In honor of Columbus Day, we bring to you the Province of Genoa and the city that is the birthplace of the great Italian Navigator.
The province of Genoa is located in the lovely region of Liguria, located in north-western Italy. The area features impressive mountains and rolling hills, colored by the green Mediterranean turf and overlooking the Ligurian Sea. Liguria itself is a multi-faceted area of Italy, with a wide array of things to do and see. Nature, mountains, culture and entertainment – the region has something for everyone.
Genoa is most famous as a port city and one of the busiest in the Mediterranean. It has for centuries been one of the most important ports in the world, but beyond the bustle to the east, visitors will find beaches of fine golden sand interspersed among the rocky coast. These coastal villages belong to the Riviera di Levante where tourists are attracted to fabulous landscapes and luxurious resorts. The coastal region in the province of Genoa is subdivided into the Gulf of Genoa, the Paradise Gulf and the Gulf of Tigullio. Some of the highlights in this area include the capital city Genoa, the Portofino peninsula, as well as the picturesque bays of Sestri Levante.
One after another, gorgeous beaches, ports and amazing scenery greet you by day and turn into lively centers by night, with plenty of entertainment and shopping. These villages include not only the beautiful and world-renowned Portofino, but the lovely villages of Arenzano, Camogli, Sori and Bogliasco.
Even the waters around Genoa contain their own remarkable features. The Ligurian Sea attracts numerous specimens of whales and dolphins who live safely in this area known as the “Sanctuary of Cetaceans.” It has the highest concentration of aquatic mammals in the Mediterranean Sea. Whale watchers can enjoy a fascinating experience while observing magnificent specimens of marine fauna. For many, snorkeling is a perfect way to explore by not venturing too far from the water’s surface.
Genoa’s historic center is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The Strade Nuove and the Palazzi dei Rolli date from the late 16th century when the Republic of Genoa was at the height of its financial and seafaring power. The property includes an ensemble of Renaissance and Baroque palaces along the ‘new streets’ (Strade Nuove). The residences known as Palazzi dei Rolli, are three or four stories high with entrance halls featuring spectacular open staircases, courtyards and loggias overlooking gardens.
A crossroads of cultures and people since ancient times, the history of Genoa displays its richness and beauty in every corner of the old town. The narrow and characteristic carruggi snake between the tall buildings along the Medieval street plan. A walk through Genoa will reveal constant surprises – beautiful buildings, gorgeous churches and façades decorated by frescoes. On every street and in every piazza, behind every corner or down a centuries-old alley is a treasure waiting to be discovered.
The great Petrarch once defined Genoa as “The Lady of the Sea,” a fitting name for this port city. Upon entering Genoa one encounters its harbor which features the prominent Lighthouse Tower, also known as La Lanterna. Originally built for military purposes, it is now the symbol of the city. Visitors can climb the 720 steps or take a small elevator to the top for an astounding view of the city.
The heart of this city known as La Superba, holds many masterpieces inside its elegant buildings. Tourists are encouraged to tour the Palazzo Reale, whose opulence strikes you immediately upon entering through its gates. Frescos, sculptures, paintings and stuccoes decorate the sophisticated halls, outfitted with elegant furniture. The building houses the National Gallery that displays an extraordinary collection of paintings by Luca Giordano, Veronese, Tintoretto, Piola, Vassallo, Borgognone, Grechetto, Strozzi, Carlo Bonomi and Guercino, through a tour of the 23 rooms.
The Cathedral of San Lorenzo, located in the piazza of the same name, was originally built in the 9th century and has been significantly renovated over years. The façade, decorated with black and white horizontal lines contains windows on the upper section and three portals with a large rose window above the central portal. The interior, divided into three naves, exhibits precious paintings and sculptures and is home to the Museo del Tesoro. The same black-and-white motif can be found on Sant’Agostino, a deconsecrated church, now the home of a museum that contains a rich collection that illustrates the historical relationship between Genoa and art from the 10th to the 18th centuries.
Leaving the historical district and traveling east, you will arrive at Nervi, a wealthy residential suburb that has been favored by the aristocracy since the 19th century. Set on a beautiful stretch of coast, the gorgeous seafront unfolds with splendid views of the Gulf of Tigullio. Gardens and blossoming fields intertwine with elegant villas, many of which are now museums.
In Pegli one can visit the Naval Museum housed in Villa Doria, an aristocratic residence surrounded by a vast park. On display here is Genoa’s maritime history, from its foundation until the Middle Ages. Also in Pegli is Villa Durazzo Pallavicini, which holds two great attractions. The Botanical Garden is set in the park of the villa and is highly theatric and organized as a series of scenes forming a play. The other attraction is the Museo Civico di Archeologia Ligure. In addition to finds from the Greco-Roman age, the museum displays a collection from throughout Liguria that date back to pre-historic times.
A modern highlight of Genoa is the Aquarium, one of the most complete and technologically-advanced marine life centers in Europe. The Aquarium was designed by famous Italian architect Renzo Piano and houses an entire marine world in enormous and varied pools behind large windows. Dolphins, seals, sharks and colorful fish of all shapes and sizes create a breath-taking view for all.
The Christopher Columbus House in Genoa is an 18th century reconstruction of the house in which the great navigator grew up. The house is located outside Genoa’s 14th century walls. Columbus was born in 1451 and he lived there between approximately 1455 and 1470. The house had two stories, with a shop on the ground floor. The original house was most likely destroyed in the French bombardment of Genoa in 1684. It was rebuilt in the early 18th century on the grounds of the original ruins. Currently, the building operates as a museum, under the management of the “Porta Soprana” Genovese Cultural Association.
In addition to the fascinating history and remarkable sites in Genoa, it is also the gateway to the fabulous Italian Riviera, which will be covered in an upcoming edition of Food, Wine and Travel, as we explore the provinces of Italy.