The historical centre of Briançon is a strongly fortified town, built by Vauban to defend the region from Austrians in the 17th century. Its streets are very steep and narrow, though picturesque. Briançon lies at the foot of the descent from the Col de Montgenèvre, giving access to Turin, so a great number of other fortifications have been constructed on the surrounding heights, especially towards the east.
The Savoyards made two raids into French territory in 1691 and 1692. As a result, Vauban was dispatched to inspect the frontier defences, which had been ill-equiped to deal with the attack from Savoy. He returned to the area in 1700 to check on the progress that had been made since his first visit. When Vauban visited Briançon, work on the defences had already started under a local engineer, Monsieur d'Angrogne in 1692. His work was a crude adaption of the medieval walls, but the flanks of the bastioned trace he attempted to create were very short, being severely restricted by the terrain. Always ready to be flexible, Vauban abandoned conventional principles and his own usual design, and created a layered defence with a Spanish-style false bray for the Embrun front. The defences of the Embrun front are unusual for Vauban in that they employ a tenaille trace in places.
The Pignerol front used a more conventional bastioned trace with demi-lunes and a covered way. High above the town was the citadel, which formed part of the defences. The citadel was practically unapproachable most of the way round, so its defences did not need to follow a bastioned trace - walls and the cliffs would be sufficient to prevent an assault.
Over the course of the 18th century, various other fortifications were constructed at Briançon to protect the nearby heights. These include the Fort des Salettes (originally built in 1700, but much enlarged in the 18th and 19th centuries), Fort des Têtes (a massive fort that is bigger than the town itself, first thought of by Vauban but built after his death), the Fort du Dauphin, the Fort Randouillet and the Fort d'Anjou.
In 2008, several buildings of Briançon were classified by the UNESCO as World Heritage Sites, as part of the 'Fortifications of Vauban' group.References:
The Palazzo Colonna is a palatial block of buildings built in part over ruins of an old Roman Serapeum, and has belonged to the prestigious Colonna family for over twenty generations.
The first part of the palace dates from the 13th century, and tradition holds that the building hosted Dante in his visit to Rome. The first documentary mention notes that the property hosted Cardinal Giovanni and Giacomo Colonna in the 13th century. It was also home to Cardinal Oddone Colonna before he ascended to the papacy as Martin V (1417–1431).
With his passing, the palace was sacked during feuds, and the main property passed into the hands of the Della Rovere family. It returned to the Colonna family when Marcantonio I Colonna married Lucrezia Gara Franciotti Della Rovere, the niece of pope Julius II. The Colonna"s alliance to the Habsburg power, likely protected the palace from looting during the Sack of Rome (1527).
Starting with Filippo Colonna (1578–1639) many changes have refurbished and create a unitary complex around a central garden. Architects including Girolamo Rainaldi and Paolo Marucelli labored on specific projects. Only in the 17th and 18th centuries were the main facades completed. Much of this design was completed by Antonio del Grande (including the grand gallery), and Girolamo Fontana (decoration of gallery). In the 18th century, the long low facade designed by Nicola Michetti with later additions by Paolo Posi with taller corner blocks (facing Piazza Apostoli) was constructed recalls earlier structures resembling a fortification.
The main gallery (completed 1703) and the masterful Colonna art collection was acquired after 1650 by both the cardinal Girolamo I Colonna and his nephew the Connestabile Lorenzo Onofrio Colonna and includes works by Lorenzo Monaco, Domenico Ghirlandaio, Palma the Elder, Salviati, Bronzino, Tintoretto, Pietro da Cortona, Annibale Carracci (painting of The Beaneater), Guercino, Francesco Albani, Muziano and Guido Reni. Ceiling frescoes by Filippo Gherardi, Giovanni Coli, Sebastiano Ricci, and Giuseppe Bartolomeo Chiari celebrate the role of Marcantonio II Colonna in the battle of Lepanto (1571). The gallery is open to the public on Saturday mornings.
The older wing of the complex known as the Princess Isabelle"s apartments, but once housing Martin V"s library and palace, contains frescoes by Pinturicchio, Antonio Tempesta, Crescenzio Onofri, Giacinto Gimignani, and Carlo Cesi. It contains a collection of landscapes and genre scenes by painters like Gaspard Dughet, Caspar Van Wittel (Vanvitelli), and Jan Brueghel the Elder.
Along with the possessions of the Doria-Pamphilij and Pallavacini-Rospigliosi families, this is one of the largest private art collections in Rome.