Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Exiled like Napoleon to Elba Island, Italy

Isola d’Elba is where Italians go to unwind. This remote island, one hour’s ferry ride from the Tuscan coast, is also popular with French tourists due to its Napoleonic history. This was helpful to me since I have a bad habit of lapsing into French (my second language) when trying to speak any foreign language.

Following his abdication in 1814, Napoleon and his personal guard of 600 men were exiled to Elba. Napoleon ruled there as governor for 300 days, trying to improve the lives of islanders while secretly planning his next invasion.

 This was Napoleon's drawing room.

Napoleon’s home and gardens are now a museum, Villa dei Mulini a Portoferraio.

A steep path down from Napoleon’s enclosure led to a sand and pebble cove, Spiaggia delle Viste.

A passing clipper ship matched the timeless setting.

Although Le Viste Restaurant and Bar (phone: 0565.914405) is a more recent addition,
the hospitable owner spoke some French.

Why did Napoleon want to escape such paradise to wage yet another war? After his defeat at Waterloo, he was exiled to a more remote island in the South Atlantic. I can vouch that even his troops lived well on Elba as we stayed in their breezy barracks. This was our bedroom view at sunset (opposite side of the lighthouse from Napoleon’s garden.) The first photo was shot from the bedroom at sunrise.

Here’s the kitchen view at sunset . . .

And at dawn.

I spent hours just watching the light change as boats sailed into the harbor.

To reach Napoleon’s cliff-side residence, one climbs up the many steps of Portoferraio.

Residents and their guests can drive
straight from the ferry terminal
through buildings . . .

Swerving around the toes of matrons 
chatting on their doorsteps 
and squeezing 
through openings 
so narrow 
auto insurance 
was a good investment.

This road sign amused my learner-permit son.
Our host made the turn in 3 points
7 points
some car paint.

In late June we were staying with my friend Anna (right of me), who went to high school with me in New York City before moving back to Italy. Even after so many years, we easily picked up where we left off. This photo was taken by my husband.

On our last night we dined at Le Vista . . .

Watching the sun set . . .

Over mainland Tuscany. This is my kind of exile.


Anonymous said...

able was I ere I saw Elba!

Sarah Laurence said...

Thanks "anonymous" for that most famous palindrome.

Tracy Golightly-Garcia said...

Hello Sarah

I am falling in love with Italy!! Great history information and the most beautiful pictures I have seen in a long time.

Please post more!!

Have a great day.

Tracy :)

Pamela Terry and Edward said...

Oh my soul, Sarah!
How did you ever come home?
Exile takes on a whole new meaning for me now.

troutbirder said...

Wow! What a vacation spot. I never imagined Elba to look this this. To trade all that for defeat, banishment to a lonely rock in the South Atlantic and ultimately lead poisoning.

Alyson | New England Living said...

Haven't been around the blog world at all lately and it looks like I missed that you went on a beautiful holiday! Loved how you captured it, especially the views of the changing light.

Elisabeth said...

A room with a view indeed, rooms with many views. I'm pleased to meet you Sarah. I've come via Cuban.

It's lovely to share however vicariously the joys of such a time away and the history. Thanks.

walk2write said...

I wonder what a genius like Napoleon could have accomplished with more of a bent toward art rather than war? Especially with the time he spent on Elba. Your photos, as usual, are breathtaking, Sarah.

Rose said...

So, so beautiful--I can't imagine why anyone would want to conquer the world if they could live here forever! I think I'd probably buy a moped,however, rather than try to drive a car here:)

Thanks for sharing all these lovely photos with us, Sarah.

Beth Kephart said...

were I to have been able to have been there.... :)! Lovely photos, Sarah.

Jennifer Mirsky said...


I've been to Italy, and specifically to Elba, and your photographs truly do it justice. You capture the beautiful and other-worldly light masterfully.

E Bellissima!


A Cuban In London said...

You know I had to do a double-, triple- and quadruple-take on that first photo to reassure myself that it was a photo and not a painting? :-)

Great post. The view from the kitchen is glorious.

Greetings from London.

Elizabeth said...

Exile indeed!
Looks like bliss to me.
Such a lovely photo of you, Sarah.
So now I long to visit Elba.
Napoleon's drawing room looks luxurious indeed.

Anonymous said...

Wow. Thanks for taking me on your trip with you, through these amazing photos. Nice to have you back, though.

Sarah Laurence said...

Tracy, I still have more Italy photos and will post them later. Next week is the book review club featuring a new release novel I read on my trip.

Pamela, it was easier to leave knowing that Anna invited me to come back and visit again.

Troutbirder, I’ll never get Napoleon, but what a fascinating character.

Alyson, welcome back! You have been missed.

Elisabeth, welcome to my blog and thank you!

W2W, now there’s a thought . . .

Rose, mopeds scare me even more. They are popular in Italy. . . and LOUD.

Beth, ha! I think you’d get on well with “anonymous,” my husband.

Grazie mille, Jennifer!

ACIL, thank you for that quadruple take and for connecting me with Elisabeth.

Elizabeth, bliss indeed.

Charlotte, friends like you made it easier to come home.

Les said...

Thank you so much for taking us along on your vacation. These posts have been a pleasant distraction to the fact I have to go back to work today after much time off.

Amanda Summer said...

these are stunning shots of a place i would love to visit - thanks for providing the completely lovely virtual tour. the foto of you and your friend is wonderful and speaks to how special this vacation was for you.

Kelly H-Y said...

Oh my goodness ... what a trip ... what a location! I must put that on my list for when we return to Italy someday. Gorgeous. Thanks for taking us there via this post!

Booksnyc said...

These photos are just beautiful! I have always wanted to go to Italy and pictures like these just intensify that feeling.

Glad you have such a wonderful holiday!

Donna said...

Amazing! Wow! What a neat place to travel to!

Unknown said...

I went to Elba almost two years ago, I could not stop thinking about Etruscans who lived there before.
Quite interesting history the Elba has.
Thanks for reminding me my trip :)

Billy said...

Actually - Napoleon was not having holiday. He had many reliable secret messages that the Allied victors were intent on moving him further away from Europe; they knew Napoleon would be Napoleon and try to push his luck at some point - and he did; ironically because of their fears creating the situation.