Castle of Noli
Comune di Noli: piazza Milite Ignoto, 6 - Noli (SV)
Telefono: 019 74 99 527
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Noli, extremely old origins

From the viewpoint of its urban fabric, there could not have been much difference between seeing Noli today and seeing it in ancient times. The two promontories that enclose it and the uplands of the Manie at its shoulders must always have represented its two well-defined boundaries.
The aspect of the small town must have been very different, given that historical events determined an initial movement of the settlement from the coast to the uplands. In addition, the village had 72 towers, a number that causes wonder if you think that it is the same as the towers of San Gimignano, Caulonia in Calabria and Priverna in Lazio to mention the Italian cases.

It is a pity that the Noli skyline was changed to how we see it today, with only 4 towers standing.  The others were integrated into buildings constructed later after having been cut down to use the stones and bricks as material.
The story of Noli goes back to the Middle Ages, as confirmed by the archaeologist Nino Lamboglia, on the basis of elements he had available. He thought, in fact, that the place name Noli derived from Neapolis, in other words the new city, to which reference is made in antique sources when speaking of foundation in the Byzantine era.

It was the more recent archaeological research that completely changed our ideas of Noli and allowed its even older story to be rewritten. The new pieces of the puzzle arrived in 2005, when the date of birth of the town, believed to be the 6th-7th century A.D., went back even further to the times of Republican Rome. How was that conclusion reached? Thanks to the find in the bay of Capo Noli of a sea dock and warehouse remains with a large amount of objects that witnessed mercantile activity in the Mediterranean.
The discoveries did not stop here, and a necropolis was found, in other words a cemetery with cremation tombs, namely urns with ashes inside, that indicates the presence of a village.

Thanks to the studies carried out, it can be confirmed that not only Noli arose during the Byzantine era, but already in 2 B.C., 700 years earlier therefore, it was the arrival point of goods and food from different points of the Mediterranean as witnessed by the amphorae from France, Spain and Africa, goods that were subsequently sorted and sent inland. A very important role at that time!

In the earliest Middle Ages

The conditions that led to the discovery of the dock are particular. Its remains were in fact brought to light thanks to an emergency excavation, and if it wasn’t for the casualness of that find, we would still today have a very incorrect idea of the origins of Noli.

The archaeological research that followed the discovery allowed us to understand that this area, at the edge of the current village but not only, was frequented without continuity for the whole of the Late Middle Ages.

Even though in the meantime the port was buried under sand, the importance of Noli did not decrease, indeed the living area increased in size and was concentrated around a place defined as holy because of the importance of the cult that was practised there. We are speaking of the cult of San Paragorio, an oriental saint who was martyred in Corsica together with his companions Parteo and Partenopeo.
The question that spontaneously pops up is how an oriental martyr managed to get to Liguria. This is probably tied to the fact that his relics could have been moved to Noli during the era of the vandalistic persecutions, which would have started the cult, maybe in the place where a small building in his memory had been built, and where the church was created in the 11th century that would have become one of the most important examples of Romanesque in the region.

In addition to representing a jewel from an artistic point of view, another element can be added to confirm its importance: the finding of an inscription that refers to a bishop Teodosio buried inside it brought the idea that it was, for a period, a bishop’s seat, an idea that was then abandoned because of lack of proof to witness the abandon of the bishop’s seat of Vado.
Noli, created as a small dock, took on a certain commercial importance, which then became strategic and also religious.

Noli: a large Medieval port

After the destruction by Rothari in the 7th century, the Lombards, strong from the decline of Byzantine power, conquered the region. In 900 it was destroyed by fire and, because of the danger of raids by Saracen pirates from Frassinetto, a hideout on the French Riviera, which devastated the coasts of the upper Tyrrhenian and even the Piedmont hinterland for more than a century, the settlement was moved upstream. The selected site was Monte Ursino, and from documents we know that a Castrum Naboli was already being spoken of in 1004, fortified in the manner of the many other Ligurian military bases which defended against the Saracen raids that erupted on the coast.

At the beginning the fortress only had a watchtower, but it increased until the 15th century when, with its surrounding wall, it managed to embrace event the part of the town in the valley when it was no longer necessary to live upland.
The fortress was not exclusively for protecting the population; it also entered the programme of a lineage, the Del Carrettos, a detached branch of the family from Clavesana that had started creating its own potentate.

The true function of the castle was to control both the sea and coast and also the old Roman road in the hamlet of Voze that was used from the 18th century.
This road, probably the same one mentioned by Dante in Purgatory (Canto IV, 25), was extremely impassable and made the business relations between Noli and the hinterland difficult. As a result, the people of Noli had to become acquainted with marine activities to such a point that a small but well organised marine society was created that soon came into contact with Genoa for business purposes.

The importance of Noli as a marine power is demonstrated by its participation in the first Crusade (1096-1099), an occasion on which it armed two galleys for the Genoa fleet.
The privileges and richness that followed this endeavour, in addition to permitting expansion of the village in the following century, made those from Noli so averse to feudal power that the Marquis Enrico Del Carretto in 1192 liberated the town, starting a Republican phase that lasted until 1797, the year in which it passed under French domination.

From the 12th century, Noli found it could administer itself and demonstrated this wisely; when it was clear that there was no possibility of competing with the nearby powers of Savona and Genoa, it decided which one to join forces with, forever marking its history. The alliance with Genoa in 1202 brought advantages to both; Noli, even though its commerce was reduced, could enjoy the protection of Genoa in the case of Venetian, Pisan or even Saracen attacks and Genoa enjoyed a double advantage: the town could no longer be part of Savona and it was an excellent outpost in case of wars on the western coast, particularly frequent during the 13th century.

For the whole of the 14th century, Noli lived a period of great glory. The Republican territory expanded to include the regions of Orco, Mallare, Segno and Vado. Unfortunately the port became too small for developing business, causing the town’s inescapable decline and passive participation in the destiny of its eternal ally Genoa.

The intervention

The castle walls were in varying states of conservation: as well as well-preserved, partly restored sections, other parts were in ruins and in a precarious state of conservation, while other parts were infested with weeds and therefore inaccessible.

The tower’s exterior was in a good state of conservation, while the inside was only partially accessible. The keep’s square and the paths around it were in a poor state and were not suitable for receiving visitors. Most of the areas inside the walls were in poor condition, the terraces were almost entirely left fallow and the dry stone walls were, on the whole, in a state of disrepair.
The footpath inside was reduced to a disjointed and inaccessible lane.

A problematic entrance and the lack of wiring, plumbing and electricity (except for the old monumental night-time lighting system) impeded access to the building and its use.

With the Development of the natural and cultural resources of Liguria project (Level 4 of Por Fesr 2007-2013), the plan is to make the site safe by restoring the walls, parapets and steps. There are plans to install wiring and plumbing systems and connect the building to the mains and to install a lighting system both inside the area as well as outside in order to improve its appearance.

The renovation of the castle’s courtyard is also planned, with the restoration of small buildings so to offer toilet facilities to visitors, the creation of a stage and seats for open-air events and the installation of fixtures and furnishings.
Last but not least, the intention is to repair the dry stone walls using only local stone, as well as to repair footpaths inside and outside the castle walls, so as to restore accessibility.

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