The Doria Castle of Portovenere is a proper example of Genoese military architecture, even though it has undergone some structural modifications due to the progress of fortifications and firearms. When you first glance at Castello Doria, it looks like one solid piece. But it actually consists of two distinct parts positioned at different levels and enclosed in large Cyclopean walls.
The exact date of construction of the first fortified building is still unknown. Historic documents mention it for the first time in 1139, when the Republic of Genoa took control of the hamlet of Porto Venere. The current castle was built on the remains of the more ancient structure in 1161.
In the 13th century, the castle was at the center of the battles between Genoa and Pisa. It ended up under Nicolò Fieschi’s large fief, to eventually return under the control of the Republic of Genoa in 1276. Major reconstruction works took place between the 15th and 17th centuries, to modernize the castle according to the military and architectonic criteria of the time. At the beginning of the 19th century, during the French rule under Napoleon Bonaparte, the Castello Doria was used as a prison.
Today, this ancient fortress belongs to the Municipality of Portovenere. It underwent a series of accurate restoration works in the 1970s. Apart from welcoming hundreds of visitors for some historic sightseeing and panoramic views of the Bay of Poets, it is also a venue that hosts cultural events, art exhibitions and weddings.
Built around AD 90 to entertain the legionaries stationed at the fort of Caerleon (Isca), the impressive amphitheatre was the Roman equivalent of today’s multiplex cinema. Wooden benches provided seating for up to 6,000 spectators, who would gather to watch bloodthirsty displays featuring gladiatorial combat and exotic wild animals.
Long after the Romans left, the amphitheatre took on a new life in Arthurian legend. Geoffrey of Monmouth, the somewhat imaginative 12th-century scholar, wrote in his History of the Kings of Britain that Arthur was crowned in Caerleon and that the ruined amphitheatre was actually the remains of King Arthur’s Round Table.
Today it is the most complete Roman amphitheatre in Britain.