Arcola is a small, charming town perched on top of the hills separating the Gulf of La Spezia and the Magra valley offering stunning panoramas of the Apuane Alps. In the 11th century Arcola became an important center for the feudal Obertenghi family who built on top of the hill a castle - Castello degli Obertenghi, of which only its tall pentagonal tower remains.
The castle itself had a rich history and had an important naval function in the western Marca Ligure. In 1128 the castle became the property of the monastery of San Venerio del Tino. During the thirteenth century the town was the center of the various attempts of the family domain Malaspina and the castle was besieged and captured by Captain Oberto Doria, Captain of the Republic of Genoa. Various events then led to the occupation of the castle by Castruccio Castracani (1320), and after by Niccolò Piccinino (1430). In 1494, the castle was return to the possession of the Genovese Repiblic. Partially destroyed during the Italian campaign of Napoleon, the castle was restored in 1884 by Eng. Canini and became the home to the town hall.
The imposing pentagonal tower built adjacent to the castle is hard to miss in the landscape of the town. Nowadays, it has been declared a national monument and is opened to visitors. It stands at 25 meters high with a perimeter of the same size. The tower was the focal point of the defence system of the castle. It was purposefully built in the most vulnerable to attack part. Positioned as a bastion on one side it had its corner stretched menacingly in the direction of possible attackers coming from porta Sovrana while on the other it was equipped with embrasures, affording the ability to defend the two side entrances.References:
Derbent is the southernmost city in Russia, occupying the narrow gateway between the Caspian Sea and the Caucasus Mountains connecting the Eurasian steppes to the north and the Iranian Plateau to the south. Derbent claims to be the oldest city in Russia with historical documentation dating to the 8th century BCE. Due to its strategic location, over the course of history, the city changed ownership many times, particularly among the Persian, Arab, Mongol, Timurid, Shirvan and Iranian kingdoms.
Derbent has archaeological structures over 5,000 years old. As a result of this geographic peculiarity, the city developed between two walls, stretching from the mountains to the sea. These fortifications were continuously employed for a millennium and a half, longer than any other extant fortress in the world.
A traditionally and historically Iranian city, the first intensive settlement in the Derbent area dates from the 8th century BC. The site was intermittently controlled by the Persian monarchs, starting from the 6th century BC. Until the 4th century AD, it was part of Caucasian Albania which was a satrap of the Achaemenid Persian Empire. In the 5th century Derbent functioned as a border fortress and the seat of Sassanid Persians. Because of its strategic position on the northern branch of the Silk Route, the fortress was contested by the Khazars in the course of the Khazar-Arab Wars. In 654, Derbent was captured by the Arabs.
The Sassanid fortress does not exist any more, as the famous Derbent fortress as it stands today was built from the 12th century onward. Derbent became a strong military outpost and harbour of the Sassanid empire. During the 5th and 6th centuries, Derbent also became an important center for spreading the Christian faith in the Caucasus.
The site continued to be of great strategic importance until the 19th century. Today the fortifications consist of two parallel defence walls and Naryn-Kala Citadel. The walls are 3.6km long, stretching from the sea up to the mountains. They were built from stone and had 73 defence towers. 9 out of the 14 original gates remain.
In Naryn-Kala Citadel most of the old buildings, including a palace and a church, are now in ruins. It also holds baths and one of the oldest mosques in the former USSR.
In 2003, UNESCO included the old part of Derbent with traditional buildings in the World Heritage List.