La Spezia naval base is since 1870 one of the main Navy ports in Italy, but visiting it is not possible for security reasons. Yet, those interested in the navy and telecommunication history can enjoy seeing the Technical Naval Museum in La Spezia, right next to the base. Kids will especially love the battleship models, like the one of the Amerigo Vespucci, the “most beautiful ship in the world “.
The Museum mainly displays weapons, battleship models, and naval equipment prototypes. It is, therefore, very different from the Venice Naval Museum, which is more focused on seamanship history as a whole.
The recently renewed figureheads hall is an exciting gallery section displaying figureheads from all over the world.
It is indeed the most romantic area of the Museum, where one can dream about the ancient ships telling their stories with these often beautifully crafted figures. In some cases, the figureheads also have their stories and legends once detached from their vessels. It is the case of the beautiful Atalanta figurehead, whose beauty enchanted a sailor to death.
ATALANTA, FISHED FROM THE SEA TO MAKE MEN MAD
Where Atalanta arrives from, no one knows. The figurehead appeared in 1866 when the captain of the gunboat Veloce fished it in the Atlantic ocean, knowing nothing about the ship it belonged to.
The captain of the gunboat Veloce named the sculpture Atalanta and delivered it to the Naval Museum in Genoa, where it was moved to the newborn Naval Museum of La Spezia in 1870.
And right in the Museum of La Spezia, the Atalanta curse started.
The museum keeper was the first who fell victim to Atalanta’s incredible beauty. Apparently, the man needed to see the figurehead’s eyes daily. He looked at her for hours and fell in love with the statue. Annihilated by the impossible love, the man hung himself in front of the figurehead.
Not happier was the fate of the young carpenter, who was commissioned to restore the wooden statue. After fifteen days in the lab with the figurehead Atalanta, the man was found dead at the statue’s feet, with a knife stabbed in his heart. In the carpenter’s hands, a note explaining the mad passion for the figurehead led him to suicide.
“Because no woman except you can give me the life I dream of. Atalanta, I sacrifice my life to you”.
This note was found next to the body of a German soldier. He was stationed in La Spezia, saw the statue on display in the Museum, and fell in love to the point of stealing it and hiding it in the apartment where he lived. From that moment, no one saw him around anymore until two weeks after, a fellow soldier smashed through the door of the house, finding him dead in front of the statue.
The farewell letter left no doubt: it was the third victim of the beautiful (and cursed) figurehead Atalanta.
Evidence storytelling of the Guglielmo Marconi’s first telecommunications experiments.
If Atalanta’s story can be a legend, the scientist Guglielmo Marconi La Spezia naval base is one of the places where Guglielmo Marconi repeatedly performed important experiments on behalf of and with the decisive contribution of the Royal Navy.
The Museum’s Telecommunications section contains a fascinating collection of his early radios.
Since 1897, when the first tests took place, the collaboration between Marina Militare and Marconi has been intense and continuous.
On July 10th, 1897, Marconi arrives in La Spezia; he is 23 years old. He begins the first experiments in the arsenal’s San Bartolomeo section. Here was erected a 25-meter-high radio antenna for him. Then it was raised to 34 meters, and a receiving device was placed in the Arsenal entrance square.
The earth-sea experiments began on July 14th of the same year between San Bartolomeo and the tugboat n. 8 (it is transmitted in Morse code for about 15 minutes). The distance between the tugboat and the ground base is brought up to a distance of 12,700 meters.
In 1899 Marconi completed a series of experiments between the stations located on Palmaria island of Gorgona and Livorno, arriving to transmit up to 80 kilometers. In 1909 the scientist received the Nobel Prize.
The Naval Museum of La Spezia displays several early tools and prototypes used by Marconi during these experiments.
The base and the museum are strongly connected with the Italian Navy Special Forces, the Incursori.
They made the history of navy operational raids, especially in WWI, and today also on the mountains of Afghanistan, equipped with special over- and underwater vehicles for silent insertions. In the Museum, it is possible to see Raffaele Paolucci and Raffaele Rossetti’s manned torpedo (usually referred to as “Mignatta” or “leech”). With this, they sank the Slovene battleship Jugoslavija in Pula’s port, with no underwater breathing gears, with their heads above water.