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Man walked along the Tuscan coast for the first time around seven hundred thousand years ago. On the Islands the first signs of human presence go back to the Paleolithic era. In the Neolithic era the natural outlines of the Archipelago were already like those of today, and this era also saw a notable
number of human settlements. Remains of important megalithic cultures are present on Elba. The Etruscans extensively exploited the Island's natural resources; with the birth of the iron culture, the original holm-oak woods were cut down to fire the furnaces. The Greeks frequently visited Elba and called it Aethalia, which referred to the soot caused by the first iron works. An old legend tells the story of the shipwreck of the mythical Argonauts, who were the "metal seekers" of the Greek world, which washed up on the Ghiaie beach at Portoferraio, the old Argon. After myth, the history. The Island became a place of strategic interest for the exploitation of its great mineral resources, especially iron and copper. The Romans named Elba Ilva and during the first years of rule they continued to exploit the mineral deposits, and they established the first commercial bases on each Island of the Archipelago. Later,
they started a "tourist" trade ante litteram, and as a result patrician villas began to flourish. Traces of the most significant and interesting are on Giannutri, Pianosa and Elba. The fall of the Roman Empire was followed by a decline of trade in the Archipelago, accompanied by a conspicuous fall in population and abandonment of most of the Islands. Pianosa was repopulated by the Christians, who dug a catacomb complex on the Island, the most important north of Rome. From this moment onwards the history of the Islands, and of Christianity itself, interweave. During the Middle Ages the Archipelago became a refuge for monks and hermits who built monasteries and parish churches which blend in wonderfully with the natural landscape. Ancient traces of the christian faith are in fact to be found in the country and in the valleys. Capraia
was visited by Eudossio who built the little church of Santo Stefano Portomartire in the small valley of Piano.
The Bishop of Palermo, Mamiliano, reached Mt. Giove while escaping enslavement by the Vandals. Here he lived as a hermit fighting, as legend narrates, against a dragon which after a terrible struggle finally succumbed, and after the Island became called Montecristo. Saint Cerbone, bishop of Massa Marittima and Populonia, found refuge on Elba after the Longobard invasion. His Sanctuary built amidst the paths of Mt. Capanne is still a destination of pilgrimage. With
the second millennium the history of the Islands merges with that of the Marine Republics and with the Principalities of Tuscany, Pisa, Genova and the Appiani of Piombino. It was at this stage that important religious monuments were erected: the churches of San Lorenzo in Marciana, Santo Stefano alle Trane in Portoferraio, San Nicol˛ in San Piero and San Quirico in Rio nell┤Elba.
At the same time military defence fortresses were built. The Volterraio Fortress and the Torre Vecchia on Gorgona, the walls of Giglio Castle and the fort of San Giorgio on Capraia were extensively remodelled during the Renaissance. The Islands of the Tuscan Archipelago were plundered by pirate raids and from the sixteenth century until the unification of Italy they became a theatre for fights and disputes between the great powers of the time. Precious evidence of those days remain everywhere, but in particular on the Island of Elba. The birth
of Cosmopoli, ancient Portoferraio, is the admirable result of the Medici culture. This city, with its beautiful historic centre, was commissioned by Cosimo I. It is sheltered by three forts: Forte Stella, Forte Falcone and the Linguella, with the Torre del Martello and La Porta a Mare. The Spanish
took possession of Porto Longone, today's Porto Azzurro, where they erected the Fort of San Giacomo. However, the masterpiece of Hispanic culture on Elba is without doubt the Sanctuary of the Madonna di Monserrato which along with the Sanctuary of the Madonna del Monte and the Hermitage of Santa Caterina are amongst the most evocative religious sites of the entire Island. The Island of Elba is also renowned worldwide as the site of Napoleon Bonaparte's first exile. The French Emperor initiated many important projects for the Island, both cultural and economic. In Poggio, you come across the site of the natural mineral water spring which still bears his name today. The "Villa dei Mulini" and the "Villa di San Martino", both residences of the famous emperor, attract
international tourism. More recently the financial and social history of Elba was represented by the working class connected to the mining-activity on the eastern side of the Island, and to the iron and steel industry which developed in Portoferraio. After the destruction of the ironworks at Portoferraio during the Second World War, the mining industry of Elba came to an end. Following the war, the work at the tuna cannery at Enfola along with much of the farming on Elba, came to a halt. The economic profile of today's Archipelago is represented by a wide spread tourist industry. This strong interweaving of nature and culture reflects the history of the Park. Although the Islands of the Tuscan Archipelago have witnessed the presence of man from the very beginning, you can nevertheless still breathe the subtle charm of the wilderness even today.
The Tuscan Archipelago National Park operates for the conservation of these extraordinary terrestrial and marine natural environments, for the protection of the most delicate habitats, for the establishment of a new approach to tourism which couples the protection of animal and vegetable species with the governing of the territory. It is the challenge of the new millennium; nature and economy can and must unite for us and for those to come.
At Elba Island, there is tourist accommodation available in hotels, farm holiday, farmhouse, residence self-catering accommodation, b&b, rooms for rent, holiday homes, camp sites and tourist villages.