Palazzina dei Mulini National Museum of Napoleon's Residences
It was one of Napoleon Bonaparte’s two residences in Portoferraio during his exile on the Isle of Elba (4 May 1814 - 26 February 1815). It was a residence mainly destined for the exiled emperor's public life and entertaining, while he conducted his private life in the nearby Villa di San Martino.
In his city residence, Palazzina dei Mulini, Napoleon tried in a short space of time to recreate a smaller version of the atmosphere of a court that had always accompanied him, also for the hoped for stay of his mother and sister Paolina. There are still items, furnishings and furniture from the period and a part of the interesting library that the emperor carried with him and then donated by him to the Portoferraio Community.
"Following the defeat of the French army in Leipzig and the subsequent Treaty of Fontainebleau, Napoleon, now in enemy hands, was forced to abdicate on 4 April 1814. At the treaty provided a lifetime annuity for him and sovereignty of the Isle of Elba, the now ex emperor arrived in Portoferraio in the evening of 3 May 1814, on board the English frigate Undaunted. As was his temperament, he immediately set to, establishing an administrative organisation of the island according to the empire's bureaucratic and technical formulas. During the intense months spent on the island, Napoleon reactivated trade and mining, while, pressed by the need for money, he was forced to keep the mines’ revenue and increase land taxes, to the point that he caused a rebellion of the population of Capoliveri. At the same time, to aid communications on the island, he improved roads and encouraged the development of agriculture and fishing, devising a never-ending number of projects (including a silk production industry) that unfortunately remained on paper only. Lastly, he wanted to make the smaller military garrison and the fleet efficient. The emperor’s industrious serenity did not last long and the affectionate care from his mother Letizia and sister Paolina, who rushed to the island, did little to help, nor did that of the Countess Walewska, offered during a memorable visit to Marciana. On the evening of 26 February 1815, an unfulfilled destiny urged Napoleon to board the Inconstant, which took him back to France to carry out his last great feat, the one known as the “one hundred days”.
The work to adapt the military building of Palazzina dei Mulini to a residence was directed by the architect Paolo Bargigli. In addition to demolishing some military buildings, necessary to created a wonderful Italian-style garden, the work consisted of building a party hall on the first floor, renovating the adjacent theatre and transforming the former prison into stables. A few months later, Napoleon, who had personally followed the architectural designs and also the choice of decorations and furnishings, went to live in the small palace, decorated by the Piedmont artist Antonio Vincenzo Revelli, the official painter to the Court of Elba, and furnished with sophisticated furniture and ornaments. During his short period of exile on Elba, Napoleon did not give up the pleasure of owning “una bonne bibliotheque”, a material expression of his great desire to learn about history and men. Therefore in the space of a few months, he gathered together a book collection of 2378 volumes. The first batch, comprising 186 works chosen personally in the two libraries in the Fontainebleau Castle the night before leaving France, was then added to with books sent by his uncle Cardinal Fesch, purchases from Livorno and other Italian cities, some donated books that belong to the Military Engineering Corps, based in the building before his arrival. The books that came from Fontainebleau best reflected Napoleon's interests. They can be recognised by the elegant leather binding with the imperial stem stamped on them, and in some cases they came directly from the Bourbon assets. As seen in the inventory kept at the Bibliothèque Nationale in Paris, history is the predominant topic in the collection, from classic Greek and Latin history to ancient and modern French history, and the history of Corsica, the island that was Napoleon’s birth place. There are also literary works, from Greek classics (Hesiod and Homer) to Latin authors (Virgil and Ovid),the the full works by Voltaire. Theatre also has an important place with both comedies (Molière, Regnard and Dancourt), and tragedies (Racine)."
(Source: Polo museale della Toscana)