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11 Things You Need to Know about Genoa

Updated on April 17, 2014
Genoa | Source

Genoa is Italy's chief port, the capital of Genoa province and of the region of Liguria. Located on the deepest gulf of the western Mediterranean, Genoa (Italian, Genova) stretches from the Ligurian shore to the lower Apennine hills over uneven ground that includes the lower course of the Bisagno, the Polcevera, and other streams. Besides being Italy's leading seaport, this historic city is also an important industrial and financial center.

1. Genoa is particularly striking when approached from the sea. It sprawls around the Gulf of Genoa and climbs step by step over the foothills of the Apennines, on top of which old forts still stand.

2. Passenger ships moor next to the heart of Genoa's oldest section, a maze of narrow, picturesque streets. Fine specimens of medieval, Renaissance, and baroque domestic architecture, small Romanesque and Gothic churches, and the rugged Embriaci tower (mainly 12th century) unexpectedly reveal themselves to a leisurely visitor.


3. Farther inland, beyond the medieval and Renaissance San Lorenzo Cathedral, streets become wider and more regular, showing the patterns of several successive urban plans and redevelopments from the 17th century on.

4. A few older streets are almost entirely lined with sumptuous patrician mansions, built from the 16th to the early 19th century. But the larger part of this section is modern and includes tall apartment and office buildings and rows of arcaded areas housing Genoa's finest shops.

5. Still farther inland and along the seacoast are the newer developments, such as those near the long seaside promenade of the Lido and on the uphill winding road of Circonvallazione a Monte. An elevated driveway connects the industrial sections with speedways to the interior and to the Ligurian Riviera.

Old Genoa streets
Old Genoa streets | Source

6. One of Genoa's most important historic architectural monuments is the Ducal Palace, formerly the home of Genoa's consuls and doges. The colorful palaces of the Doria family and the Church of San Matteo form, with the enclosed square and adjacent cloister, a flawless medieval ensemble. The Gothic Palazzo San Giorgio lies near the port.

Ducal Palace
Ducal Palace | Source

7. Also of interest are Genoa's medieval town hall and colonial office, the small Romanesque Church of San Donato, the 18th century Palazzo Doria Tursi, and the Palazzo Balbi, which houses the administrative offices of Genoa's sprawling university. Genoa's two largest picture galleries are located in the Palazzo Bianco and the Palazzo Rosso (or Brignole-Sale). These and the smaller gallery of the Palazzo Spinola are especially rich in Ligurian and other northern Italian paintings and in works of the Flemish schools.

8. Particularly remarkable among the other Genoese museums and galleries are the Chiossone museum of Oriental art and the Cathedral Treasury, with its impressively displayed medieval works of art. Tourist attractions also include the "house of Christopher Columbus" near the medieval Porta Soprana and the Staglieno cemetery, full of pompous monuments in addition to Giuseppe Mazzini's austere tomb, in a lovely natural surrounding.

9. The port still is Genoa's dominant economic resource. The Lanterna, a light tower built in 1139, rebuilt in 1543, and later improved, stands out as a landmark over a port that has been enlarged many times and largely reconstructed after the naval and air attacks of World War II.

10. Genoa's trade rose from about 9 million tons of goods in the mid-1950s to over 53 million in 1969. The city of Genoa is not only the first among many Italian seaports, but it and Marseille are the main outlets to the Mediterranean and all directions beyond it for Switzerland and a large part of northern Europe. Huge grain and salt silos, warehouses, railroad yards, and a small airport back up the seaport facilities.

11. Some of Genoa's industries, such as the shipyards and the plants making marine engines and varnishes, also serve the port. The iron and steel industry goes far beyond the needs of the port. Locomotives, aircraft supplies, oil refineries, paper, soap, cement, chemicals, and fertilizers are among the principal products of Genoa's diversified industrial concentration. A large number of banking, insurance, and commercial concerns have either their main office or an important branch there.

Have you ever been to Genoa?

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