The ship has anchored near Portoferraio on Elba Island, Italy, which is shaped like a fish. We are here to visit one of two residences that Napoleon Bonaparte had on the island between May, 1814 and February, 1815, when he was exiled here after he abdicated the French throne. I will post a more detailed account and more photos of Elba Island and Villa San Martino, also known as Villa Bonaparte, but today we are just looking for doors. Elba Island is the third largest island of Italy after Sicily and Sardinia. It is part of the Italian Tuscan Archipelago Chain and the Toscano National Park. I have to say, it is very, very small and if it weren’t for the major beaches found on the coasts, (where all the tourists go) I really don’t know what one would do here. Most of interior of the island is an open woodland park with a few remote dwellings scattered about. This would be the place to go to get away from it all, even today. One would feel very isolated. In 1814, Elba Island was thought be a good place to put Napoleon to keep him out of trouble. He was sent here with a guard of 600 men and given a small title, in name only. He did make improvements to the island, to keep himself busy and endear himself to the people. He built mostly roads. Even now, there are only roads linking the beach towns to the interior, by going from beach to beach, and they are few and far between. He also maintained a larger home located in the upper part of Portoferraio, Palazzina dei Mulini, where he brought his mistress and conducted official business. His home in Paris, where the family had lived previously, was very grand. Napoleon took one look at his new country lodging here and wrote to his sister demanding she sell her pearls so he could update the country villa to a style worthy of his distinction. She did as she was told. He only stayed here nine months and then escaped back to France. Today, Villa San Martino is a museum. Let’s look at a few doors! There weren’t many, as this villa will reveal. But, I did find the place very interesting.
The original villa consisted of a small square building with two levels. Later, a very moderate gallery was added to the villa. Notice how it was decorated on the outside with the letter “N”, a grouping of three bees (which represented the Bonaparte family), and big eagles. I wondered whose job it was to plant the urns on the roof…………..
This building was used to house some of Napoleon’s guard.
The terrain here is on the hilly side and the villa is surrounded on three sides with woodland.
But, from these doors on the second level of the villa, he had a great view.
We had a hike to get up here……….
This view from the second level doors shows the long driveway and a close-up of one of the eagles.
One of the two most important rooms in the villa, The Hall of the Knot of Love, was dedicated to his union with Maria Luisa of Habsburg-Lorraine. Maria Luisa and Bonaparte’s son were sent to Austria when Napoleon was sent to Elba Island. I think she got the better deal……………but he did do the room up in pink, yellow and pale green…….. He used the room as a dining room.
The Egyptian Room was decorated with hieroglyphics, pyramids and a large zodiac on the ceiling. In 1799, during Napoleon’s military campaign in Egypt, a French soldier named Pierre Francois Bouchard (1772-1832) discovered the Rosetta Stone. This artifact provided the key to cracking the code of Egyptian hieroglyphics, a written language that had been dead for almost 2,000 years.
On the ground floor were the service rooms and that was where the bathroom was. There was a tiny door trap in Napoleon’s bedroom that had ladder-sized steps that led down to his bathroom and opened out through this door.
The bathroom also had a fireplace………and another narrow door out.
The Didmidoff Gallery is at the front and foot of the original building. Count Anatolio Demidoff of Russia and cousin of the Russian tzar, was the husband of Napoleon’s niece, Matilde di Monfort. He added on to Napolean’s frugal villa in 1851. He kept the family’s collection of antiques here and dedicated a museum with Napoleon’s weapons, paintings and other memorabilia until the Italian part of Didmidoff dynasty died out.
I hope you have a enjoyed our brief look into Napoleon’s country villa in Elba today!
Have a great door week! Look here to see what others are doing for Norm’s Doors!
It’s easy to do Norm’s Doors. Photograph some doors and post them to Thursday Doors on Thursday!
PS All photos were taken on our IPhones this year……..we are traveling lighter!
8 Comments Add yours
that is something to see, very nice
Fascinating. Was there any discussion on why Napoleon wasn’t sent to prison instead of a nice house on an island? I’m amazed his family was allowed to retain the property after his escape.
No no mention of that, but I wonder if he wasn’t still held in some esteem by some of the people in France. They did assist him in his escape from Elba and back to France where he stirred up trouble again. When he was defeated by the British for good, they sent him to a much more secure place. More about that in an upcoming post.
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I’ll watch for future posts. Thanks.
Well, I learned a lot today. What a fascinating villa. I’m so glad you brought us along. I like the narrow door in the bath. The other doors, doorways sndbtooms are so beautiful. Thanks for the pictures and the history (I always enjoy the history).
Me too Dan!
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I’m also interested in history, so I enjoyed the post as well. You’re right–quite a view from his “little” place. 🙂
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A beautiful place and an interesting story. Ah, the life of the elite (hehe) … a whole other world. Lovely architecture, doors, and views of the countryside.