Slowing down in Portoferraio
by Anna Frisk
English teacher and an outdoor enthusiast
From the perch of Elba Island’s main port and largest city, the island’s character shifts. But only slightly. Ships slowly drift through and beaches pop with a kaleidoscope of color. Portoferraio, as it’s called, offers more than your average small city.
It’s here that Napoleon’s troop took residence (during his 11 months of exile). Where pirates plundered. And where the easy-going charm of Elba Island seeps into your stride.
We began by hiking up. The city isn’t flat. The benefit, beyond providing sweeping views of the Mediterranean, is a picturesque and historic city nestled on a hill. From the city’s highest point (a trio of ancient, protective ports), a continuous turquoise shimmer meets the eye.
The day, however, started early in a valley in the interior. Napoleon, as I mentioned, was exiled here on Elba Island. As we approached his San Martino villa it seemed more like fortune than fate.
Up the hill, outside Napoleon’s front door, the valley slopes down to offer yet another glimpse at the always nearby Mediterranean sea. This time with the exception of several eagle statues. Even while in exile, Napoleon’s message was blunt. The lavish symbolism throughout his home indicated one thing: his wish to always retain power.
Back in Portoferraio, before lunch time, my stomach began to growl. I had already begun to anticipate rich, bountiful meals in Italy. As we walked inside an unexpected grotto, leading to the two-table adorned restaurant called Enoteca della Fortezza, I felt the contrary of disappointment.
Upon arriving, an antipasto of cured meats and local Tuscan cheese decorated the table. The napkins amptly stated the restaurant’s mission, Slow Food. The name of a movement that aims to preserve traditional and regional cuisine and strives to fight against the globalization of agricultural products.
The idea is proudly carried out by Enoteca della Fortezza. With each plate came a description. First came a salad with fish harvested sustainably from the nearby sea. In the same tone came a plate of linguine and a final filling dessert.
In the continuing manner of slow travel, we enjoyed a parting shot of espresso, walked out into the bright Mediterranean light, and caught a slow ferry back to the mainland. We had more to see and feast upon.