The last years of Roman rule remain wrapped in obscurity:
however, the Island of Elba lost her economic importance when Rome came
into possession of other rich mineral deposits. Following the fall of
Rome there came the first barbarian invasions and the first monks: S.
Cerbone, the best known, established himself in the sixth century in
the woods between Poggio and Marciana, where the hermitage still exists.
For almost three centuries the island was the subject of sacking and
pillaging of every kind by pirates. The Lumbards later arrived on Elba
during the time the Saracens were still infesting the seas and occupying
some islands, until the Maritime Republics did a sort of disinfection
of the waters. In the start of the year one thousand the Pisan republic
was charged by the Pope with the defense of Elba from the Saracens,
and estabished themselves on the island. From that period came the numerous
watch towers present on Elba. The island was also a goal of the Genoese
who, after several attempts to invade, managed to route the Pisans in
the famous battle of Meloria in 1284. For many years Elba was the theatre
of their battles until, in 1398, Pisa sold it to Galeazzo Visconti,
from whom it passed to the Appiani Lords, princes of Piombino, who stayed
for two centuries.The years that followed were characterized by continuous
barbarian attacks, the most famous pirate of which was "BARBAROSSA"
who was head of the Turkish fleet that destroyed the towns of Grassera
near Rio and Ferraja (Portoferraio). In 1546 Carlo V, King of Spain,
took Elba from the Appiani, and a part of the island (the territory
of Portoferraio) was sold to Cosimo the first de'Medici, duke of Tuscany,
who started work on the impressive fortifications of Portoferraio in
1548 and who called it Cosmopli. The city was so well fortified that
no one managed to sack it, not even the Saracen pirate Dragout when
he attacked Elba in 1553. In 1577, following the Treaty of London, the
rest of the Island of Elba returned to the Appiani.In the following
centuries Elba, because of her strategic geographical position, became
the object and field of contest between numerous European powers. In
1603 Philip II of Spain possessed Porto Longone (Porto Azzurro) and
built the two fortresses that we see today: Fort Focardo and Fort S.
Giacomo. Elba was therefore divided between the Spanish, the Appiani
and the Grandduke of Tuscany. The inhabitants of Elba endured the events
of the continuous struggles between the conquerors until, in 1802, Portoferraio
was liberated by the English and the whole island was annexed to France.
With the French, the Elban economy flowered, streets were built and
maritime traffic increased. With the Treaty of Fontainebleau, the Island
of Elba, together with the Principality of Piombino, was assigned to
Napoleone, who was her guest from 3 May, 1814 to 26 February, 1815.
At the congress of Vienna, Elba was retained by the Grandduke of Tuscany;
then it was reunited in 1860 with the kingdom of Italy. The period up
until the end of the century was known as the years of great misery.
But with the construction of the modern iron and steel industry, Elba
experienced a notable economic development and population explosion
until the Second World War, when the Island of Elba was bombarded and
occupied by the Germans in 1943. In this period the Elbans came to know
the violence, hunger and degradation that war brings. The principle
activity that supported the island was destroyed and there remained
nothing but for the population to emigrate, a movement that ceased in
the first years of the 50's, when Elba was discovered by tourism. Thus
was initiated the period of renovating and making the most of Elba,
which after many trials has become one of the most desirable tourist