History of La Spezia

The area of La Spezia has been settled since pre-historic times. In Roman times the most important centre was Luni now located in the vicinity of Sarzana (city near La Spezia). Capital of the short-lived Niccolò Fieschi Signoria in the period between 1256 and 1273, inevitably linked with the Genoese vicissitudes until the fall of the Republic of Genoa, it grew and changed to develop following the lines of the Ligurian capital.

In fact this Ligurian influence is still visible in the urban layout as well as in the types of buildings and decorations. It can be seen by going along the carrugio, the narrow street dividing the Old Town into two, called via del Prione taking its name from pietrone or large stone, in local dialect in fact prione, from where public announcements were read. Going up from the sea it is possible to see partly hidden but evident traces of history: engraved stones, capitals and portals in 14th century sandstone, double lancet windows vaguely reminiscent of the future renaissance style, mannerism and baroque pediments and decorations similar to those adorning the portals of the palaces once belonging to the Doria family and the Princes of Massa.

La Spezia knew an extraordinary development starting from the second half of the 19th Century, when the great Naval Arsenal was commissioned by the Savoys. Midway through WW II after the Italian capitulation to the Allies, it was the departure port for the Italian Navy when it steamed into British hands at Malta. The Germans arrived too late to stop the departure of the fleet, so they summarily executed the remaining Italian Captains. At the end of the Second World War, La Spezia became the point of departure for the survivors from the Nazi concentration camps. From the summer of 1945 to the spring of 1948 over 23,000 Jews managed to leave Italy clandestinely for Palestine. After lengthy tormented vicissitudes, the ships Fede, Fenice and Exodus managed to take away everyone from the Spezia