Elba, Italy cruise holidays
The island of Elba lies 10km off the Tuscan coast and, though relatively unknown to many tourists, is the third largest Italian island after Sicily and Sardinia. As soon as you step ashore in Elbas cruise harbour Portoferraio, you will feel the centuries slip away as you imagine how Napoleon felt when he arrived to start his first period in exile. Steeped in history running way back to the Romans and Etruscans - Greek mythology even has it that Jasons Argonauts came this way too - Elba has prospered ever since the medieval Medicis arrived. You will see an imposing Medici fort, as well as a Martello Tower and second fort (Stella), looking down on you as you cruise into the harbour and then walk through the Porta a Mare archway into an old town full of cafes, bars and shops.
Touring around Elba, you will enjoy beautiful scenery and discover hidden coves and beaches. You can even take a funicular to enjoy the panoramic views from the top of 3,200ft Mount Capanne. A visit to Napoleons ornate summerhouse and gardens at San Martino will also be on your wish list. An idyllic retreat with its crystal-clear waters, rocky cliffs, pine-clad mountains and golden sands, it is most famous for harbouring French Emperor Napoleon Bonaparte for 300 days during his exile from France in 1814.
Given rule over the island and its 110,000 inhabitants, Napoleon was received by the locals with great enthusiasm. He set about overhauling the legal and education systems and instigating public works, making improvements to public hygiene and ensuring the construction of new roads. His most noticeable legacy for tourists, however, is the lovely Villa dei Mulini, which served as his home while banished from France. It has a delightful terraced garden with magnificent views over the bay, and a copy of the famous painting by Jacques-Louis David, Napoleon at the Saint-Bernard Pass.