Portoferraio, Elba, Italy: The Beautiful Exile Of Napoleon

The remarkable port city of Portoferraio is the largest town and the capital of the Island of Elba. You know, the place where Napoleon was locked away after the Final Defeat… the Final Defeat? No, noo, it was just a break before Napoleon’s second act…! 🙂

The gorgeous town is a commune in the Province of Livorno. The slopes of the tiny hill that lies on one side of the town are home to fine townhouses and villas, and the port is surrounded by turquoise sea on the other three sides.

As you already know by heart from these pages, it is here the French emperor Napoleon was exiled. Although he was here for a short time, he has left his mark on this beautiful, historical island.

The old port is livelier and more attractive than the ferry docking stations. The oldest part of the town is surrounded by walls that were built during the medieval times and the remnants of the wall stretch to over 1 km/0.6 miles.

Portoferraio, Elba Island, Italy - Portoferraio is a city in the province of Livorno. It is the largest city on the island of Elba, a place where the French emperor Napoleon was exiled. The town is set on a hill, offering beautiful views of the sea. It is a great place for history and culture lovers, but also to relax on the beach and enjoy delicious sea food.Portoferraio, Elba Island, Italy

A Little Bit Of History

The city was founded in 1548 by Cosimo I of the Medici dynasty. It was called Cosmopoli, with three fortresses and huge fortifying walls built by the Medici that can be seen even today.

Until the 18th century the city was ruled by Cosimo I. Then Austria, France and England laid claim on this city, wanting to benefit from its strategic advantage. The town was transferred to France based on the Treaty of Amiens in 1802. However, it became known as the first exile of Napoleon Bonaparte in 1814.

Repubblica Square (Piazza della Repubblica), Portoferraio, Elba Island, Italy - It is the main square of the fortified old town with many cafes to relax and enjoy the bustling atmosphere of this Italian island.Reppublica Square in Portoferraio, Elba Island

The iron mills and the booming construction during the 19th century helped the port town prosper. Portoferraio eventually became the major port from where the ships transported the iron ore to the Italian mainland. This is how the town got its current name, which means ‘Iron Port’ in Italian.

As Napoleon’s power faded the city came under the rule of Tuscany and in 1860 it was finally included into the Kingdom of Italy. In the 1970s the city suffered economically due to the end of mining activities, but it gained fame as an international tourist resort in the following decades.

La Paolina Beach, Elba Island, Italy - It is a lovely beach in Marciana, named after Napoleon Bonaparte's sister. There is also a small island opposing the beach that is easily accessible by swimming or walking.La Paolina Beach, Elba Island

Portoferraio of today is a flourishing town with an established cultural center where an International Classical Music Festival is held each year. It hosts the island’s biggest open-air general market on every Friday as well.

Where is Portoferraio?

  • 19.2 miles/ 31 km from Piombino, Italy
  • 73.3 miles/ 118 km from Livorno, Italy
  • 86.3 miles/ 139 km from Pisa, Italy
  • 118 miles/ 190 km from Florence, Italy
  • 178.9 miles/ 288 km from Rome, Italy
  • 7.4 miles/ 12 km from Marina di Campo Airport, Elba, Italy
  • 84.5 miles/ 136 km from Pisa International Airport, Italy
  • 119.9 miles/ 193 km from Florence Airport, Peretola, Italy
  • 169.6 miles/ 273 km from Rome Fiumicino Airport, Italy
  • 182 miles/ 293 km from Rome Ciampino Airport, Italy

Things to See

  • Historic Center / Linguella Tower
  • Museo Civico Archeologico
  • Villa dei Mulini
  • Medici Fortress
  • Teatro dei Vigilanti
  • Roman Villa


  • Biodola village
  • Marina Grande
  • Spiaggia di Capo Bianco


  • Boat Trip
  • A Walk through the Historic Portoferraio
  • Mount Capanne
  • Isola Giannutri
  • Isola di Montecristo

Portoferraio is a real heaven with colorful boats and houses, and the warm cafes and restaurants that welcome you to enjoy the sea food and relax as you admire the sea view.

Napoleon didn’t have it so bad after all… but hated it here, and wanted to go much farther… something like St. Helena island. 🙂

We wish you a fantastic Mediterranean cruise!