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The Stair of the Doomed: cursed beauty on the Palmaria Island

The Stair of the Doomed climbs from the Terrizzo to the Palmaria Island top. A walk along the route used by the the prisoners convicted to forced labor for the construction of Forte Cavour

The archipelago of La Spezia includes – with its three small islands – more than one reason of charm and interest. The Palmaria Island, which already can be appreciated for its beautiful clear waters and wildlife, is an excellent destination not only for swimming, but also for those who love hiking. Among the various paths that cross the island’s surface, one has a special and “cursed” story: the Stair of the doomed.

The Stair of the Doomed: up the steps for punishment

Not far from the landing point of Terrizzo (which can be reached by boat from La Spezia following this schedule), proceeding towards the edge of the island overlooking the church of San Pietro in Porto Venere, you see on the left the sign of the Stair of the Doomed (or Route of the Doomed ).
Although the name may put you off and predict a exhausting climb, it is a not particularly difficult path of about 40 minutes – covering a difference in height of 150 meters – leads to the peak of the Palmaria island.
The steps , which climbs with a majestic look to the top of the island, holds a nineteenth century name , when every day it was climbed by hundreds of convicts (mostly lifers) who were brought to the island to take part in the construction of the Fort Cavour .

In the woods landscapes of amazing beauty are opened

For much of the path, the steps – meeting several times the carriage road – proceed in the bush.
The wide steps , stone paved, are immersed in the Mediterranean flora , with thyme and rue scenting the way. In a walk without major snags , then, you can get the idea of the typical vegetation of the archipelago of La Spezia (that also at presents some real own peculiarities fauna, such as the lizard that only lives between Tinetto and Palmaria islands ).

When the vegetation thins and allows the eye to wander, you can enjoy extraordinary views on the “Cavo” and the beautiful Porto Venere with St. Peter’s Church to mark the border with the open sea.

Forte Cavour: Napoleon’s idea, Savoy’s realization

The Stair of the Doomed leads to the Forte Cavour , on the Palmaria island top. Thinking about using that position to build a fortress was French – during the Napoleonic period of the Ligurian Republic in the early nineteenth century – but the project was actually carried out by the Piedmontese during the reign of Sardinia.
The first drawings were made just before the mid-nineteenth century and in the 1861 – also thanks to the work of the condemned – the construction of the fort was already completed. Designed on two floors, of which only one was realized, the fort could accommodate, under its bomb cover, approximately 330 men .
Today, the fort can not be visited, waiting catches on the restructuring and transformation for tourist activities of the formerly military premise.

The Cover Picture is by Leonardo Lupi
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