The Castle of San Giorgio, overlooking the city of La Spezia, originates from a watchtower with the first castle on the site being built in 1262 by the ruler of the area Nicolò Fieschi with the intension of strengthen his domination in the area. Today only the base portion of the watchtower is preserved and this is included in the upper part of the structure.
In 1273 the castle was destroyed by the Genoese Republic under Oberto Doria, who captured, destroyed and plundered La Spezia. Nicolò Fieschi was forced to give up all his possessions to the Republic.
A century later, in the 1370s, the castle was replaced by a new fortification and line of walls. This has been significantly enlarged and restored over the years and in 1443 the castle underwent significant work with the addition of the structure facing the valley, the design of which also enabled firearms to be used.
A century later, in the 1550s, construction of an important defensive addition called the 'Bastia', was added. In 1607, the castle was remodelled by the Genoese taking it to its present form and today the castle provides an imposing structure displaying many of its original features with its arrow slits dating back to the 14th century. It was at this time that its current walls were built.
The castle was for many years neglected but in 1985 work started go restore and conserve it. This did involve some modifications being undertaken to restore its design to a previous age, which involved the reconstruction of the ramp and removal of walls within the complex. It also involved the covering of some parts of the pavement with grating to enable the remains of the mediaeval structures found during the restoration to be left visible.With the final stage of the work was carried out between 1996 and 1998, when the upper part of the castle was completed. The coats-of-arms of the Republic of Genoa and the bas-relief of St. George and the dragon were again placed over the gateway.
The castle today houses an Archaeological Museum which exhibits objects dating back to the Neolithic, Copper, Bronze and Iron ages. It also contains an extensive display of Roman artefacts include objects excavated from the nearby Luni settlement. The exhibits include decorative marble busts and statues, as well as household utensils, coins and religious objects.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.