It can talk about prehistoric inhabitant, iron mines, Etrurian and Roman, pirates and bloody battles to rule this small but important territory.
It’s hard to find another strip of land in the middle of the sea in a position to tell as much an interesting and troubled history.
By analysing more recent events, it’s clear that the destiny of this island has always been determined by two factors: its strategic position and its wealth in subsoil minerals. Due to these characteristics, it has often been a conquest land for the many powers along the Mediterranean coasts.
To the Etrurian, it has been an inexhaustible source of richness, and in particular the Elban iron contributed to the prosperity of this people. The Roman as well appreciated the island for its iron, but also for its mud baths; as a matter of fact, the ruins of two great patritian villas have been found and one of them is situated by the thermal dock.
During the Medieval age the island underwent the domination from Pisa, still testified by some important and picturesque defensive constructions, which prove how important it was to dominate this territory. Later on the Appiani Seigniory ruled the island; it was Cosimo de’ Medici who wanted the costruction of his Cosmopoli (nowadays Portoferraio) on the ruins of the Roman Fabricia. It was also him that made the powerful defensive walls build which saved the island from the many piratical attacks.
The Spanish settled in Porto Azzurro and they too contributed to the defence of the island by erecting an impressive construction: the fortress of San Giacomo which still overlooks the village, even if transformed into a jail.
The English too were interested in the domination of this territory, as were the German and the French. Indeed they faced one another with both diplomacy and arms to gain control.
Up to more recent ages, the period which actually made this island famous all over the world was the ten-month Napoleonic exile; the French general remained on the island before the hundred-day adventure.
Napoleon left his significant mark in this tiny realm of his (he was sovereign of the island and not simply a prisoner, as he was in Sant’Elena).
Elba is rich in memories of its glorious past: from archaeological finds and military constructions, to the Napoleonic mansions and the many discoveries, either in the sea or along the coasts, of the ships carrying the Elban wine to the most important ports of the Mediterranean area. The island offers then interesting subjects to be studied, not only for archaeologists and historians, but also for all those who love prying into the vestiges of the past.