Genoa, the Capital of the lively Region of Liguria, is "superb for its people and its walls,” as Petrarch characterized it. One could walk right into infinity, treading the city's historic center and enchanting caruggi, the tight and winding streets lined by very tall houses that speak of this city’s glorious past. Each wall, each alleyway and palazzo, villa, park and defense structure boasts the charm, fully-intact, of the old Genoese Marine Republic.
"City of arms and trade," its artistic beauties are protected inside the noble palaces known as the Rolli, as well as within many civic museums. Genoa, the birthplace of the world-famous pesto and other excellent gastronomic delicacies, is still today the site of an efficient commercial port, numerous industrial activities and even of avant garde scientific and technological manufactures, thanks to the Collina Erzelli Science and Technological Park.
Important mooring station and trading post in Antiquity, Genoa was founded by the Ligures people in the 6th Century B.C.; it was also an ally of the Romans at the time. The city reached the heights of its splendor in the Middle Ages, when it was officially a Marine Republic. After it defeated Pisa (its rival for the dominion of the sea) in 1284, it began a period of heavy economic expansion and predominance over the Tyrrhennian Sea, above all a consequence of its merchant ships having successfully reached Africa and the East. Its domestic battles and its power struggle with Venice brought about Genoa’s alliance with France that, in 1499, translated into its submission. It was only in 1529 that Genoa reacquired its independence, a development attributed to Admiral Andrea Doria. This independence it maintained until the Napoleonic era. Then, during the Congress of Vienna in 1819, the city came under Savoy rule.
Making the rounds in Genoa is a continuous series of astonishing moments, visions and encounters. In its lanes and piazzas one can smell the fragrances of a history marked by Genoa’s skillful mariners and astute traders that traversed the Mediterranean. Much of the city’s historic center is delineated by the so-called Strade Nuove or New Roads (Via Garibaldi, Via Cairoli and Via Balbi), where the Palazzi dei Rolli –UNESCO World Heritage Site – stand.
So many of these palazzi have painted Genoa in the light of its illustrious past: from Palazzo San Giorgio, entirely frescoed; to Palazzo della Nuova Borsa in the main Piazza De Ferrari; without forgetting the Ducal Palace, one of the oldest among them and currently location for prime cultural-artistic exhibits. Characteristic is the Porto Antico area – its narrow roads, mixed architecture, Classical and neoclassical palazzi, even edifices more Oriental in appearance.
Jutting out from the skyline is the most important place of Catholic worship for the city, the Cathedral of San Lorenzo. Built between 1100 and 1400, the structure is composed of both Gothic and Romanesque components.
Genoa, though, is not an historic center alone. Given its more recent architectonic feats and restoration projects, one of the city’s many facets is that modern. In the Porto Antico area, after all, visitors find the Acquario; designed by Renzo Piano, this Aquarium is one of Europe’s largest, not only in terms of space, but in its variety and wealth of species as well. Also here are the super-contemporary – and absolute musts – Bolla (Bubble) and Bigo.
n the last few years, the Porto Antico zone has also become events-central, for tourism, music, culture and sports, adding even more buzz to this city wedged in between mountains and sea. When wandering around Genoa and its environs, you will eventually strike upon at least a few of its several villas, markers of the Genoese nobility’s “good times:” among these are the Villa del Principe, Palazzo di Andrea Doria and Villa Saluzzo Bombrini, revealingly referred to as “Paradise.”
Genoa's status as a foremost Italian port city corresponds to its coastal development that extends circa 22 miles; explore its seaside promenade, experience the magnificent sea breeze as you taste typical fish appetizers and the satisying street food sold in the antique stalls on every corner.