The most important centre of the Island, with its 11,000 inhabitants, is Portoferraio .which develops and overlooks the great gulf.
This fortunate position justifies the presence of the Romans who settled here and called it Fabricia. The site of the Villa Romana Delle Grotte and the ruins of the Villa alla Linguella are the testimony of a great past.
Known then as Feraia in the medieval period, saw its revival with the advent of Cosimo de ‘Medici, who in 1548 began the great development of Portoferraio through the construction of massive fortifications that still mark the urban layout of the city: Forte Falcone, Forte Stella, the Martello Tower and many other forts and buttresses. From this immense engineering feat, Feraia in 1594 took the name of Cosmopolis: it was the city of Cosmo or Greek “Cosmos”, harmony, it was in every respect a masterpiece of military architecture.
Another presence that marked the history of Portoferraio was that of Napoleon Bonaparte. It was in the old city, between the Forte Stella and Falcone in a splendid panoramic position, that the Emperor chose his official residence: Villa Dei Mulini that still offers the possibility of being visited and to get closer to the myth of Napoleon. The alternative residence to campaign was in San Martino, a few km from Portoferraio, completely surrounded by greenery. Wherever there is the memory of the passing of the great Emperor who in just 10 months of his reign profoundly marked the history of Elba Island to the point that the flag is still the same today expressly desired by Napoleon to honour the hard work of the inhabitants. In the church of Reverenda Misericordia built in 1677 by the brotherhood, as well as the relics of the city saint of the city, San Cristino martyr, there is the bronze mask of Napoleon brought by his personal physician Dr
Antommarchi from Saint Helena. In memory of this glorious page of history, every year on May 5th is celebrated a Mass in memory of Napoleon.
Portoferraio takes in his name what has characterized its recent development of iron and steel industrial centre, which is why the momentum of tourism has known much later than other places on the island keeping their identities intact. The historic centre of the city within the walls of the Medici has preserved the peasant, honest, full of scents and colours, and along with numerous churches, fortresses, the Roman ruins blend perfectly with the new personality of Portoferraio, the main port and capital of the Island.
Very interesting to visit are the sixteenth-century churches of the Holy Sacrament built in 1551 within which you can find a votive temple dedicated to those who died during the First World War , and St. Roch with its small cemetery where were buried the victims of pestilence and executed.
Not to be missed are also: the Roman Villa in Le Grotte place (I cent.), The Archaeological Museum of Linguella and the Roman Villa, the Romanesque Church of St. Stefano Alle Trane – Loc. The Trane (XII sec.), The fortress on the high seas of the ‘pre-Roman age – Loc. S. Martino, International Art Centre of Italo Bolano – Loc. St. Martino, the Art Pinacoteca Foresiana, Salita Napoleone, the Foresiana Library, the Municipal Palace.
Market day: Friday