Vikings with nice ankles, or, a brief history of La Spezia, Italy

Being hardened sailors with nothing left to lose, we of SY Wake have obviously been engaged in a long and punishing journey across the seven seas—indeed, it’s many a good soul who’s been lost to these deeps.  Like Percy.  We used to have a cabin boy named Percy.  Not anymore.

None of that was true, although I’m sure Percy was a very nice person.  Seeing as it’s only the first summer we’ve had the boat, and we’re still learning/lazy as hell when we feel like it, we’ve been bouncing forth and back between Home Base in Florence and the sun deck, or the town where Wake is currently docked: La Spezia, Italy.

the city center, aka the cleanest part
Historical fact: they fought about the “La” for a century until a decree in 1930 said you HAD to use it

I’m quite certain we’ll end up taking a number of photographs of modern La Spezia (or maybe not, see aforementioned laziness), but today I’ve decided that the healthiest thing a person can possibly do is live entirely in the past (that’s what they say, right?).  So let’s all take a step back and a swig of cheap wine, and learn some historical shit about La Spezia!

Where stuff is
The “boot” of Italy: kicking Sicily around since 100,000 B.C.

Located in a picturesque and highly strategic little gulf upon Italy’s west coast, on the Ligurian Sea (I’ll get to the gulf in a later blog entry, ibid. laziness), the area of La Spezia has been occupied since Ancient Times, which were really important.  Before there was history, there were prehistoric people: we know this because they left their crap lying around for us to find.  In the days of the Roman empire, when it was completely chill to put people in a ring with lions and see what happened, the place was a significant maritime asset, though I presume the tourist industry didn’t thrive as it does today because they hadn’t invented sunscreen yet.

the continuing glory of the latin language
Your mother was a hamster, and your father smelled of elderberries

Anyhow the empire got embarrassingly sacked, after which the Byzantines took control of the region, followed by Lombard rule. Over the next few centuries La Spezia saw some Saracen invasions (sad emoji) and Viking raids: apparently this one Viking dude, Hastein, pretended to convert to Christianity, faked his own death, and subsequently leapt out of his coffin during the sacraments and decapitated everybody, which is totally metal.

viking cat
Bringing the Ragnarok

Beginning around the twelfth century, La Spezia became one of those assets tugged and tossed around by Italian city-states engaged in political bitch fights, mainly Milan, Genoa, and a brief episode in which the city belonged to a single family, the Fieschi, who began construction of the castle of San Giorgio, which is still around today.

IMG_20180622_142129-2.jpeg
On the other hand, the Fieschi family now does late-night infomercials for pasta makers

As a well-situated port, La Spezia grew increasingly significant as a military hub, holding one of Italy’s most powerful maritime arsenals (it still serves as a naval base, so there’s a multitude of frustrating no-trespassing signs).  Correspondingly, the city saw extensive conflict and bombings during the second World War (dude, fuck Nazis), but the totally awesome Partisan resistance remained strong within its walls, eventually recapturing the city from the occupying Axis army; the city itself received national medals of valor following the war.  Subsequently, La Spezia served as a main departure point for surviving Jewish refugees, becoming known as the gate of Zion.  Seriously dude, fuck the Nazis.  In the decades to follow, the city was rebuilt, an economic crisis led to demographic decline, and it settled into the quasi-naval quasi-touristic very-pleasant place it is today, where we have been inebriated a number of times (like with these guys, which was so unspeakably awesome).

BUT in the course of my research regarding La Spezia, I discovered it was once the sometimes-home of this bodacious chick I just now decided to talk about.  Virginia Oldoini, Countess of Castiglione, was born in 1837 to a minor noble family and, according to the historical record, she was really hot.  One supposes this to be true, since most notoriously she was the mistress of Napoleon III of France; she was a pretty spicy lady.  But the coolest part is that, well aware that she was a fox, the Countess initiated a project in collaboration with two important early photographers whose names I forgot.  Directing and dictating each image, she posed in theatrical outfits with exquisite postures, portraying herself as Jezebel, Lady Macbeth, a nun, Medea, a hooker, pretty much anything she wanted—and homegirl showed no modesty, going so far as to show her ankles, which is just about as scandalous as banging the emperor.  See (NSFW):

$25 and you can look at the other eye
$25 and you can see the other eye
We've all been there
Go home Virginia, you’re drunk
that bosom though
So much hairspray involved in the making of this photograph
That kid don't look happy
There are 23 more children under that skirt
NSFW
An image kept under the mattresses of so many 19th century adolescent boys

You go girl.

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