Fort Castellaccio rises at an altitude of 360 m. above sea level.
The first news of defenses in this locality are in 1317, year in which Roberto d’Angiò had a tower built on the Peralto with a piling that went down to the Bisagno river. The following year the tower was knocked down by Marco Visconti.
In 1319 the Guelphs and the Ghibellines built two redoubts spaced a crossbow throw apart. In 1418 Tommaso di Campofregoso had a real castle built. On the occasion of the siege of Louis XII, in 1507, there were fierce battles in the surrounding area, with the use of artillery and arquebuses, until the Genoese, overwhelmed by the number, locked themselves in the fortress, but in the end they surrendered.
The Castellaccio passed temporarily to France and was reinforced. In 1531 for fear of a new invasion was restructured and garrisoned with 200 men.
The only descriptions on the form of the castle can be deduced from an incision “Genua Urbs maritima” of the second half of 1400; in this we see a crenellated fortress with two square towers; in the prints of the first of 1600 (1) the fort has changed aspect, it is equipped of towers to the four angles more a great central tower. This diversity of representations is explained by the fact that in 1531, in fear of a new French invasion, it was decided to rebuild the Castellaccio, now collapsing for the years and unsuitable to resist the artillery. Near the Castle a little further downstream is indicated the location of capital executions called “the gallows” In ancient times such executions took place in S. Benigno, in 1509 was chosen this location, and the custom will last until 800. The gallows were masonry columns on which was placed a wooden beam. The condemned, starting from the prisons of the Ducal Palace went up via S. Gerolamo and Via Emanuele Cavallo, then called Via dell’Agonia. Not far away was the road called Death, now Via Accinelli, traveled by the brothers of Mercy who brought the body to the burial with the construction of the walls of 1630 the fort was to be an integral part of the new defenses as a powder magazine and accommodation for the militia.
New modifications were made in 1747 by Sicre and Escher. A drawing made in 1788 by Codeviola shows us two barracks leaning against the enclosure of the powder magazine. The structures are not particularly strong, the floors are made of wood. A following one by Brusco in 1796, besides showing us the position of the barracks with respect to the walls, indicates with the hatching the area occupied by the ancient castle of 1531.
In the siege of 1800 there is no mention of the Castellaccio in fact it does not yet have the form and function of a fort.Between 1817-20 the Sardinian Engineers built on the bastion of the gallows a large tower in the shape of octagon very irregular called Specola, intended to be an autonomous defensive element, for this purpose was provided with an enclosure and parade ground. In 1823 the Specola tower and the Castellaccio powder magazine barracks were connected by a straight road. Only in 1830/36 was it decided to unite these two structures to form a single fortress.
To this end, the old quarters were demolished and a barracks overlooking Genoa was built; the barracks and the Specola tower were joined by a single set of walls. The front on Genoa has two large bastions and a curtain wall. From the body of the barracks to the north there is an overpass that controls the military road of Peralto: further down towards Genoa the road is cut by the moat in whose scarp walls there are many slits of a tunnel post; here the road runs on a drawbridge.
During the riots of 1849, the Piedmontese soldiers at the Castellaccio, or Specola as it was more commonly said in the last century, isolated from the rioters and without orders surrendered the fortress. On the terraces there are eight 36-pounders cannons aimed at the city and four on the Sperone.
A few days later a sortie of the defenders of the Castellaccio will engage with poor results the Piedmontese who had managed to bypass in several points the outer walls of the city. Holed up in the fort, the Genoese tried to slow down as much as possible the occupation of the city by La Marmora’s troops with a continuous artillery fire that caused several victims. They fired on San Benigno and Palazzo Doria occupied by the Bersaglieri”… but inexperience contrasted with audacity, and only by the grace of good fortune did some go unharmed by badly directed bombs and by bronzes that were exhausted by poor charging…”. But the ardor of the rioters is extinguished after a few days in seeing the Piedmontese slowly spread everywhere; already taking advantage of a truce many lowered with ropes outside the fort. The surrender of April 10 returns the Castellaccio to the military authorities. The Bersaglieri found only a small group of defenders who threw the keys to the officer eclipsed quickly.
In the second half of the last century was used as a prison, containing up to 200 prisoners. During the First World War, Austrian prisoners were held there. Between the two wars from the Specola tower a characteristic cannon shot signaled the city at noon.
Although the fort is of considerable size as it reaches 450 meters in length, it is not fully appreciable, in fact much of its structure is anonymous as formed by a continuous wall, the barracks is visible only from a distance, Specola tower seems a detached body, also a dense forest of conifers planted in the wrong place, completely masks it. In conclusion, passing under this fort you only have occasion to notice the door with the tavern at its side.
(Taken from “Fortificazioni campali e permanenti di Genova, Renato Finochio, Valentini Editore)
(Taken from “I forti di Genova” Sagep Editrice)