Portoferraio is the only "city" on the Island of Elba because it is exactly the way Cosimo l de' Medici imagined and wanted it, the honourable first Grand Duke of Tuscany.
Today, the sixteenth century military buildings that made Portoferraio impregnable and that can still be seen and are open to the public, tell us of the glorious past of Cosmopoli: a journey within a journey, that tells you everything about the local history as you walk along the walls around the old part of the city and the port or as you follow the old lanes and alleys through the town.
As you come into the port on the ferry you will immediately make out the most eastern part of the complex defense machine that Cosimo de' Medici had built: the impressive Forte Stella over which the strong>magnificent eighteenth century lighthouse stands proud as well as the splendid city walls that rise up from the sea and surround the old part of Portoferraio. Practically all of the splendid row of ramparts that goes from the docks as far as Forte del Falcone can still be seen.
The other two supporting columns of the defense system of Cosmopoli can still be seen and are open to the public: to the east the Forte della Linguella on the docks, with its characteristic Martello Tower that seems to rise up from the water and that today is home to the Archaeology Museum; further up we have Forte Falcone where you can visit the exhibition of the historical origins of Medicean Portoferraio.
The De Laugier Barracks, today a Culture and Congress Centre, is another defense stronghold that Cosimo l de' Medici had built with the intention of using it as seat of the Order of the Knights of Santo Stefano. In the old part of Portoferraio, this building is home to exhibitions, congresses and various different types of events, and it is also a cinema, the Library and the Foresiane Picture Gallery.
With the aim of building and repairing the galleasses of the Order of the Knights of Santo Stefano the famous Dockyards of the Galleasses were built, and during the Second World War they became the indoor market.
And last but but not least, the old [page id ="245"]Biscotteria[/page], where biscuits were made and dried, is today the Municipal Town Building of Portoferraio.
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