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Comune di Portoferraio
Panorama of Portoferraio
Panorama of Portoferraio
Coat of arms of Portoferraio
Coat of arms
Portoferraio is located in Italy
Location of Portoferraio in Italy
Coordinates: 42°49′N 10°19′E / 42.817°N 10.317°E / 42.817; 10.317
Country Italy
Region Tuscany
Province Livorno (LI)
Frazioni Acquaviva, Biodola, Magazzini, Montecristo, San Giovanni, San Martino, Santo Stefano, Scaglieri, Schiopparello, Valle di Lazzaro, Viticcio, Volterraio
 • Mayor Roberto Peria (since June 2004)
 • Total 47.46 km2 (18.32 sq mi)
Elevation 4 m (13 ft)
Population (31 July 2007)
 • Total 12,136
 • Density 260/km2 (660/sq mi)
Demonym Portoferraiesi
Time zone CET (UTC+1)
 • Summer (DST) CEST (UTC+2)
Postal code 57037
Dialing code 0565
Patron saint St. Cristinus
Saint day April 29
Website Official website
View of the Medici fortifications.

Portoferraio is a town and comune in the province of Livorno, on the edge of the eponymous harbour of the island of Elba. It is the island's largest city. Because of its terrain, many of its buildings are situated on the slopes of a tiny hill surrounded on three sides by the sea.


Napoleon in Portoferraio, Leo von Klenze, 1839.

It was founded by Cosimo I de' Medici, Grand Duke of Tuscany, in 1548, with the name of Cosmopoli ("Cosimo's City"), to balance the presence of the Spanish citadel in Porto Azzurro. It had three forts (Forte Stella, Forte Falcone and Forte Inglese)[1] and a massive line of walls, all still visible today.

The city remained to the Grand Duchy of Tuscany until the 18th century, when, due to its strategic position, it was contended by France, England and Austria. A British garrison withstood the Siege of Porto Ferrajo in 1801, but the 1802 Treaty of Amiens transferred the town to France. In 1814 it was handed over to Napoleon Bonaparte, as the seat of his first exile. In the 19th century, the city grew quickly, due to the construction of infrastructures and the exploitation of new iron mills in Rio Marina. Portoferraio then became the main shipping port of the ore towards the mainland, whence the current name, meaning "Iron Port" in Italian. After the end of the Napoleonic Era, Portoferraio returned to Tuscany, and became part of the Kingdom of Italy in 1860. Here brigand Carmine Crocco was imprisoned until his death for his revolution against the reign of Victor Emmanuel II and the anarchist Giovanni Passannante who attempted to kill king Umberto I.

During World War II, Portoferraio became the scene of battle when Elba was occupied by Nazi forces. In late June 1944, an Allied force composed mainly of Free French troops liberated the island in a fight which lasted two days. Portoferraio was taken by French troops on 18 June, but was damaged by the fighting and the bombing raids which preceded the invasion.

Portoferraio's economy suffered from the end of mining activities starting from the 1970s, but in the following decades it gained a status as an internationally renowned tourist resort.

Main sights[edit]

The town center is crowded around the small marina drawn in a natural cove.

Main points of interest include:

  • Forte Stella
  • Forte Falcone
  • Forte Inglese
  • Archeological museum
  • Napoleon's house


  1. ^ Role, R.E., Fort 2008 (Fortress Study Group), (36), pp108-129

External links[edit]