The Stair of the Doomed: cursed beauty on the Palmaria Island

The archipelago of La Spezia includes- with its three islands – more than one reason for charm and interest. Palmaria Island, which already can be appreciated for its beautiful clear waters and wildlife, is an excellent destination for swimming and those who love hiking. However, among the various paths that cross the island’s surface, one has a particular and “cursed” story, the Stair of the convicted.

The Stair of the Doomed: up the steps for punishment

Not far from the landing of Terrizzo (which can be reached by boat), going towards the edge of the island, you see on the left the sign to the Stair of the Convicted (scala dei condannati).

Although the name may put you off and predict an exhausting climb, it is a not particularly difficult path of about 40 minutes – covering a difference in the height of 150 meters. It leads to the peak of Palmaria island.

The steps, which climb to offer a majestic look to the top of the island, owe their name to hundreds of convicts (mostly lifers) brought to the island to construct Fort Cavour.

In the woods, landscapes of fantastic beauty are opened.

For much of the path, the steps – meeting several times the carriage road – proceed in the bush.

The broad Stair, stone paved, is immersed in the Mediterranean flora, with thyme and rue scenting the way. Walking without major snags, you get the taste of the typical vegetation of the Portovenere archipelago (also presenting some peculiar fauna, such as the lizard of Tinetto and Palmaria islands).

When the vegetation thins and allows the eye to wander, you can enjoy extraordinary views of the beautiful Porto Venere with St. Peter’s Church to mark the border with the open sea.

Forte Cavour: Napoleon’s idea, Savoy’s realization

The Stair of the Doomed leads to the Forte Cavour, on the Palmaria island top. The idea of using that strategic position to build a fortress was France’s, during the Napoleonic period of the Ligurian Republic, in the early nineteenth century. The Piedmontese carried out the project during the reign of Sardinia. It was a time during which the whole La Spezia bay was filled with forts, powder magazines, and armaments, and the for the time, top-notch military arsenal.

The first drawings were made just before the mid-nineteenth century. 

Then, in 1861, also thanks to the work of the condemned, the construction of the fort was delivered. Designed on two floors, of which only one was realized, the stronghold could accommodate, under its bomb cover, approximately 330 men.

Today, the fort cannot be visited, waiting for catches on the restructuring and transformation for tourist activities of the formerly military premise.