The family Medici in Elba

At the time of the Grand Duchy of Tuscany (sec. XIII)

In the thirteenth century Elba became part of the Grand Duchy of Tuscany, ruled by Leopold II. The Grand Duke put into effect many legislative and administrative reforms that enhanced a rapid economic growth. The production of iron, salt, wine and trades had a large increase. During this time, small groups of warehouses and fishermen's homes that had once characterized the shores of Elba saw the rise of the "Marinas": Marina of Rio, Marina of Marciana and Portoferraio became the headquarters of the Grand Duchy's fleet.

The Medici family in Elba (four-seventeenth century)

In 1548, Cosimo I de' Medici, obtained from Charles V, under the Florentine lordship of the Medici family, the charge to defend Elba and the trades in the Tyrrhenian Sea. Cosimo de 'Medici strongly believed in the strength of the island and wanted to make it the center of the Florentine lordship over the Tyrrhenian Sea. As a matter of fact, he furthered the fortification of Ferraja (Portoferraio), which became a jewel of urban military. In May 1548, architect Balducci, and later Camerini, began to fortify the city of Cosimo thus restoring harmony between sea, land and architecture which gave to the village a new face and name (Cosmopolis), "cradle of civilization and culture, example of balance and rationality ".

The Gulf of Portoferraio became an invincible fortress as well as a safe naval base and a strategic site for defense thanks to the shape of its natural harbor, which had a strip of land that closed into a spiral and was protected on either side by two promontories overlooking the sea.

On top of the headlands were built Forts Stella and Falcone, and on the stretch of land that surrounded the dock was erected the picturesque Fort Linguella.

Later Cosmopoli was fortified with defence walls and ramparts also along its inland side, following the wise designs of the architect Bernardo Buontalenti. The ditch, which separated Portoferraio from the rest of Elba making it an unconquerable isle, was digged later in 1600.
In 1555 the defences of Cosmopol were hardly tested by the pirate Dragut, who after having conquered and looted Capoliveri, Rio, San Piero, Sant'Ilario and Pomonte, left the island on the way to Corsica without being able to conquer Portoferraio.

To fight the Turkish piracy, Cosimo I de' Medici, following the model of the order of Malta, founded the Order of the Knights of Santo Stefano by building the convent of San Salvatore (now Caserma De Laugier) which represented their headquarter and that of the Navy arsenal of Galezze for the maintenance of their fleet.

At the end of the dynasty of the House of Medici, Cosmopoli, as well as the whole Grand Duchy of Tuscany, passed to the House of Lorena. Later it was annexed to the Kingdom of France, which after two centuries returned to rule on Elba. The island was reigned by Napoleon Bonaparte for about 10 month, who lived in the Villa dei Mulini during his Exile. The house, which is located in the historic center of Portoferraio, dominates the entrance to the town harbor.

Biscuit Palace

Biscuit Palace

Built at the request ofKing Cosimo I, today it is the seat of Town Hall of Portoferraio.

Galleass of  dockyard

Galleass of dockyard

Wanted by Cosimo de' Medici, currently hosts the covered indoor market of Portoferraio.

De Laugier Barracks

De Laugier Barracks

Built in 1562 by Cosimo I de' Medici now Culture and Congress Centre

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