In Napoleon’s footsteps

By | Category: Travel destinations

This year is the bi-centenary of a man who seems to be known by just about everyone. I refer to Napoleon who died 200 years ago this year on the island of St Helena which is the island’s main claim to fame.

Seccheto on Elba . Image R Ridi/Visit Elba

But before then Napoleon was placed on the small island of Elba for ten months until he escaped in 1815 to make a final attempt at returning to power.

This small, 18 by 11 mile, island between Corsica and the Italian mainland has become a popular tourist destination for Italian tourists yet not that many from our shores travel there.

Although Napoleon and anything associated with him is a big attraction, Elba offers plenty more to the traveller who doesn’t want to have to spend too much time travelling miles to see the sights.

Being compact yet with a small population, Elba doesn’t suffer from tourism pollution but can still offer events, visits, concerts, tastings, and beaches (described by the tourist board as “An island with 200 shores”) this year the island is concentrating on its links with Napoleon.

You can visit the first residence he had on the island, Palazzina dei Mulini as well as his summer residence in the hinterland, Villa San Martino, which was supposed to be the love nest he shared with his wife Maria Luisa. But he also had had rooms set up within the walls of Fort St. James in Porto Azzurro, while in Rio, next to what is now the headquarters of the Mining Park Museum, is an old villa that was once a government palace and where he used to stay.

Villa Mulini. Image R Ridi/Visit Elba

Spiaggia delle Viste beach is from where Napoleon escaped to the mainland on February 26th 1815, prior to returning to power. Here you’ll also find Paolina rock from where his sister is said to have bathed in complete privacy from prying eyes. No paparazzi in those days!

Despite staying for that short time, Napoleon left a strong mark on Elba. You can retrace his walks over the island with a choice of hiking trails (or you can follow the bike trails instead) and, at the same time, collect a Napoleonic passport which lists the ten most important Napoleonic destinations on the island. After each visit you will can ask the staff at each of the ten to give you proof of your journey. At the end of visiting all ten you’ll find a surprise at the Visit Elba points.

During the year-long celebrations, there will be concerts such as the Festival Elba Isole Musicale d’Europa (August 26th until September 12th) which will be based on Napoleon’s findness for the music of Hayden, a themed week in Procchio (August 22nd-August 29th) along with an historical procession.

There will also be a reconstruction of a French nineteenth century military camp and a a gala dinner where guests will have the opportunity of wearing costume of the time.

At the end of your holiday you should be really able to say that you walked in Napoleon’s footsteps!

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