Portoferraio, the capital of Elba was founded by the Romans. Later, Cosimo de Medici and his Florentine successors built the fortress, a masterpiece of military architecture, so perfect that it was considered one of the safest places in the Mediterranean Sea.
In 1814 Napoleon arrived on Elba and profoundly marked the territory and the economic and social fabric of the city and indeed of the whole island.
Portoferraio is now a flourishing town, an established cultural centre (with an international classical music festival held each September, a conference hall, a small restored theatre, the more important museums), and has well organised docks, a good shopping area and each Friday it hosts the island's biggest open-air general market.
A "MUST" on your holiday itinerary is a visit to the "Villa della Linguella" with it's small museum, the Villa Romana delle Grotte (2 kms out of town), Napoleons Museum/Villa San Martino (1 km), the Medici forts surrounding the town with Napoleons "Villa Mulini", Forte Stella, Forte Falcone, Torre del Martello; the Teatro dei Vigilanti (originally a deconsecrated church transformed by Napoleon into a theatre); the beautiful churches - Duomo, Chiesa della Reverenda Misericordia (where you can admire a bronze mask and hand cast of Napoleon) - the Chiesa SS.Sacramento and La Biscotteria (Town Hall); the Pinacoteca Foresiana picture gallery contains works by Signorini, Cannici, Nomellini, Cigheri, Bilivert and other famous artists.
Browsing around the streets in the old town centre is a pleasant way to discover "hidden" angles of everyday life from the local bakers shop to numerous handicraft boutiques.