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The oldest part of Portoferraio looks on to the Medicean harbour below the imposing Renaissance fortifications that wind their way around the high rocky promontory. The basin of water is punctuated by the Forte della Linguella at one end and the Torte del Martello at the other. The village is protected at the back by the two Forts, Falcone and Stella and at the front by the fringed Medicean Bastions of Bernardo Buontalenti. Even Admiral Nelson had to admit it was "the safest port in the world". According to Greek mythology it was the port of call of the Argonauts, from whence it's Greek name Argoos.
The Romans and Etruscans used the port, calling it Fabricia, for their mining activities and as testimony to their passage there are the remains of two splendid Roman villas; one on the promontory of the Grotte opposite the Gulf of Portoferraio and the other next to the Forte della Linguella. The Museum of Archaeology houses important remains which tell the story of ancient navigators. But the true birth of Portoferraio is linked to Cosimo I de' Medici who decided to trasform it into the main port for his fleet against the Saracen pirates. In 1548, with the name of Cosmopolis, a name that did not fall into common use, the new township was founded and its layout decided. It was to be a true model of military urbanism.
Of great interest contained within the village, are the main churches. Inside the Duomo dedicated to the nativity of the Madonna a Visitazione of Passignano. A painting of Sagrestani completes the refined decoration of the church of Santissimo Sacramento. The art gallery Foresiana, built inside the former Franciscan convent of San Salvatore, houses important Italian paintings of the 800's, including Benvenuti, Bezzuoli, Ciseri, Signorini, Nomellini, Poppi and Pietro Senno.
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