Visitors either love or hate Genoa and few can remain indifferent. Most are wary at first and then begin to appreciate the city after having taken time to discover it. As Dickens wrote in 1843: I would never have thought that I would have become attached to the stones of the Genoan streets, and to think of the city with affection, as the place in which I had spent many hours of peace and happiness. Even today, Genoa provokes conflicting feelings, due to the fact that it is a place of contradictions. It is a Mediterranean port, which has always traded with nearby countries and so it has assimilated some of their habits and words, and it has always been a city of merchants and bankers, known by all as the most English city in Italy.
It is easy to be enraptured by the maze of narrow streets in the historic centre. Genoa is a vertical city, where the sky can sometimes feel very close and give one a feeling of dizziness. Refined palaces are side by side with humble houses, which in the historic centre, are all close to the beautiful churches of the city, which have austere, black and white striped, marble facades or opulent, baroque architecture. Genoa has a secret beauty that can be found in its daring architecture, traces of splendid frescoes and imposing, noble palaces. Beginning in Strada Nuova, now known as Via Garibaldi, this is a visible sign of the historic period of the seventeenth century, when the great, Genovese families were at their richest. This is a unique street because of the urban planning that it has inspired and the number of palaces here and their beauty. Visitors can enter the internal gardens and see the frescoes in the great salons. Some of these buildings are now museums and are home to works of art by Genovese artist and the great, Flemish school, such as the (
Via Balbi is also rich with palaces and now houses the university buildings of the School of the Humanities. Via Assarotti, is a sign of the nineteenth century expansion towards the hills, Via XX Settembre is a modern, elegant street full of business and commerce, and finally, Corso Italia, is the promenade leading to the sea and
The real essence of daily Genoese life, is not found in the rich palaces, but in the maze of alleyways the historic centre, such as Via di Sottoripa. This is the place where Genoese will stop for a chat, amidst the cries of street vendors and smells of coffee, fried food, perfumes and the unmistakeable smell of pesto, which is a typically Ligurian sauce. Thanks to the
The name Genoa is believed to derive from Genua, founded by the two headed Giano, protector of ships and coins. This was a city of two faces, which looks both inland and towards the sea. Genoa, as well as being full of mythical origins, has always been a crossroads of traffic and culture, between continental Europe and the Mediterranean, thanks to it natural position and the initiative of its inhabitants. After the conquest of the Padana plain in 569, Genoa became the main, Byzantine stronghold with its own fleet, uniting the commercial and seafaring sides of the city. Conquered and plundered by the Rotari from 641 to 643 and then by Saracen pirates, the city only began to develop again after the tenth century, thanks to help from the monasteries and abbey and the first wall that finally surrounded the city. The great, powerful and prosperous, sea commerce of Genoa started in the eleventh century and, the city rivaled Pisa and Venice. Genoa's participation in the Eastern Crusades, as well as responding to religious needs and the aspirations of the Genoan soldiers, made the city a valued importer of riches and new products. In 1098, the merchants took over the commercial district of Antiochia, and the Compagna was set up the next year, as the first communal associative institution, giving life to a mixed, ruling class of aristocratic, feudal and mercantile origin. The historic center was divided into eight districts and the houses had to have porticoes to show the limits of each area. These are still visible in Via di Sottoripa and were opened in 1125. Churches in roman style were built here, including the Chiesa di S.M. di Castello, Chiesa di S.Donato and the Cathedral of S.Lorenzo, which was built in 1118. The del Barbarossa walls were built from 1155 to 1160, of which there are still some remains including Porta Soprana or di S.Andrea and Porta dei Vacca (o di S.Fede).
Genoa increased its business in the east, and in 1284, in the naval battle of Meloria, it defeated Pisa, which was also an important port, and so gained control of the Tyrrhenian Sea. Contrary to its naval victories, it had a bitter fight on land for supremacy and power, led by the Doria and Spinola families who were Ghibellines and the Fieschi and Grimaldi families who were Guelfs. Even the election in 1339 of the first doge, Simon Boccanegra, did nothing to placate the struggles. In this atmosphere of conflict and tension, the population got together in alberghi, organized around the most prestigious families. Those who followed them, gave up their own name and political rank to assume that of the house they had chosen on the basis of geographical vicinity or family ties. This period produced gothic architecture, characterized by the use of black and white marble to decorate facades. Popular with the religious orders from the thirteenth to the fifteenth century, this led to the construction of around ten churches including, the churches of S.Agostino and S.Domenico, the façade of S.Lorenzo, and also the civil palaces and towers. The Doria district, facing onto Piazza S.Matteo, is a magnificent example of this and is still relatively untouched, as is the Palace of the Capitano del Popolo and the Grimaldi houses in Piazza S.Luca. As there was a large population increase because of the economic success of the city, it almost tripled in size, and in the first half of the fourteenth century, a new city wall was built.
At the end of the next century, which was characterized by a profound artistic transformation, with the intervention of Lombardian and Tuscan painters and sculptors, the Genoan Christopher Columbus discovered America. There followed a period in which Genoa, defeated by Venice, was dominated by Charles VII of France, by Francesco Sforza, the Visconti of Milano and then by the French again. In 1522, the Republic was set up and in 1528, the Admiral Andrea Doria seized power and the city came under the rule of Spain. A number of pirate attacks occurred along the Ligurian coast in the second half of the sixteenth century, when barbarians destroyed, plundered and kidnapped in Rapallo, Recco, Lavagna, Moneglia and Sori. Watch out towers were built after this from Arenzano to Moneglia. Despite the loss of the Mediterranean colonies, the next thirty years of the dictatorship of Andrea Doria gave stability and a new constitution to the Republic with a radical renewal of building carried out by the mot famous, renaissance masters, from Rome, Tuscany, Venice and abroad, including Rubens and Van Dyck. The end of internal fighting and foreign domination led to an extraordinary blossoming of art and a period of great economic prosperity. The noble families competed to commission masterpieces by the most famous artists of the time. The Genoan baroque, which was very elegant and sophisticated, was innovated mainly by P. Puget and F. Parodi, followed later by A. Maragliano and the sculpture of F. Schiaffino. Outstanding eighteenth century painters include A. Magnasco. In 1746 Genoa was occupied by the Austrians but managed to overcome them led by Balilla. In 1797, the Democatic Ligurian Republic was set up on the French model. Besieged by the Austrians again and defended by the French General Massena, in 1805 Genoa became part of the French Empire, and in 1815, the new Duchy of Genoa was united with the Kingdom of Sardinia. In the nineteenth century, Genoa went through another phase of urban renewal led by Carlo Barabino and the Cantone brothers with the opening of large roads and some important public works, such as the Cimitero Monumentale di Staglieno (Cemetery of Staglieno) and the Teatro Carlo Felice. Some famous figures from the Risorgimento have Ligurian origins such as Mazzini, Bixio and Mameli. Garibaldi's expedition left from the Quarto rock, at the east of the city, which led to the unification of Italy. Genoa was the first merchant port at the end of the nineteenth century. In the twentieth century, the entire region contributed both men and means to the two world wars and the fight for liberation. After the industrial boom of the 1960's and the successive economic stagnation, the port and the iron and steel industry was faced with crisis, and Genoa became a cultural center, a new tourist destination and a city of art. It now faces the G8 in 2001 and will be European Cultural Capital in 2004.
The historic centre starts at Lanterna, encircled by the gradual development of the city that has spread into the surrounding areas. In front of the Stazione Marittima, is the sumptuous Palazzo Doria Pamphily del Principe, which was once the residence of the great Admiral Andrea Doria. Continuing from here, you will reach the Principe Railway Station where the route into the largest historic centre in Europe begins. The splendid Church of S.Giovanni di Pré is worth visiting, as is the annexed Commenda di Pré, which was formerly a hospital and a lodging for knights on their way to the Holy Land. This leads to the picturesque Via Pré; or visitors can choose to follow the monumental Via Balbi, where only one family lives, to visit, Galleria Nazionale di Palazzo Reale, and the Palazzo della Università. Piazza della Nunziata is nearby, whose name derives from the Chiesa della SS.Annunziata del Vastato, which is in this square. It has a neoclassical façade and rich, seventeenth century frescoes inside. From here, go down through Via delle Fontane to the medieval Porta dei Vacca (o di S.Fede), an old entry into the walled city from the west. Via del Campo near here, is famous for the song by F. De André, and leads to Piazza Fossatello, the commercial heart of the district. In the side street of Via Lomellini is the precious Oratory of S.Filippo Neri and the nextdoor Church of S.Filippo Neri, which face the house where G. Mazzini was born, now the home of the Museum of the Risorgimento and the Mazzinian Institute. Hidden in the narrow caruggi, or alleyways is the Abbazia di S.Siro, first cathedral of the city, where there is a plaque commemorating the miracle of San Siro who liberated the city from the Basilisco, a horrendous, monstrous demon. From here, go down to Via S.Luca, where there are numerous noble palaces and leads to the square with the same name, dominated by the Church of S.Luca. Take a small deviation to the National Gallery of the Palazzo Spinola, an important museum which reconstructs the atmosphere, furnishings and even, the kitchens of a period residence. At the end of the street is Piazza Banchi, an old grain market, and the home of the sixteenth century, Loggia dei Mercanti o di Banchi and the Church of S.Pietro in Banchi, built above the shops. From here, walking towards the sea, one arrives at the Palazzo S.Giorgio, the first home of Genoese power, where Marco Polo dictated the Million. Nearby, the picturesque and colourful Via di Sottoripa is an old, porticoed, street, built to protect the houses and workshops from powerful waves.
Passing under the Strada Sopraelevata, or elevated street, one enters the Area del Porto Antico (the ancient port area), a place to wander around various sights such as the Acquario di Genova, Genoa's Acquarium, the Città dei Bambini (children's city), the Sea and Navigation Pavilion and the National Museum of the Antarctic Felice Ippolito. This is also the place to take a boat trip around the port, ice skate, see a film at the new Cineplex, admire the sixteenth century Porta Siberia (or del Molo) and the nearby Church of S.Marco al Molo. Returning to the city, pass Piazza Banchi, go through Via Orefici and Piazza Campetto with a fountain and this leads to Piazza Soziglia, once the site of a vegetable and animal market, it is now home to historic shops, including Pietro Romanengo e i Fratelli and Klainguti. The nearby Church of S.M. delle Vigne in the square with the same name, was once a vineyard. Also worth a visit is the narrow, lively Via Macelli di Soziglia, a typical, Genoan alleyway where there are numerous butchers, craft workshops and second-hand shops. The end of the alley leads to the sixteenth century Via Garibaldi, formerly Strada Nuova, one of the most monumental streets in all of Italy, with two important city museums; the Galleria di Palazzo Rosso (Red Palace Gallery) and the Galleria di Palazzo Bianco (The White Palace Gallery), as well as the former Grimaldi Palace now, Palazzo della Meridiana and the town hall which is called the Palazzo Doria Tursi. In the nearby Piazza Portello, it is possible to go up in the Castelletto lift to the Belvedere L. Montaldo, which offers an extraordinary view of the city. Via Garibaldi ends in the large Piazza Fontane Marose, where the Palace of the Principe Pallavicino is found as is the Negrone Palace and the Spinola dei Marmi Palace. Through Via XXV Aprile, one reaches Piazza De Ferrari, the true heart of Genoa and the border between the historic centre and the modern city. The Genovainforma kiosk is here, near the fountain, in the centre of the square, and the Carlo Felice Theatre, the museum of the Accademia Ligustica di Belle Arti in the building with the same name, the Palazzo della Nuova Borsa and the Palazzo Ducale (the Ducal Palace), which has a lively, painted facade. The narrow S. Matteo alley leads to the Doria district, where the houses of the noble family can be found and the charming Church of S. Matteo. Walking towards Piazza Campetto, with its splendid, Imperial Palace, one reaches Via di Scurreria and the Cattedrale di S. Lorenzo, an architectural mix as a result of master builders from Pisa, France, Lombardy and Genoa. The interesting Museum of the S. Lorenzo treasure is here. Following Via S.Lorenzo, one arrives in Piazza Matteotti, where the neoclassical side of the Ducal Palace can be seen, with its powerful tower of Popolo Grimaldina and the Church of Jesus and SS. Ambrogio and Andrea. These churches hold a host of masterpieces, including two altarpieces by Rubens.
The narrow Pollaiuoli ascent leads to Piazza delle Erbe and the nearby Church of S.Donato with a lovely, octagonal tower. Climbing up Stradone S. Agostino, the School of Architecture is on the right and this leads to Piazza Sarzano, home to the Museum of Architecture and Ligurian Sculpture in S.Agostino. Art lovers should visit the Oratory S.Giacomo della Marina, which is a more than worthwhile deviation. From the square, where the remains of the city walls can be found, cross the Carignano bridge to the Church of di S.M, a masterpiece by the Perugino, Galeazzo Alessi, or go to Via Ravecca to visit the medieval Porta Soprana or di S.Andream the alleged house of Christopher Columbus and the valuable S.Andrea cloisters. Piazza Dante, nearby is the heart of skyscraper Genoa, near the old Seminary, the new home of the Civica Berio Library. Just metres away is the Via XX Settembre, a street full of busy traffic, near the Monumentale Bridge and Via S.Vincenzo. The beautiful black and white striped façade of the S.Stefano Abbey can be seen from here. At the end of the main city street, beyond the Church of N.S. della Consolazione and S.Vincenzo is the Brignole Station and the modern complex of Corte Lambruschini, the Natural History Museum and the large, Piazza della Vittoria. Walking towards the sea, passing the pavilions of the Fiera del Mare, is the Corso Italia, a lovely promenade which ends in the Boccadasse district. Visitors who are only here for a short stay and don't have time to visit all the places in this guide, which pinpoints the most important monuments and places in the city, are advised to take the Zecca-Righi funicular railway. This is a lovely mode of transport, which takes a few minutes to go up the Belvedere del Righi. From here there is a panoramic view of the whole city, including the sea and the mountains.
Genoa caters well for all forms of modern travel including weekend stays and business trips, providing high quality accommodation. In the last few years, a number of hotels have been built here which are fully prepared to deal with the needs of travelers in the twenty first century. There are many hotels in strategic positions, which can be easily reached from the airport, such as the Sheraton Genova Hotel, the Puppo, Mediterraneè and the Castello Miramare, hotels near the railway station of Piazza Principe such as Britannia, Savoia Majestic, Hotel Vittoria and the Helvetia and near Piazza Brignole, adjacent to the Fair is the Moderno Verdi, Starhotel President, the Astoria and the Hotel Brignole. Near to the new, functional ferry terminal and the Acquarium is the Columbus Sea Hotel, Novotel Genova Ovest, Hotel Galles and the Alexander.
Genoa is a city that, in the past, has made its fortune on the Mediterranean, competing with other cities along the coast for supremacy in traffic and commerce. There are precious testimonies to this glorious and superb history in the historic centre, the home of the medieval city, which is delimited by the fourteenth century walls. Nearby hotels are the City Hotel and the Metropoli. The city itself is a meeting place for businessmen and in Piazza De Ferrari, Piccapietra, Via XX Settembre and Via San Vincenzo are the Hotel Bristol Palace, Jolly Hotel Plaza and the Hotel Assarotti.
Genoa winds along the coast for 35 kilometres, leading to Nervi that boasts all the beauty of the Tigullian Gulf. Even in winter, the climate here attracts visitors from all over the world in a place that time has forgotten. Places to stay here include the Villa Pagoda, Bonera and the Residence Savoia&Savoia.
The east coast is the most wild and jagged but boasts areas that are world famous because of their liveliness and casual elegance such as Portofino and Santa Margherita. The coast is full of cliffs overooking the sea, bays and creeks. The best way to get the most out of this charming area is to stay in one of the larger towns and explore the more remote areas by boat or foot during the day. During the summer, it is almost always necessary to book in advance. Words are not adequate to describe the charm of Camogli. Its fame is due to its picturesque qualities with painted boats and its good location by the sea. Places to stay here include the Il Cenobio dei Dogi and Casmona. Portofino is a favourite with some of the most prestigious yachts in the world and is an exclusive tourist destination. It has a well looked after bay with distinctively painted and decorated houses. Good hotels here are the Splendido and the Piccolo Hotel. One of the most important tourist areas here is Santa Margherita Ligure. The coast has an array of beaches, from the rocky San Michele di Pagana, to the sandy bay of Paraggi, where visitors come to bathe, see a variety of marine life and a shipwreck. The Hotel Paraggi is found here and there is a choice of hotels for tourists and business travellers in the area such as the Imperiale, Continental, Grand Hotel Miramare, Hotel Laurin, Metropole, Regina Elena, Hotel Tigullio et de Milan and the Hotel Jolanda. Rapallo is a favourite with tourists from all over the world because of the high quality of services on offer here. It is one of the great centre on the eastern coast and looks over Tigullio, in an inlet which is protected from the winds and the currents. Places to stay to enjoy the climate and natural beauty of the area include the Excelsior Palace, Hotel Rosabianca, Hotel Tigullio Royal, Hotel Riviera, Hotel Stella and the Hotel Giulio Cesare.