The Fortress

The fortress was built by the Republic of Genoa in 1542-44, designed by Giovanni Maria Olgiati from Lombardy, both to protect its territory from possible attacks from the sea and the Savoy state, and, above all, to keep the recently subdued city of Savona under control.

After only nine months from the start of work, the military structure became functional, so much so that, with the building site still open, a first garrison was installed there in April 1543. To make way for the mighty bastions, enhancing the strategic position of the rocky promontory of Priamàr, one of the most important districts of the early medieval city was destroyed, including, among others, the Cathedral of Santa Maria di Castello, the Bishop’s Palace, the Dominican Convent and the district of the same name, the ten oratories of the confraternities and the three city hospitals.

Olgiati traced the Lombardy experience and the contacts he had in Genoa itself with Antonio da Sangallo the Younger, with a bastionated system that enhanced the natural defences of the high ground, also exploiting the unevenness of the terrain between the Cittadella and the Maschio della Fortezza, with the creation of two separate ‘islands’, divided by a deep moat, which came to constitute a ‘watertight compartment’ defence system.

Towards the end of the 16th century, new frictions with Piedmont – which wanted to extend its dominion towards the sea – imposed a whole series of new structural interventions to complete the defensive system, which entailed the demolition of the ancient Cathedral (and the erection, on the same area, of the habitatione del Commissario della Cittadella), and the opening of a deep moat in the Citadel area, which was thus divided into two distinct nuclei.

The fortified complex underwent a third imposing phase of transformation between 1683 and 1686, when, following the development of war technology, its external spaces were modified by building a complex bastion system designed to limit the excessive height and vulnerability of the military construction. A covered road was designed with ramparts, ravelins or half-moons, curtains, ramparts and counter ramparts; the considerable expansion of the defensive works led to the complete demolition of a substantial strip of the urban fabric surrounding the 16th century fortress .

The Polveriera (1717- 1730), the Palazzo della Sibilla (1729), the Palazzo del Commissario (1757) and the Palazzo degli Ufficiali (1759) date back to the 18th century; the breach on the front of the Cortina dell’Angelo, which had caused the surrender of the fortress during the only real attack by Savoy troops in 1746, was also repaired.

In the 20th century, with the annexation of Liguria to Piedmont, the military complex was used as a penal bath and later (1848) as a military recluse; among others, Giuseppe Mazzini was imprisoned here for a few months between 1830 and 1831, who, as he himself testified, is said to have conceived the ‘Giovine Italia’ (Young Italy) there.

In 1878, the structure was removed from the military fortifications of the Kingdom of Italy and the gradual transformation and reconversion of the entire external area began; for this, the ramparts and bastions were flattened, while a tree-lined promenade was created and connected, in 1876, to the seaward extension of Corso Principe Amedeo (now Corso Italia).

Since 1956, systematic archaeological excavation campaigns conducted each year by the Istituto Internazionale di Studi Liguri (IISL) have been gradually bringing to light what remains of the ancient settlement, which is gradually being enhanced both in the Civico Museo Archeologico e della Città (continuously updated by the IISL) and in the evocative archaeological areas inside and outside the Fortress.

To this day, the Savona Fortress on the Priamàr is the most impressive fortified work in the whole of Liguria.

After a long period of neglect and degradation, the Municipality of Savona has undertaken extensive restoration work to fully recover the monumental complex of the Priamàr, which has become an important cultural and tourist centre for the entire Region of Liguria.


Today, the Priamàr has been largely restored in its monumental parts, becoming the city’s museum centre and a usable space for citizens and numerous tourists.

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