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Updated on December 25, 2009
Photo by Matteo Canessa
Photo by Matteo Canessa

Genoa is a city in northwestern Italy; the capital of the region of Liguria; on the Gulf of Genoa.

Genoa, called Genova in Italian, is the chief seaport of Italy and one of the leading ports in the Mediterranean. It is the country's fifth largest city and the capital of the province of Genoa, which is part of Liguria. Genoa is a major industrial and commercial center and a resort at the center of the Italian Riviera. It is also an important railroad junction.

Genoa's principal imports are oil, coal, iron ore, hides, wool, cotton, and other raw materials. Exports include rice, wine, olive oil, coral, macaroni, and marble. The chief products manufactured there are iron and steel, metal goods, machinery, and railroad equipment. Other goods include aircraft supplies, chemicals, soap, foodstuffs, and olive oil. Shipbuilding is an important industry, and many shipping lines serve the city. Genoa is also a center of banking, insurance, and other commercial activities.

Photo by Gabriella Fabbri
Photo by Gabriella Fabbri


A town on the site of Genoa was the chief port of the Ligurii, the people who occupied the area in pre-Roman times. In the 3d century b.c. a Roman fleet had its headquarters there. After the fall of Rome, the city was invaded by the Goths, the Lombards, and the Saracens. In the llth century, Genoa began to emerge as a maritime power. The city prospered through its role in the Crusades, and by the 13th century it had colonies from Spain to the Black Sea. Conflicts soon arose with the other Italian maritime cities. In 1284, Genoa defeated Pisa, but in the late 14th century it was itself defeated by Venice.

In the 15th century the city was weakened by internal dissension, which led to intervention by a succession of foreign rulers. The city's power and independence were temporarily restored in the 16th century by the Genoese statesman Andrea Doria, who gave the city a new constitution. In 1797, Napoleon Bonaparte incorporated Genoa into the Ligurian Republic, which was annexed to France in 1805. Genoa was included in the kingdom of Sardinia after Napoleon's defeat. In 1861 it became a part of the new Kingdom of Italy.

Description of the City

Genoa lies on a narrow coastal strip at the foot of the Apennines. The strip varies in width up to nearly a mile (1.6 km), and the city extends up the steep slopes facing the sea. Large elevators connect the business district in the lower town with the residential areas on the heights. The center of the city is the Piazza de Ferrari, a large open square in the business district. The stock exchange, the Opera House, and the Academy of Fine Arts are located there.

Among the many medieval and Renaissance buildings in Genoa are the Cathedral of San Lorenzo, which dates in part from the 9th century A.D., and the 16th-century Palazzo Doria Tursi, now used as Genoa's town hall. Another city landmark is the house where Christopher Columbus is said to have been born.


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