Torre Scola, almost destroyed because of Napoleon, saved by a miracle

While sailing between Portovenere and Palmaria Island in the Gulf of the Poets, you will surely notice it. It’s the Torre Scola, one of the La Spezia sea symbols, with a long story. It was built by the Genoese, almost destroyed by the British, and saved from being demolished.

Some Italianise its name as “Torre Scuola.” Some swear it was a prison, but the story of the Torre Scola is unique and goes through the Republic of Genoa, the Napoleonic Empire, and the British sea dominion. Ask some Mr. Ubaldo Mazzini.

The Torre Scola supervises Palmaria island and constitutes a key architectural element of the Gulf of Poets. Every day it shows off to eager photographers, curious children, and tourists.

Torre Scola was built in the early seventeenth century (ed. chronicles of the time report its cost was 60,000 pounds and hosted a chief, a bomber, and six soldiers). Its construction was provided by the Genoan Republic as part of a La Spezia Gulf defensive fortifications upgrade program. Its scope was opposing the “La Superba” sea possessions threats. The Portovenere fortress was also built with the same purpose, and the San Giorgio castles of La Spezia and Lerici were consolidated. 

The actual name of the fort is Torre di San Giovanni Battista (Tower of St. John the Baptist). Its construction aimed to control the cove Olivo on Palmaria island, which would have remained defenseless. It was later named Torre Scola, from the name of the Palmaria island’s tip in front of it.

The view of Torre Scola from Portovenere. Ph. T. Riva


Until 1800, the fort withstood the test of time and enemies. June 23, 1800, however, forever changed the

Until 1800, the fort withstood the test of time and enemies. June 23, 1800, however, forever changed the Tower’s story.

At the time, the Gulf of Poets was under the control of Napoleonic France. A violent battle between the French and the English fleet was staged in La Spezia waters.

The British gunfire damaged it severely, partly breaking it down and forcing its abandonment.

“Tear down the Torre Scola!”. BUT THEN AGAIN, NO.

At the beginning of the nineteenth century, the Scola Tower seemed useless for defensive purposes, as it was designed in the earlier centuries and as its structure had become ruined.
So, in 1915 its demolition was planned. Apparently, it was the interest of the Local intellectual and Ministry of Public Education Ubaldo Mazzini that saved the fortification.
The Tower’s standing out profile carries the signs of the shellings (in the course of the last century it was also used as a test target by the Marina Militare), but in the 1980s it has been subjected to consolidation

At the beginning of the nineteenth century, the Scola Tower seemed useless for defensive purposes, as it was designed in the earlier centuries, and its structure had become worthless.

In 1915 its demolition was planned. But the interest of the local academic and Ministry of Public Education Ubaldo Mazzini saved the fortification.

The Tower’s standing-out profile carries the signs of the shellings (in the last century, it was also used as a test target by the Navy). Still, in the 1980s, it was consolidated. Today it stands firm in the middle of the Gulf, a witness to centuries of local history.

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