In 1814 Napoleon spent 10 months in Elba after the abdication of Fontainebleau.
This year, the small Tuscan island is celebrating 200 years since the emperor landed on its shores.
It was the first time in its history that Elba was united under the same flag. And it was the first time that Napoleon, who had lived a nomadic life in battle, was forced to stay put and govern a territory that would never forget him.
He ran the island like his empire, spending money where it was needed to boost its resources – planting olive trees, investing in silk worm farming and potato crops, the mining industry and local wine production.
“They say that Elba was thrown into Europe because in 1802, after the treaties of Florence and Amiens, it became a French territory, which means it was as important as Paris on an administrative level. The island was subject to the rule of the Journal Officiel, which contained all the laws voted in Paris and which had to be applied here,” explained Napoleon expert Gloria Peria.
And that is when French cuisine met the local, Mediterranean flavours.
Two hundred years later, this fusion is still celebrated on the island, with regular food fairs and gastronomic events.
Tuscan chef Alvaro Claudi, an expert in Napoleonic gastronomy, has even published a book about it.
Euronews met him in the kitchens of Napoleon’s home.
“This was where the food, the cakes and the ice-cream was prepared,” he tells us. “Napoleon loved chocolate. When he went on a picnic, his horse-drawn carriage was filled with fruit, eau de vie, Chambertin wine and cakes. Here, they even made ice-cream and sorbet during the summer, because on the island, there was – and still is – a place called ‘la nevera’, which was like an ice-box, where snow was stocked during the winter so that we would always have ice during the summer.”
Special events are scheduled throughout the year to mark Napoleon’s stay on the island, including food fairs offering traditional 19th century dishes and a gastronomic itinerary with Napoleonic specialties on the menu.