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Portoferraio Cruises

The Island of Elba is probably known foremost as one of the places where Napoleon spent some time in exile. Located in the Ligurian Sea, Elba is the largest island in the Tuscan archipelago. Its considerable deposits of high-quality iron ore were already mined by the Etruscans, which enabled them to assert their dominance in Italy. Later, the mines were worked by the Romans. In fact, the name of Elba's capital means "iron port," testifying to the island's important resource.

The island attracts an increasing number of visitors for its natural attractions; stunning mountain scenery blending with a cliff-fringed coast, secluded coves and crystal waters make for an ideal holiday destination. History buffs, too, find plenty of interest just by concentrating on Elba's most famous resident, Napoleon Bonaparte.

Although he only spent ten months here (from May 1814 to February 1815), he made valuable contributions to road and civic works. His one-time official residence, the Villa dei Molini, stands on the seaward side of the Piazza Napoleone and contains his library. Although the emperor died on the island of St. Helena, mass is still said each year in Portoferraio on the anniversary of his death. Relics in the Misericordia Church include a reproduction of Napoleon's coffin and a bronze cast of his death mask. About four miles inland from Portoferraio, on the slopes of Monte San Martino, stands the Villa San Martino amid luxuriant vegetation. The villa served as the emperor's summer residence and is now a museum.

Elba's most endearing asset is doubtless its splendid scenery and serene charm, which is so highly appreciated by visitors. It also offers endless inspiration to painters, writers and photographers from around the world. Today, the tourist industry may well be the island's main source of income, but the economy also benefits from tuna and anchovy fishing, agriculture and the mining of iron ore and semi-precious stones.