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Where to follow in Napoleon's footsteps – including his idyllic Italian isle of exile

Napoleon fled Elba after just nine months – but you'll wonder why he wanted to leave
Napoleon fled Elba after just nine months – but you'll wonder why he wanted to leave Credit: getty
To mark Bonaparte's 250th birthday, here's where to march off on the trail of the French military leader

1. Arc my words

It isn’t hard to trace the man in Paris. The Arc de Triomphe, the vast monument that he (in no way immodestly) commissioned in 1806 to mark his victory at the Battle of Austerlitz is one of the city’s great landmarks. And if you visit Les Invalides, the enclave of military museums and memorials (musee-armee.fr), you can admire (that being the idea) his tomb under its grand dome. Three nights at the four-star Westside Arc de Triomphe, with return trains (going out on August 29), costs £562pp via Eurostar.com. 

2. My my...

Without the help of a medium with a knowledge of both 19th century military matters and Seventies pop-culture, it’s tricky to know if Napoleon considered his defeat at the Battle of Waterloo, or its use by ABBA as the basis of their 1974 Eurovision winner, to be his largest indignity. Still, you can explore the site of the former, in central Belgium, via the regular five-day group tour sold by Leger (leger.co.uk). From £499pp – with coach travel.

3. On Corse

Napoleon had the good grace to be born in Ajaccio, the Corsican capital, at the height of summer. Take this as a travel tip and book onto the “Grand Tour of Corsica” sold by Titan Travel (titantravel.co.uk). This eight-day group break spends two nights in the city – time enough to glimpse the Maison Bonaparte, where the future emperor came out screaming (musees-nationaux-malmaison.fr). From £1,699pp with flights. Next trip on September 1.

Napoleon was born in Ajaccio, the Corsican capital Credit: getty

4. Peachy Elba

The 1814 exiling of Napoleon to Elba – an island 12 miles off the coast of Tuscany – remains one of European history’s more optimistic decisions. What? He fled after just nine months? By boat? Who could have envisaged such an outcome? Book a seven-night stay at beach-side five-star the Hotel Hermitage, flying from Stansted to Pisa on August 31 – £1,252pp, via Expedia.co.uk – and you’ll wonder why he wanted to leave.

5. Isle be back

Britain made sure Napoleon’s second exile was more escape-proof, dumping him on St Helena. Said volcanic isle sits 1,200 miles from any other dry land, in the middle of the South Atlantic – and did not have had a functioning airport until 2016. That innovation has made it more viable for modern tourists – and you can now book an 11-day “Discover St Helena” break from £3,495pp (with flights) via Rainbow Tours (rainbowtours.co.uk).

Napoleon’s march on Moscow (and ruinous retreat from it) in 1812 was the turning point of his career Credit: Marina Tarasova

6. Moscow fool

At some point, the over-confident European warmonger wakes up and shouts “I know, let’s invade Russia” – as his advisors frown and say “erm, can we discuss it?”. Napoleon’s march on Moscow (and ruinous retreat from it) in 1812 was the turning point of his career. It will be charted by The Cultural Experience (), which has a 10-day “Napoleon In Russia” tour slated for September 5-14 2020. From £3,695pp – with flights.

7. Long goodbye

Napoleon spent a largely miserable six years on St Helena, dying on May 5 1821. Rumours of arsenic poisoning have always clung to his demise – though the cause may have been stomach cancer. Either way, Longwood House, his final residence, is owned by the French government, and is open as a museum (see sthelenatourism.com).

8. Crecy little thing

What links Waterloo with the medieval battles of Crécy and Agincourt (aside from their all being emphatic English/British away wins in Europe; no penalties/super-overs required)? “History, Context and Battlefield Exploration” – a five-day Martin Randall () group tour slated for September 25 – will explain from £1,790pp.

9. Eastborne identity

Napoleon’s effect on Britain is still visible in the likes of Eastbourne Redoubt (eastbourneredoubt.co.uk) – a fort that was constructed in 1805 to protect the south coast from a possible invasion. Two centuries later, this circular bastion is open for (free) guided tours at weekends, and is also used for regular movie screenings.

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