After a year that saw the Island of Elba at the top of the tourism rankings as favoured destination for Italian travellers, in 2021 the island is ready celebrate the Bicentenary of its most illustrious guest, Napoleon Bonaparte, who, over ten months in exile in the capital of the Tuscan Archipelago, left an indelible mark on history.
Throughout the year, Elba offers meetings, visits, concerts, tastings, itineraries to trace the footsteps of the Emperor and discover history in an entertaining way, reliving the atmosphere of the era, almost as if Napoleon himself were just round the corner ...
“The island of 200 beaches", beloved by tourists who choose this natural, unspoiled destination, is offering something more this year to so that the experience is even more complete: an edutainment holiday rich in history and culture, with events throughout the island aimed at adults, teens and children.
The calendar of initiatives is constantly updated, here are some examples:
The Emperor's haunts
Napoleon was very inquisitive and a keen walker. The places where he stayed can still be visited today, beginning with his first residence, Palazzina dei Mulini, and his summer house in the hinterland, Villa San Martino, which was supposed to be a love nest to share with his wife Maria Luisa, who was, however, never able to join him on the island.
Few people know that in addition to these two places in Portoferraio, Bonaparte also had rooms set up within the walls of Forte San Giacomo in Porto Azzurro and in Rio, next to what is now the seat of the Mining Park Museum, there is an ancient villa, once a government palace, where Napoleon used to stay.
Enthusiasts cannot miss the Viste beach from which Napoleon fled on 26 February 1815, as well as other fascinating places on Elba abounding with legends. One of these is Paolina's rock, where it is said that the Emperor's sister loved to bathe in total freedom, away from prying eyes ...
The Napoleonic Passport
Fascinated by the figure of the Emperor? Veritable experts? Your collection of historical objects will not be complete without the "Napoleonic Passport" that is issued to travellers visiting Elba in the footsteps of the "Corsican Condottiero". The 10 stages of the Napoleonic Itinerary are included in the passport, which can be stamped to certify the completion of each part of the route. At the end, enthusiasts will find a surprise waiting for them at the Visit Elba info points.
Trekking and biking in the footsteps of Napoleon
Though he only stayed for a few months on the island, Napoleon left indelible traces that marked the history of Elba and the rest of Europe.
Today it is possible to retrace them along a wide choice of trekking routes, which, in addition to satisfying historical curiosity, offer insights into the extraordinary variety of Elba's natural landscape.
Two-wheel enthusiasts recognise Elba as a bike paradisebecause of the great variety of routes and views and mild climate, so much so that it has been designated as the venue for the UCI MTB Marathon World Championships to be held in October 2021. For this reason there is no shortage of routes to be tackled by bike and ebike, such as those through the San Martino Woods or along the slopes of Monte Capanne, which are capable of satisfying the needs of the most inquisitive as well as the most adventurous cyclists.
All the routes can be explored on https://elbasmartexploring.com/ the website that gives a 360° preview of the island.
Thanks to the extraordinary research of the chef Alvaro Claudi, collected in the book “A tavola con l’Imperatore” (Dining with the Emperor), it is easy to discover that the Emperor had an eye for quality, so much so that he recognised the value of Aleatico wine by awarding the Emperor's Privilege, a document that can be considered the precursor of today's DOC.
The atmosphere of the imperial era has been revived by the world champion chocolate maker Francesca Paola Bertani, who, for the Bicentenary has created two novelties: Il marengo di Napoleone (Napoleon's Marengo), which takes its name from the twenty-franc gold coin minted by Napoleon after the victory of Marengo, and Il bacio di Walewska (Walewska's Kiss), inspired by the love that the Polish countess expressed for Napoleon in travelling to be with him on the island.
And we shouldn't forget the low mineral content spring water of Poggio (Marciana) from the spring that owes its name to the emperor's frequentation of this area. Or the Aleatico from the Acquabona Vineyard, winner of the Gold Medal at the Mondial des vins extremes 2020 international wine competition.
And if your passion is for perfume, Napoleone and Paolina, the two limited editions from Acqua dell’Elba created for the bicentenary of the reign of Napoleon Bonaparte on the island in 2014, are also available for this year only.
Music, meetings, re-enactments under the banner of Bonaparte
Throughout 2021 events to celebrate the figure of the great Corsican, will be held in all the arts.
Events such as the concerts in the Elba Isola Musicale d’Europa Festival (26 August - 12 September) focus on Napoleon's passion for Haydn, with performances of his most beautiful string quartets; the Procchio Napoleonic Week (from 22 to 29 August) includes a historical procession, the reconstruction of a nineteenth-century French military camp and a gala dinner in costume and nineteenth-century menu; this year's Grape Festival (1 October), the traditional feast in Capoliveri, is entirely dedicated to the Emperor. But there is no shortage of initiatives throughout the island, such as exhibitions, shows, animated trails and book presentations offered in the municipalities of Marciana and Marciana Marina.