Pentagonal tower of Vezzano Ligure
Comune di Vezzano Ligure: via Goito, 2 - Vezzano Ligure (SP)
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Vezzano, ancient origins

The village of Vezzano has its roots in very ancient times. In fact, thanks to its geographical position, which allowed dominion of the area where the two major rivers of the historical Lunigiana, namely Vara and Magra converge, it is plausible to assume that this area was used from the prehistoric age, although the archaeological excavations did not find many traces. The origin of the name Vezzano reveals the living phases of the Roman era: it seems in fact that Vezzano comes from Vectius, the name of a noble Roman citizen who was a member of the Sabina family, and who would have had some possessions and personal income in this territory.
It could also be the same Vectius mentioned by Cicero in the epistles to Atticus or mentioned by the historian Dione Nicetta.

The hypothesis that the village has its origins in Liguria, however, acts as a counterpart to the previous information: the term Vect-iani means the summit of Giano and it is possible that the village was founded before both the Roman conquest of Liguria and the establishment of the colony of Luni, information partially confirmed by Livy who, telling the story of the war against the Apuans, described the neighbourhood of the river Magra as an area scattered with castra and defences.

Vezzano in the Middle Ages

The earliest definite records of Vezzano go back to the Middle Ages. In a document dated 19th May 963, issued by Otto I who was the Emperor of the Holy Roman Empire, Vezzano is mentioned together with its castle, the fortifications and the court as territories given to the bishop of Luni, who at the time ruled eastern Liguria uncontested. In the following century the bishop gave possession of the village to the Lords of Vezzano ("Domini de Vethano"), who extended their power over many lands and castles in both the Gulf of La Spezia and in the valleys of Vara and Magra during the 11th century.
These properties, that is to say the castles of Vezzano, Carpena, Vesigna, Follo, Vallerano, Beverino, Polverana, Ripalta, Monte di Valli, and Madrignano, along with other regions in the Magra valley and on the Gulf of Spezia, among which Portovenere, remained the possession of these Lords until the 13th century as confirmed on 12th May 1202 in Sarzana.

In confirmation of their acquisition of power, with an act drawn up by a notary on 04th June of that same year, the Marquis Alberto Malaspina, in his own name and in those of his grandchildren, gave away half of what the Marquises had purchased from the family of Este in the homestead held by the nobles of Vezzano.
Subsequently, the lords of Vezzano gradually lost their prestige and power because of a combination of factors such as increasing pressure from Genoa and the claims of ancient rights from the bishop of Luni. At the beginning of the 13th century, this led them to waive many of their rights, while the bishop, in turn, ceded his rights to the Genoese Nicolò Fieschi, the nephew of Pope Innocent IV and a member of that lineage which, descending from the Counts of Lavagna, left a deep mark of their passage over the whole Eastern Riviera.

After these first transfers Vezzaro did not have much left, but even so they were forced, in 1253, to cede the little that remained to the Republic of Genoa. They were forced to swear allegiance to the Republic until complete annexation in 1276, the year from which their destinies remained united until the French dominion and the subsequent annexation to the Reign of Sardinia and then to the Kingdom of Italy.

The pentagonal tower

Vezzano, like many other Ligurian sites, does not have the appearance of a compact village, but is divided into Vezzano Superiore in the dominant position, and Vezzano Inferiore in the lower position.
The second castle of the village was built in Vezzano Inferiore, and that same castle, currently known as Palazzo Giustiniani, is probably mentioned in an Othonian document from the 10th century.

Connected to the castle by a wooden bridge of seven meters high is the pentagonal tower, built in the 12th century, from which the surrounding valley was defended and watched.
The tower has a peculiar pentagonal base like those of Arcola and Lerici, with its top directed towards the area to be controlled. Thanks to its shape it was also easy to defend. You will be amazed by the front door which is placed at a height that could only be reached using a ladder, easy to draw in if the door had to be locked during attacks. The inside of the tower was divided into several floors and provided with loopholes.

Some parts of the Medieval walls and a cylindrical tower can still be admired as structures related to the ancient fortified village of Vezzano. Only during the Renaissance did the village have its living area expanded, due to the increase in the prestige and economic wellbeing of the population. The wealth of Vezzano had its final setback in the 16th century when it clashed with Genoese interests. In order to carry out business, the Genoese preferred easier routes to follow than the mountain route that passed through here, causing a great loss to the village economy.

The intervention

Today the Pentagonal Tower in the castle square is the only survivor of all the defensive buildings that have either been altered or destroyed. Having lost its highest section as far back as the 1800s, the upper part of the tower has been subject to alterations and serious damage, due – among other things – to a lightning bolt in the 1970s that damaged it to such an extent that almost the entire roof had to be replaced.

Today the tower probably looks different: the ground upon which it rests may have risen over time, so it is possible that part of the building is covered by modern-day paving.
Preliminary studies would suggest that the entrance, located around seven metres up, is not of an original shape and probably had a gallery. Past trials and tribulations, as well as natural disasters, have put a strain on the building’s structure which, all things considered, still appears fairly solid. The damage to the roof has certainly affected the walls inside, which were probably less solid from the outset.

On the outside, natural erosion – which is, in any case, within acceptable levels – has clearly been caused by rainfall and the sea air, which affects at least four of the building’s main facades.

As regards the remains of partially preserved bastion foundations, we can assume that most of their deterioration is due to human interference – as well as natural causes similar to those affecting the tower, as mentioned above – which, over the centuries, made alterations and demolished sections in eras when the attitude towards historical monuments was different, often without following current conservation and restoration standards.

As part of the Development of the natural and cultural resources of Liguria project (Level 4 of Por Fesr 2007-2013), the plan is to make the monument accessible to visitors as a museum.

Access from the outside will be provided via a staircase that will allow visitors to enter from the pavement outside by the only gate in the tower, located seven metres up, and to visit the interior thanks to restoration work which will repair the stonework inside wherever it is missing.

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