A centuries-old history which includes Roman ironworks and a Renaissance city founded by Cosimo de Medici. A charming destination, rich in fascinating stories and curious characters which still permeate the soul of the town.
With over twelve thousand inhabitants, Portoferraio is the undisputed capital of the island of Elba. A town of ancient origins, known as Porto Argo in mythological accounts, and then Fabricia in Etruscan-Roman times in reference to the ancient iron and steel works in the area, it owes its current conformation to Cosimo de Medici, who built the fortified town of Cosmopoli here in 1548.
The city’s most important fortifications are the fortresses known as Forte Stella, Fortezze Medicee, Forte Falcone, and the recently restored Forte Inglese, which Napoleon once hoped would be the headquarters of his imperial fleet.
The Torre della Linguella sits at the entrance to the old port of Portoferraio. This unusual building with an octagonal shape boasts an extraordinary history – it was once used to imprison Passannante, the would-be assassin of King Umberto I, and is consequently also known as Passannante’s Tower.
L’attuale città venne costruita nel 1548, sulle rovine dell’antica Fabricia – così la chiamavano gli antichi Romani, il cui passaggio è ancora visibile nei resti delle ville romane delle Grotte e della Linguella – per volere di Cosimo I de’ Medici, signore di Firenze, e prese il nome di Cosmopoli.
The presence of the ancient Romans is clearly seen through the Roman Villa delle Grotte in San Giovanni and the Villa della Linguella in the centre of town. Next door, visitors can find the Archaeological Museum, containing a wide range of artefacts found in the area.
The Medici port was designed to be extremely safe and was once classified as a ‘port of refuge’. At the centre of the port is the Porta a Mare, the entrance to the city’s historic centre. All around it is a crown of pastel-coloured houses that follow the perimeter of the ancient walls.
The picturesque old town centre of Portoferraio lies around the harbour, offering splendid views and a cheerful, lively atmosphere: narrow, winding, stepped streets that open onto panoramic squares, old houses with flowering balconies and charming corners full of characteristic bars and restaurants and pretty boutiques.
There are several sights worth visiting in the town: the Napoleonic Mulini residence, the Napoleonic Vigilanti theatre and the Foresiana Art Gallery, a museum housing an incredible collection of modern and contemporary works of art
In addition to history and culture, visitors can find exceptional natural beauty around the town which include heavenly beaches such as Capo Bianco, Padulella, Sansone and Ghiae, the San Giovanni thermal park and many promontories with breath-taking views.
The municipality of Portoferraio also includes the small island of Montecristo, which is part of the Tuscan Archipelago National Park nature reserve.