piazzale Napoleone. Inside you can admire the rooms inhabited by Napoleon and his court: unfortunately the furnishings are not original as the originals have been lost, but have been replaced with others from the period to which they refer. The study, the reception hall, the valets’ room, the antechamber, the bedroom can be visited, the visit to the library is very interesting, which contains more than 1000 volumes from Fontainebleau, the gallery where there is a painting by by Jacques-Louis David representing Napoleon at the Gran San Bernardo pass, the room of Napoleon’s sister, Pauline, where there is a bust of the emperor made by François Rude.

Finally, from the gardens you can enjoy a beautiful view of the north-eastern coast of the island of Elba and of the Stella and Falcone forts.


A visit to Napoleon’s country residence, the villa of San Martino, is not to be missed, it is located about 6 kilometers from Portoferraio, located at the foot of the mountain from which it takes its name. Designed by Paolo Bargigli in 1814, the interior was decorated by Vincenzo Ravelli, the building is preceded by the museum built by the architect Matas thanks to the intervention of Prince Demidoff, a distant relative of the emperor. Before reaching the building, note the beautiful gate, where statues depicting the famous eagles, bees and the letter N stand out.

Inside the gallery, the two rows of columns that support it are impressive, as well as the furnishings, there are paintings dating back to the 13th and 19th centuries, a collection of fish and birds, and statues including the most famous one by Canova, whose female figure it seems to depict Pauline Bonaparte. From the gallery you go up, thanks to the stairs, to Napoleon’s residence including the eight rooms of the emperor, the Egyptian room decorated with paintings that recall the famous Egyptian campaign. The council room also known as the dove room, as on the ceiling were painted, at the behest of Napoleon, two pigeons tied together by a knot that tightens as they move away; the bedroom, vestibule, study and other rooms belonging to various generals. The visit to the villa ends admiring the plants and flowers in the garden.


Another place where Napoleon stayed on the Island of Elba, this time only for a few days, is the Sanctuary of the Madonna del Monte di Marciana. The French emperor lived in two rooms of the hermitage next to the sanctuary between 23 August and 5 September 1814, during his stay in this place he met the Polish countess Maria Walewska with her little son Alexandre.

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