GENOA ( Genova in Italian) is “the most winding, incoherent of cities, the most entangled topographical ravel in the world.” So said Henry James, and the city is still marvelously eclectic, full of pace and rough-edged style. Sprawled behind the huge port – Italy’s largest and an increasingly popular stop-off for international cruise liners – is a dense and fascinating warren of medieval alleyways, a district which has more zest than all the coastal resorts put together.Genoa made its money at sea, through trade, colonial exploitation, and piracy. By the thirteenth century, on the heels of a major role in the Crusades , the Genoese were roaming the Mediterranean, bringing back ideas as well as goods: the city’s architects were using Arab pointed arches a century before the rest of Italy. The San Giorgio banking syndicate effectively controlled the city for much of the fifteenth century and cold-shouldered Columbus (who had grown up in Genoa) when he sought funding for his voyages of exploration. With Spanish backing, he opened up new Atlantic trade routes which ironically reduced Genova La Superba (“the proud”) to a backwater. Following foreign invasion, in 1768 the Banco di San Giorgio was forced to sell the Genoese colony of Corsica to the French, and a century later, the city became a hotbed of radicalism: Mazzini , one of the main protagonists of the Risorgimento, was born here, and in 1860 Garibaldi set sail for Sicily with his “Thousand” from the city’s harbor. Around the same time, Italy’s industrial revolution began in Genoa, with steelworks and shipyards spreading along the coast. These suffered heavy bombing in World War II, and the subsequent economic decline hobbled Genoa for decades.
Things started to look up in the 1990s. State funding to celebrate the 500th anniversary of Columbus’s 1492 voyage paid to renovate some of the city’s late-Renaissance palaces and the old port area, with Genoa’s most famous son of modern times, Renzo Piano (best known as the co-designer of Paris’s Pompidou Centre), taking a leading role. The city was the focus of world attention for the G8 summit in July 2001 ( www.genoa-g8.it ), an event that marked an L90 billion program to prepare for a well-earned role as European Capital of Culture in 2004.
The tidying-up hasn’t sanitized the old town, however; the core of the city, between the two stations and the waterfront, is still dark and slightly threatening. But despite the sleaze, the overriding impression is of a buzzing hive of activity – food shops nestled in the portals of former palaces, carpenters’ workshops sandwiched between designer furniture outlets, everything surrounded by a crush of people and the squashed vowels of the impenetrable Genoese dialect that has, over the centuries, absorbed elements of Neapolitan, Calabrese and Portuguese. Aside from the cosmopolitan street-life, you should seek out the Cattedrale di San Lorenzo with its fabulous treasure, small medieval churches such as San Donato and Santa Maria di Castello , and the Renaissance palazzi that contain Genoa’s art collections and furniture and decor from the grandest days of the city’s illustrious past.
GENOA ( Genova in Italian) is “the most winding, incoherent of cities, the most entangled topographical ravel in the world.” So said Henry James, and the city is still marvelously eclectic, full of pace and rough-edged style. Sprawled behind the huge port – Italy’s most significant and increasingly popular stop-off for international cruise liners – is a dense and fascinating warren of medieval alleyways, a district that has more zest than all the coastal resorts put together.
The magnificence and charm of Genoa
From his high pedestal Christopher Columbus observes the sea, trying to find the place where, beyond thousands of miles, there lays his greatest discovery and the lands of Central and South America. Genoa citizens solicitously keep the memory of their great compatriot: still, you can find the house in which Columbus was born and where he spent his life and there are always fresh flowers by the foot of the monument.
Lagoon is the favorite place for the citizens where they can spend their free time, and if you come here in the evening, you will see an impressive sight: the full-length copy of Columbus`s caravel is shining in the rays of searchlights. The lagoon was projected by talented architects: here`s one of the world`s biggest aquariums located, and ten steps further there is the skating rink that never melts, so you can see young men and women in beach outfits.
Use the noiseless lift to raise only several dozens meters higher and what you`ll see will make you totally breathless: below there are soft curves of the Ligurian coast while there are Apennine tops above you against the background of the bright blue sky. Palaces, museums, great arches, living quarters built with a refined taste, wide squares and narrow streets are all crowded between the coast and the mountains.
Go along the Genoa streets and squares. In every corner, there are historic signs and on every turn, you will find the traces of glorious deeds accomplished by the previous generations. On one of the castles, you will find the board that says that in the XII century Genoa citizens were fighting against Frederick Barbarossa forces here. The high relief plots on the Garibaldi monument will tell you how 700 years later battalion that belonged to the great Italian walked along the Genoa streets`
Genoa is the city that will definitely enchant you and will make you fall in love with it. The weather is mild here all year round. Even at Christmas time, the city is filled up with light and the temperature is as high as 15 degrees centigrade. The Columbus` homeland is safe from cold winds while the sea gives its tender warmth to it. But it is not only the caress of the sea that Genoa lived in. The sign on the marble arch reminds you of the terrifying Second World War times: “the native land for its children who were fighting on the land, on the sea, and in the sky“
The local airport is also a unique thing as its runway goes close to the sea, so when the plane is rising into the sky you can imagine yourself on a hydroplane.
But let’s turn back to the city`s streets, the square in front of the Museum of Art. Here, on the advertisement board, you can see colorful pictures of the frescos that were created by the masters of the past. A woman and a man dressed in ancient clothes, musicians` These people lived here five hundred years ago. They loved their city while the artists loved these people who were their models at the same time. The artists left us the images of faces, movements and even feelings that belonged to our ancestors.
And you can be totally sure that there`s more than enough of dynamics, fun and active intercourse on Genoa`s streets. Here`s an actor performs in front of children. They know the plot by heart but, anyway, they meet every remark with shouts of joy. Mothers and fathers are also in raptures over this. Genoa is truly a wonderful place that will never lose its fascination.
Nightlife in Genoa
On first impressions, life after dark looks sparse but a bit of time rooting around in the old town will turn up a good choice of convivial bars and small clubs, some of them with live music.
The best source of information on nightlife is the local daily paper Il Secolo XIX; in summer you can supplement this with Genova by Night, the tourist office’s free what’s on guide. The student magazine La Rosa Purpurea del Cairo also has information on music, theatre, and cinema; it’s published monthly and is available from bars and some Via Balbi bookshops in term-time.
There are plenty of bars along the seamy waterfront Via Gramsci, in between the strip joints and brothels, but more attractive places to drink can be found on the side roads off Via XX Settembre and around Piazza delle Erbe. Moretti on Via San Bernardo is a beery student dive; Le Corbusier , Via San Donato 36r, is consistently popular; Eprïe Rosse , Via Ravecca 54r, is a characterful wine-bar. The Britannia pub at Vico Casana 76r, off Piazza di Ferrari, has pints of Guinness and burgers and chips. The Louisiana club on Via San Sebastiano has live trad jazz most nights from around 10pm, but you’ll find more happening joints tucked away in the southern part of the old town: the Quaalude , beneath the “Massari” signboard at Piazza Sarzano 14, is an underground club that features live bands and/or dance parties on Fridays and Saturdays – ask around in local bars for the latest news.