1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Spezia

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SPEZIA, a city of Liguria, Italy, in the province of Genoa, 56 m. S.E. of that town by rail, 49 ft. above sea-level. Pop. (1906), 41,773 (town); 75,756 (commune); in 1861 only 11,556. It is the chief naval harbour of Italy, having been adopted as such in 1861. The Bay of Spezia is sheltered from all except southerly winds, and on its western shore are numerous openings, which afford perfectly safe anchorage in all weathers. The entrance is protected by forts, while a submarine embankment, 2 m. long, renders it secure. The arsenal consists of three departments, the principal of which is 3937 ft. long, with an average width of 2460 ft. The chief basin is 23 acres in extent, and the second—connected with the first by a canal 91 ft. wide—36 acres. Both basins have an average depth of between 33 and 35 ft. The second basin gives access to the docks, of which there are six; two 390 ft. long, two 420 ft. long, one 500 ft. long, and one 650 ft. long. The establishment of San Vito is devoted entirely to the production of artillery; that of San Bartolomeo is exclusively used for electrical works and the manufacture of submarine weapons, especially torpedoes. The arsenal was constructed by General Chiodo (d. 1870), whose statue rises at the entrance, and near it are the naval barracks and hospital. Though the town itself, with the barracks and military hospital as its principal buildings, presents little to attract the foreign visitor, the beauty of the gulf and of the neighbouring country has brought Spezia into some repute as a winter resort, and it is also visited in summer for sea-bathing. The walls and gates of the old city are for the most part destroyed. The opening of a railway across the Apennines (there is a branch leaving the coast line at Vezzano, and joining the line from Sarzana at S. Stefano di Magra), placed Spezia in communication with Parma and the most fertile regions of the Po valley, and so stimulated commerce that a new commercial port to the east of the city was built. This harbour consists of a broad quay with 657 ft. of wharfage, and of a mole 1639 ft. long with 984 ft. of wharfage. The basin of the harbour is about 26 ft. deep. A branch railway connects the wharves directly with the main line. Since the opening of the new port the traffic has considerably increased, and it exports oil, pig-lead, silver, flour, wine, marble and sandstone for paving purposes, while it imports quantities of coal, iron, cereals, phosphates, timber, pitch, petroleum, and mineral oils. The import of coal in 1906 was 439,494 tons, being nearly double the average for 1901-1905. The tonnage of vessels entered was over 600,000, an increase of about 25% on that of 1905. Several important industrial establishments lie along the bay, including large lead and silver works at Pertusola (see Lerici), submarine cable works, a shipyard at Muggiano for the construction of mercantile vessels up to 10,000 tons, a branch of the Vickers Terni works for armour plate, several motorboat works, brick and tile works, &c.

The origin of Spezia is doubtful; but it probably rose after the destruction of Luna. Sold by one of the Fieschi in 1276 to Genoa, the town was fortified by its new possessors and made the seat of a governor of some importance. It became a city in the 16th century. The idea of making the Gulf of Spezia a great naval centre was first broached by Napoleon I.