The Fortress

The majestic military base built on Priamàr hill by the Republic of Genoa between 1542 and 1544, on a project  in order to keep under control the city Savona (whose port had already been buried in 1528) has been erected on a strategic spot where it’s possible to overlook the Apuan Alps and Capo Noli, as well as the region of Corsica. The military building took advantage of the peculiar conformation of Priamàr hill, divided in two hillocks, so that Lombard architect Giovanni Maria Olgiati designed two independent defensive bases: Maschio (Donjon square) and Cittadella (Citadel); Maschio, harder to be conquered, dominated the Cittadella. With the building of the fortress, one of the most important medieval quarter of the city was gradually demolished; Santa Maria di Castello Cathedral, Bishop’s Palace, Dominican convent, the ten oratories of the city confraternities and three medieval hospitals.

Since 1956 systematic archaeological surveys, conducted annualy by  Istituto Internazionale di Studi Liguri (IISL), are bringing back to light the ancient settlement that is enhanced progressively through the activity of the Civico Museo Archeologico e della Città and the setting of archaeological areas inside and outside the Fortress.

In 1815, with the annexation of  Liguria to Piemonte, the story of the fortress came to an end. In 1820 it became a prison and then, in 1848, a military jail.

The various rooms of the underground Priamàr were built throughout the life of the fortress between 1542 and 1943 and belong to different types: the large 16th-century tunnels, almost all of which were closed and walled up in the 17th century; the narrow connecting walkways from 1683; the small counter tunnels; the large rooms under the ramparts from the end of the 17th century; the two cisterns and connecting tunnels of the Maschio and the Citadel; the sorties leading to the sea or to the large outer moat; and finally the large tunnels-air raid shelters from the Second World War. Some of the tunnels were walled up in the 19th century and have yet to be recovered. At the level of Corso Mazzini and the square in front of the Fortress are the large anti-aircraft shelter-tunnels dug into the rock of the Priamàr hill during the Second World War in 1943: under the Maschio, the private shelter-tunnel of the Ilva steelworks is now used to access the Priamàr lifts and the Baluardo di S. Bernardo. Connected to the gallery is a smaller, contemporary one, dug into the rock to allow the factory workers access to the air-raid shelter. Below the Baluardo di S. Caterina della Cittadella are the two entrances to the long public tunnel-shelter, also built in 1943. The tunnels and underground passages in the upper part of the Fortress have a more limited development, between 20 and 50 metres. Originally, the Fortress had two entrances, the main one leading to the Piazza della Cittadella, the second leading to the Piazza d’Armi del Maschio.

The androne-gallery with direct access to the Maschio (1543) was walled up and buried in 1683 during the works of the third construction phase of the Fortress and reopened only later. In the Maschio moat, beyond the communication bridge between the Citadel and the Maschio, there is access to the seventeenth-eighteenth-century “Sortita S. Anna” which, with a broken profile, descended to the beach. Adjacent to the Polveriera, in the Moat of the Citadel, is the underground communication with the Baluardo di S. Francesco, built at the end of the 18th century to directly reach the Baluardo from inside the Fortress. Also in the Moat of the Citadel is the Sortita della Ss. Concezione, a descending tunnel partly dug into the rock of the Priamàr hill dated 1683, connecting the Moat with the eastern Falsabraga (or semi-bastion) of S. Caterina.From the Baluardo di S. Caterina (St. Catherine’s Bastion) above, a staircase with several ramps leads down to the dungeons below the western falsabraga di S. Caterina (1683); these underground rooms are the largest and most impressive covered rooms in the entire Fortress. Entering from the access staircase, the right wall is the side of the 16th-century Baluardo, while the openings of the ventilation trapdoors are visible on the vault.

The Fortress on the Priamàr hill is the most large and imposing military building throughout Ligury.

After a long period of neglect, the Comune di Savona has started restoration work for the complete restoration of the Fortress, that is now an important cultural and tourist pole for the entire Ligurian region.

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