The ancient name of Pietra Ligure was La Pietra , and referred to the imposing calcareous rock that is found to the east of the historical center, above which the Roman castrum was built. The castle, enlarged in the period of the barbarian and Saracen invasions (6th-9th century), was a bishop ‘s property and reached its present size in the 16th century. It is believed that this natural barrier, easily defensible, constituted a border point between the Byzantines and the Lombards .
The Byzantine castrum was probably destroyed by King Rotari, but in the same site the medieval castle, stronghold of the bishops of Albenga, was built in the 12th century , subject then to frequent attacks by the Del Carrettos of Finale . To the west of the castle a hamlet developed, surrounded by turreted walls and endowed with five gates: the port of the marina protected by a bastion to the south, the gate of Santa Caterina near the homonymous rural oratory to the north, the door of the porch protected by the tower of via Rocca Crovara and the royal gate to the west, the door to the slaughterhouse to the east. After various vicissitudes, the village was definitively ceded by Pope Urban VI to Genoa , in 1385 , and acquired considerable importance as an advanced point of the Republic between the Finale and Loano , fiefdom of the Doria .
The castle remained the property of the bishops of Albenga, who sold it to the Arnaldo at the end of the fourteenth century . It then passed into the possession of other patrician families and was enlarged in 1550 with the addition of a wing facing south-west, an arch in the eastern part in addition to the two sentry boxes. Due to the Saracen raids the upper square was armed with two large cannons, which were sent back to Genoa at the end of the 18th century in view of the French invasion. The medieval part, at the end of the fifties of the twentieth century , has been restored and transformed into a meeting place. The solid masonry resting directly on the rock, the impervious position, the vaulted passages and the low rooms of the dungeons known as “Grimaldina”, due to the fact that two Grimaldi brothers from Monaco were imprisoned there at the end of the fourteenth century, justify the importance of the castle exercised in the local defense system.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.