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

Scola Tower, just off the Island of Palmaria

The fortification in front of Palmaria Island has a long story: built by the Genoese, almost destroyed by the British and saved from being demolished.

Some italianise its name as “Torre Scuola” and some swear it was a prison, but the story of the Torre Scola is unique, and goes through the Republic of Genoa, Napoleonic times and British domination: ask Mr. Ubaldo Mazzini.
Inside the Scola Tower from above
Aerial view of the Torre Scola
The Torre Scola overlooks the Palmaria island and constitutes a key architectural element of the Gulf of Poets, offering itself to the lenses of eager photographers and arousing the curiosity of children and tourists in particular. Torre Scola was built in the early seventeenth century (ed. chronicles of the time report its cost was of 60,000 pounds and housed a chief, a bomber and six soldiers) with the provisions of the Republic of Genoa, as part of an upgrade program of defensive fortifications in the Gulf of La Spezia. To resist the threats that opponents could have led towards the possessions of the Superba,  the Portovenere Fortress was also built. The San Giorgio castle in La Spezia was enlarged and the Castle of Lerici was consolidated. The original name of the fort is Torre di San Giovanni Battista (Tower of St. John the Baptist). The purpose of its construction was to control over the cove Olivo on the Palmaria island, which would have remained otherwise defenseless. It was later named Torre Scola, from the name of the Palmaria island’s tip in front of it.
Torre Scola - ph-Tiziano Riva
The Torre Scola viewed from Portovenere. Ph. T. Riva

Destroyed in the battle between Napoleon and the British

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. In La Spezia waters a violent battle between the French and the English fleet was staged. The British gunfire damaged it severely, partly breaking it down and forcing its abandonment.


“Tear down the Torre Scola!”, or maybe not

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 measures that now allow it to stand firm in the middle of the Gulf, as a witness of centuries of local history.
Spezzino Vero


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