Fort Sperone

Thanks to its dominant position on the top of Mount Peralto, the Fort Sperone was one of the most important fortifications of the stronghold of Genoa.
It stands on the three bastions of the New Walls, namely the Bastion Puin on the Val Bisagno, Punta dello Sperone northwards, and Torbella or Poterna on the Val Polcevera.
The first record of a fortification on the Peralto called Bastia or Bastida, dates back to 1319.
In his annals, Giustiniani wrote: "And the Guelph …on top of Mount Peraldo had built a fortress named the Castellazzo, opposite which the Ghibellines to a crossbow suddenly built a fortress first of timber and then of stones and mortar, which was named the Bastia".

La posizione di quell'antica fortezza non è ben chiara; secondo fonti autorevoli era senz'altro ad una quota inferiore rispetto all'attuale. La prima notizia sicura, riguarda una somma di 7.400 lire stanziata nel 1530 The location of this ancient fortress is unclear: according to authoritative sources, it was definitely at a lower level than at present. In the earliest sure record, 7,400 lire were allocated in 1530 by the Senate for the construction of a new Bastia of the Peralto. With the construction of the New Walls, its structure was probably absorbed in them.
At the time, nothing of the current Fort existed. During the siege of 1747, Sicre provided for the construction of a Cavalier in gabions on the northern bastion, located higher than the walls, thus increasing the artillery firepower. In September of the same year, the works for the construction of the barracks and other works were contracted and undertaken.
According to a 19th-century source, after consulting archival documents, the barracks were designed by engineer Speroni; misinterpreting this record, it is currently believed that the fortification owes its name to the engineer.
Actually, the name “Sperone” (literally, buttress) already appeared in a plan of Genoa in 1723; without a doubt, the term derives from the particular shape of the northern bastion. In 1796, the construction of the barracks designed by Sicre, as well as other routine maintenance, was still undergoing. In the same period, the barracks were expanded with the addition of two perpendicular wings with a pitched roof.

During the siege of 1800, the Porta or Poterna Sperone was closed by order of General Massena, as it was “badly defended and easy to seize. “This was originally the only gateway to the Diamante and the Due Fratelli. The Poterna is linked to the history of the fictional secret passage connecting the Forte with the Diamante.

The present fort, the result of Savoy projects, is based on three parallel levels: on the first floor is the main entrance; on the second were the offices and rooms of the graduates; the third (the highest) is the oldest part.
The first level was built in 1815 with a monumental entrance gate with a drawbridge in the middle. Above the gate was placed the royal coat of arms made of Carrara marble. The construction of the bastioned barracks parallel to the first front began around 1820. The cavalier was demolished in 1823. Starting from the same year, after the demolition of the two 18th-century bodies, the old barracks were enlarged with the construction of a new eastward wing, new distinctive towers and a second span parallel to the first. Finally, the powder magazine was built in the middle of the Bastion Puin. In 1830, a pitched roof with slate covering was added to the terrace of the former barracks and the second bastioned front, though it was destroyed during WWII to reuse its pieces.
During the uprisings of March 1849, the fort was manned by the royal troops. The Intendant General was taken hostage; in exchange for freeing him, the Forts Begato and Sperone were promptly transferred to the National Guard of the insurgents. As the events turned in favour of the Piedmontese troops, desertions started within the complex: the men fled lowering themselves from the walls with ropes. After the yield of 10 April, the Fort returned to the military authorities. On the evening of 29 June 1857, the attempt of forty Mazzini supporters to seize the fort failed. While they managed to reach the walls, they fled after the cry for help of a sentry gave the alarm.
In October 1862, some of Garibaldi’s soldiers were kept prisoners there for a short time. In 1887, fifty soldiers of the 26th Infantry stationed there. On 30 August of that year, the highest roof was destroyed following a fire caused by lightning.
During World War I, the fort was used as a prison.

  • Fort Sperone
  • Fort Sperone - old photo
  • Forte Sperone - planimetry