The small island of Elba, once ruled by Napoleon for 300 days, offers all manner of hills for bikers and beaches for sun-lovers. The bay of Biodola, about 8 km of winding road from the ferry town Portoferraio, is a lovely cove with mostly limpid waters and a sand beach. Hotel Biodola has its own section of beach with well-kept sunbeds and parasols.
The hotel has a pool with a view, and tennis and golf can be booked in the neighboring hotel. At the top level there is a large bar terrace and breakfast is one level lower in an outdoor restaurant. The best part are the long and large dinners with 5 to 6 courses accompanied by excellent regional wine and the weekly regional buffet.
Near the beach there is a camping area and several beach restaurants with sandwiches, salads, fruit, inflatable toys, ice cream, drinks. Toward the south, some steps above Biodola Beach boat rental lead to a half-ruined path winding around the cliffs and through a cave to another not too distant cove with a pebble beach.
Biodola is a great place for other excursions to Portoferraio with its churches, forts and Napoleon’s town house, to Napoleon’s Villa di San Martino in the valley, and to Capoliveri, a tiny village high up in the mountains above Porto Azzurro.
Most people may only have seen the stone facade of the Residence on the side of the Max Joseph Platz with the adjacent buildings of the Residenztheater and the Opera, opposite the former red post office buildings and the little restaurants and boutiques on the fourth side, all surrounding the seated bronze statue of Prince Max I Joseph. Max I Joseph’s son, however, Ludwig, preferred the other side showing east to the Renaissance Court Gardens with English elements, and had his rooms furnished there.
The Diana Temple (photo supra) is said to have been erected in 1615 by Heinrich Schön the Elder. On fair days a grand piano is rolled inside and a pianist plays the lovely tunes of Chopin and Schumann to passers-by. To the southwest, the Residenz and the Herkulessaal, to the east the Theatinerkirche (Church of St. Cajetan) built by the Elector as a sign of gratitude for the birth of his heir, Prince Max Emanuel.
interior of the temple
Around the Diana temple there are four fountains, to the north the Garden arcades with the Theater Museum, and to the south the Bayrische Staatskanzlei (Bavarian State Chancellery) which was destroyed in part during the Second World War and rebuilt in the mode of Italian High Renaissance.
The Court Gardens are a sunny and peaceful place for a stroll. In the summer dances take place, musicians play their instruments, early-birds practise yoga, people chat and eat and sit on the benches. The white roses exhale their sweet perfume and you can almost forget you are in the city.
One of the highlights on the Isle of Elba in the real sense of the word is climbing up to Forte Falcone and the Medici fortresses in Portoferraio. They stand on the highest point, 79m above sea level and from the highest vantage point you look out over the Tuscan archipelago from about 84m height.
The large fortress complex is due to the Grand Duke of Tuscany, Cosimo I, with the approval of Charles V of Spain, and so construction started in April 1548. The fortification system planned by the architects Bellucci and later Camerini has two defensive areas, the Linguella at one end of the peninsula, and the Fronte di Attacco at the other extremity of Portoferraio. The whole is connected by strongholds and covered communication trenches ending in the north in Forte Falcone and Forte Stella, the strongholds, which were also put to good use during the Second World War, albeit fortified with steel ceilings in the vaults.
There is the story that the Turkish pirate Dragut, under French orders, attempted to enter the fortress, but desisted from attacking once he had a closer look at the unapproachable walls.
As it is, it’s a beautiful walk from the Piazza della Repubblica where you can park through narrow streets with laundry flying high at the window, up long flat, seemingly endless stairs that occasionally lead past a church, up to the Forte Stella, past Napoleon’s Villa dei Mulini and steeper still, over the drawbridge into the strong fortifications with its moat and breathtaking views.
Inside you can see displays from the reconnaissance of the Marines in the Second world war, an exhibition of Cosimo I, the Grand Duke of Tuscany’s town Cosmopoly, many walkways and lookouts and a very nice snack bar with homemade schiaccini (a kind of pizza sandwich) on the top floor. If you acquire a combined ticket, Napoleon’s villa and theater etc. can also be visited within a week.
Elba is a rather small but beautiful emerald-wooded island with beaches varying from pebbles to fine golden sand, but always with clear blue-turquoise waters. We stayed at the Biodola Beach at a fine hotel with great facilities such as 2 snack bars, an ATM outside the parking lot, a smooth-running AC and exquisite cuisine with four courses to choose from and a salad bar. Parasol pines and giant agave plants dot the landscape.
Napoleon, upon being pressed to give up his power came to this small island of Elba in 1814. Within days of his arrival he invited all higher officers and set about reorganizing the marines and rebuilding the town of Portoferraio (lit. port of iron). He had sewer canals dug to keep the water off the streets, he had the little military house dei Mulini (lit. of the mills) rebuilt for himself, he suggested improvements for the entire population of Elba, restless as he was.
One edifice Napoleon did not have to rebuild was the Forte Falcone at the north end of Portoferraio, near the Villa dei Mulini.
Every once in a while Napoleon would seek refuge in a mountain recluse Madonna del Monte where he spent two days with his Polish lover Maria Walewska Laczynska in September, and prayed and talked to his mother who at times joined him there.
Later, Napoleon fell in love with a villa in the valley San Martino that commands a fine view all the way to Portoferraio. He asked his sister Paolina if she could lend him the money. She obligingly sold some jewels and it is said she was the model for Canova’s statue in this wonderful palace. He had it renovated, decorated with his initial and heraldic signs of the Elban bee, and installed a bath that could be accessed by a trap door to the floor below. Next to the bath are a further room and the kitchen.
The husband of his niece Davidoff enlarged the two-storied villa by a large gallery of paintings on the ground level.
The so-called Egyptian room is decorated following Napoleon’s campaign there and the publication of two tomes on Egypt. In the middle of the room is a small tub in black and white tiling like the rest of the room. Hieroglyphs are painted on the walls and one table has Egyptian symbols.
Another room is known as the room with the “love knot”, a ribbon held up by two doves on the ceiling to symbolize Napoleon’s love for his wife, Maria Luisa, who did not join him on Elba.
uring one’s visit, you will also see a turn-of-the-century greenhouse with its panes and heating fully intact, built for the owner of this lovely mansion many years later. Some of the ceiling windows are reminiscent of Gaudí’s constructions.
One thing is for sure: the view through the valley to Portoferraio is superb, you will not want to miss it.
In the end, after long preparations to supply a ship, Napoleon decided to leave the island and its inhabitants in February 1815, albeit protesting he loved them very much. The aftermath, the disastrous Battle of Waterloo and Napoleon’s exile to St. Helen in the middle of the Atlantic, are well-known.
We stopped over in Ravenna on the way down to the ferry port in Piombino. It was worth every minute. I had not realized how many mosaics and works of art and lovely churches there are and many are on the UNESCO world heritage site list.
In the center of the old town there is the Piazza del Populo with restaurants, gelaterias and the town hall. We stayed at the quaint Palazzo Galletti Abbiosi, renovated from the 18th century, with tiny rooms yet a lot of ambiance and a decent breakfast. You buy a combined ticket for 5 UNESCO buildings that are worth visiting.
We enjoyed the mosaics museum as well which even offers a reduction in certain restaurants. Yet what was interesting were the examples from different areas and epochs, some modern mosaics are truly amazing.
Don’t forget to visit Dante Alighieri’s tomb. He wrote the Divina Commedia and spent his exile in Ravenna. The theater is named after him and there are many plays, as well as summer concerts in June through August.
One of the best places to sample regional food and wine is the enoteca or wine house Ca’de Vèn in the pedestrian zone, following the suggestion of the young lady in our Palazzo. They have all sorts of fancy food, but they recommend piadine, simple sandwiches with Parma ham and a soft white cheese not quite like mozzarella. The wine is very full-bodied and aromatic.
For other meals we can strongly recommend the Osteris Piatto Forte in the Via del Ariani, 10, right in the courtyard with one of the tinier UNESCO buildings that is unadorned on the walls but has a beautiful mosaic ceiling.
Okay, my Austrian girlfriend had put this tick into my ear: you ought to go to Bregenz and see the See. No, sorry, see the lake-theater (German: Seebühne) built right into the water. How cool can you get! Very!!
Yes, I can very much recommend it if you like Austria (CHECK, our backyard, unless our politicians come up with stupid ideas),
if you like operas (CHECK, especially if hubby is more into the mainstream operatic ones featuring real songs he can sing) (can he sing?),
if you don’t mind being cramped up for about 2 1/2 hours on the hard plastic seat (CHECK, don’t forget fat cushions and yoga class beforehand) (forget about breaks or walking or standing up in between),
if you had a yummy dinner (CHECK CHECK at La Scarpetta in Dornbirn and the Kleines Gasthaus am See, bliss, except fot the three screechers & wailers whose parents couldn’t care less about their offspring’s wails),
So, if you don’t mind all the above- mentioned things, then a weekend trip from Munich to Bregenz (about 2 1/2 hours cramped in a car) and lotsof extra cash is just the thing!
Our Travel Agency took out a chuck by charging our credit card the minute we booked with them.- that is a NO-NO. Normally, your card gets charged for 20% immediately as a kind of promise and the rest about a week or two ahead of the event. Our agency pretended now to know about this etiquette, but I had a long talk with them. After all, there such things as a Terminüberweisung and the bank will make sure the money is transferred right on time.
The hotel chosen in Dornbirn was the right size and category and not too far off from the Seebühne, about 20 km along the B 190, but had definitely seen better days and did NOT have AC. Nor did it have appeal. However, it boasts a very good breakfast, albeit missing the more expensive choices, but I don’t breakfast that much anyway, and the employees are nice and offer cushions and shuttle bus and those things you didn’t know you’d need.
Our escapism took us first to the interesting Rolls-Royce museum in Gütle (8,-€ adult), then the Seilbahn/ incline up the Karren of Gütle (Oh yes, the view iS WORTH it! free overlook in plastic over the precipice) and a great lunch of Lumpensalat (a sausage – cheese – red-onion- vinegar – oil dressing kind) with good beer and even better Almdudler (what? you don’t know the famous lemonade with herbs?).
The hot afternoon was spent in the Waldbad / Gütleright next to the river or creek without much water in this drought, but interestingly full of big and small smooth rocks and pebbles. The Waldbad offers many treats for families, well run.
“Carmen” by Bizet is most certainly in all the operatic books and Wiki. The scoop was the fantastic Bühnenbild/ backdrop done by a lady from London with two gigantic hands tossing the cards of fate. At times, the cards will be lowered at ground level to go partially underwater, so the crowd gets emphatic with skirt tossing and head banging and running and splashing each other, which is just the build-up of suspense to Carmen’s tragic end (how did the singer manage that death scene???) – no, I’m not cheating, you go there yourself, please!
The photo above took me more than half an hour of patience at the Botanischer Garten in Munich.
But I do believe it was worthwhile waitingfor the butterfly to settle down. (Oh, I just noticed the alliteration and the pun : www.) The biology expert talking to the visitors explained that these butterflies have about three weeks to procreate and then settle down forever. Naturally, they are ‘flutterier’ (is that a word at all?) than other animals who have a longer average lifespan.
Patience is a prerequisite to a happy life. If any of you has ever read M. Ibrahim et les Fleurs du Coran (Éric-Emmanuel Schmitt, 2001), you will know the quote on page 71:
« La lenteur, c’est ça le secret du bonheur »
If you look mire closely at the wings’ edges of the blue and black butterfly (oh dear, another one: bbb), you can tell that some butterflies tear their delicate wings in the netting as they frantically flutter to and fro (fff! can’t help it!).
In our everyday humdrum lives it is not always easy to do or to practice, but one should always try it with patience. Some Asian cultures have Buddha as a symbol (for complacency also?) or the lotus flower, which Yoga-lovers like imitating when they sit cross-legged on the floor. Some people enjoy cooking in their kitchenette or sailing around the world in a tiny nutshell. Some love music (farewell, Sir Simon Rattle! what a fantastic concert in Berlin last night) or love dancing, like I do. Some soft-spoken ones adore the “sound of silence”, like up on the mountain tops or diving to the ocean’s depths or even going to churches at Evensong, like St. Paul’s, London (eternal thanks to Sir Christopher Wren) silently savoring Gregorian-like chants and German hymns (I wonder which colleague of mine asked them to do us that favor?)
Our current Pope Francis, age 81 in 2018, is afanal for us Christians. If you really believe in the saying “You should practice what you preach“, then you can easily identify with his lectures and precepts. My rule of thumb is, as he says, if you don’t act according to what you profess to believe in, then you are neither trustworthy nor credible. Exactly like “The Boy who cried ‘Wolf!‘ “. A façade – phenomenon which is actually quite sad. People you cannot trust do not have many friends, that is a fact.
I am sure many of us cheered Melania on when she recently corrected her husband’s course on U.S. immigration policy and splitting up families. In this instance, Melania reminds me of Catherine Parr:
It is thought that her actions as regent, together with her strength of character and noted dignity, and later religious convictions, greatly influenced her stepdaughter Lady Elizabeth (the future Elizabeth I of England).
Catherine or ‘Katheryn the Quene KP’ (1512 – 7 September 1548) was the last of Henry VIII ‘s six wives. She was also the one who suggested he become the founder of several Colleges in his old age :
So, once again, we are remembered by our deeds, those deeds which help others get ahead, by showing patience, courage, love and generosity. Now doesn’t that remind us of another loving wife and philanthropist, Bill Gates’ Melinda? Just look at all those wonderful things they have been doing with the money accrued over his comparatively short business life. Truly amazing and inspiring. Another instance of love and patience.