With the help of his uncle, Pope Innocent IV, Fieschi took refuge in La Spezia, where he began to build the castle of San Giorgio with the intention of creating a strong Signoria Guelph, the expansion of which covered many territories of the East Ligurian Riviera .
Genoa could not put up with such a dangerous threat to its borders and inevitably started a war against Fieschi. The war ended in 1276 with the victory of Genoa; from then until 1797, La Spezia and its entire bay were ruled by the powerful Primorsky Republic.
Despite the defeat, La Spezia gained a stronger leading role than other centers of the bay, thanks to the flourishing trade in salt . The city was surrounded by walls, and the castle, built by Nicolo Fieschi, has expanded and improved over the centuries.
Fearing that La Spezia Bay might fall into the hands of the enemy, from the mid-sixteenth century the Republic of Genoa began a defensive program that included the construction of massive fortifications at the most strategic points of the bay. Even today, those who come to the city from the sea can see the “School Tower” of Torre Skola in the eastern part of the island of Palmaria, forts “Santa Maria”, “Varignano” and “Pezzino” along the western coast of the bay.
As evidence of acquired strategic importance, in 1576, La Spezia became the residence of the captain, who was one of the eight “main offices” of the Republic of Genoa. At the beginning of the seventeenth century, the city walls were expanded: today on Via Prion on the corner from Via Cavallotti you can see part of these walls. Genoa, however, never gave Spezia the opportunity to really expand its trade, and the economic life of the city dried up: the size of the city remained unchanged for many centuries, within the area of a rectangle of 250×300 m with a population of 2000-2500 inhabitants, which remained the same for a long time.
In 1797, the Republic of Genoa was conquered by Napoleon. With the arrival of the French, a new chapter in the history of the city opened: Napoleon decided to build a large naval arsenal on the west coast of the bay. French projects were drawn only on paper, because the rapid fall of Napoleon stopped the implementation of the work.
In 1815, Liguria came under the rule of the Kingdom of Sardinia, but the real urban revolution in La Spezia occurred only with the Unification of the Italian Kingdom, in 1861 . At that time, the Prime Minister of the Kingdom of Italy, Camillo Cavour, decided to equip the new state with a strong and modern fleet and chose La Spezia as the main center. project. Arsenal construction work began in 1862 and ended in 1869. It was a huge job: the old city was partially destroyed to accommodate the space of the new facility;whole new neighborhoods were built, some of which were designed to accommodate more than 8,000 workers employed in the arsenal; new roads were opened, a railway line and new industrial enterprises were built throughout the city: the 5,000 inhabitants living in La Spezia in 1861 exceeded 100,000 in the early years of the twentieth century.
During World War II, La Spezia was a strategic military objective of paramount importance, and the city was dependent to mass bombing. For this reason, today, walking along the streets of the city center, old and modern buildings often alternate.
Copy of R. Palumbo