Savona lies not far from Genoa on the Italian Riviera, towards the French border. Typically of this part of the Ligurian coast, it is less flashy than some of its neighbours but still holds a deep history and lovely architecture and art.
It was once the heart of Italy’s steel and ship-building industry.
The city prides itself on its long sandy beaches and its traditional food, which is not just seafood-based but also draws from the hilly inland villages. It is also proud that Christopher Columbus chose to settle here to write up an account of his voyages.
Inhabited in ancient times by Ligures tribes, it came under Roman influence in c. 180 BC, after the Punic wars in which the city had been allied to Carthage. At the fall of the Western Roman Empire, it passed under Lombard rule in 641 AD (being destroyed in the attack) after a short period as an Ostrogoth and then Byzantine possession.
Later it recovered as county seat in the Carolingian Empire. In the tenth century, its bishops were counts of Savona, but later the countship passed to the marquesses of Monferrato (981) and afterwards to the marquesses Del Vasto (1084).
After a long struggle against the Saracens, Savona acquired independence in the 11th century, becoming a free municipality allied with the Emperor. Savona was the center of religious culture (13th to 16th centuries) due to the work of two important monasteries: Dominican and Franciscan. Subsequently it fought against Genoa before being definitively conquered in 1528. The Genoese destroyed the upper town and buried the port. It then shared the fortunes of the Republic of Genoa until Napoleonic times.
In 1800, between April and mid-May, Austrian forces besieged the city while a small British naval force maintained a blockade; the fortress surrendered on 15 May. Subsequently Savona was annexed to the Kingdom of Sardinia-Piedmont (1815). Eventually, it became part of unified Italy.