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D + 5: Faking History in San Martino

Updated: Mar 26, 2021

When discussing our plans for today over dinner last night, we thought we would visit the two Spanish Fortresses, buy some white wine from Elba and maybe visit Napoleon’s main residency on the island. But Fort Longone is a prison – no go - Fort Focardo a naval station – no go - and we could not find a wine shop in Porto Azzurro – no go again.

Napoleon’s modest country residence in San Martino

We thus set out for San Martino which was open despite Covid-19 and booked tickets for the 11 am tour. It turned out to be a most interesting tour. The entire story is fake history. The magnificent palace was not the house Napoleon lived in for nine months. Who would build such a palace on Elba in the first place? Nobody knew that Napoleon would be coming in 1814. The Russian, Austrian, Prussian and English Monarchs made this decision at short notice. Napoleon’s accommodation was far more modest as can best be seen from an aerial picture which we photographed in a souvenir shops nearby. No wonder Napoleon did not like it here. Add to this his financial problems once the French King reneged on his promise to pay him 2 million silver francs a year and his conviction that he had not lost the spring battles. The perfect toxic mix for a vain glorious person.

Napoleon’s villa on top of the Palace built by Russian Prince Anatolji Demidoff 1851 – 59

The Russian prince who built the palace was a distant relative of Napoleon and an ardent fan of the Emperor. The neo-classic building was to house a museum for Napoleon’s lifetime achievements but it is rather empty now. Interesting that none of this is mentioned in any prospectus or on the internet. You would never know until you have been here. Seems that fake history has a longer tradition than we tend to believe

The empty museum which is the home to very few graphures

We returned to Porto Azzurro where we bumped the day before into a German film crew who made a movie. It was a farewell scene between mother and daughter on the town’s little pier with plenty of extras who pretended to rush to a non-existing ferry. Am sure they film the ferry in Portoferraio the next day. Porto Azzurro is probably more scenic for a feel good movie.

Film makers and extras crammed on Porto Azzurro’s mini quai

Last night, we also found the equipment necessary to float effortlessly in the water – yes, the noodles. Our co-sailors from previous years know how to use them – floating endlessly in the water for philosophical discussions on monetary policy or capital market structures! Ha! Ha!

Noodles - the AFAET did not have any - we found them in Porto Azzurro

Once back we enjoyed the inspection by the Finance Police which came out in full force to check our passport numbers. Would be interesting what the four policemen wrote into their logbook. “Checked suspicious Greek boat and found one passport number deviating from the official record – reprimanded captain severely”? Maybe. It definitely gave them an excuse to take their boat out on a sunny day!

The well-equipped Guardia Finanza boarding our ship to ensure correct documentation

In the meantime, our chef Konstantinos labored away in the kitchen to prepare clams and mussels. He had bought them in the market whilst we were at Napoleon’s villa. He served Linguine Vongole made exactly the way we were tought a year ago in Venice. Yummie!

Vongole heated up in olive oil with garlic and extinguished with a glass of white wine

It was time to lift anchor and sail further west. We wanted to find a bay to stay for the night. We found it close to the village of Fetovaia on the most western tip of the island. It is a good starting point for crossing the 50 miles to Corsica. We hope there will be good wind for the entire distance.

Bay of Fetovaia on the western tip of Elba

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