A wonderful waterfront, ancient streets,
palaces, and history everywhere.....
Don't miss walking in Genoa!
Genoa could become your favourite Italian city.... There is a lot to see and explore. We will begin with the port itself, and then discover the old city. Genoa is a very busy port, the largest in Italy and one of the busiest in the Mediterranean.
Step 1 - to the Porto Antica
The port is in three parts, the first where you are docked, in a circular protected harbour that has been used for centuries; the second along the coast to the north protected by breakwaters, and a third protected harbour to the north of that.
There is a main cruise port dock shown in the map beside, but if there are too many ships in port, the others will be at the dock to the left on the photo beside. The cruise port building is interesting - an older majestic structure.
©2018 Google Image©2009 TerraMetrics
Come out of the building and walk towards the road. There are stairs down to the level of the street below under the overpass.The harbour is not enhanced by an elevated highway that follows the shoreline, and there is another street below it. When walking, keep fairly near the elevated highway - more or less walking under the edge nearest the sea. You will pass shipyards and old warehouses. The Maritime Museum is on the next pier by the street. The walk opens up at the last warehouse, and then you will see the photogenic galleon, the Neptune.
The Neptune is larger than life - built by Roman Polanski in 1985 for the movie 'Pirates'. It is a replica of a 17th century Spanish galleon, and is an accurate replica (except larger) above the waterline, but it has a steel hull and a 400 horse power auxiliary engine. In 2011 it was used in the TV series Neverland as the Jolly Roger, Captain Hook's ship. You can go into it, for a fee.
Next along the waterfront is the Genoa Aquarium. This is the biggest and best in Europe, and gives the visitor immersion experiences in a variety of ecological areas of the world.
Walk out on the pier beside the aquarium. Beyond the aquarium main building there is a 333 foot cargo ship that now is an extension of the aquarium, with outdoor pools.There is an ecosphere with a tropical climate, and the walkway gives you options of walking up on top with great views of the harbour. There are benches on which to sit and admire the view.
Before you look at the ship, look across the street on the city side and you will see one of the old city gates, built in 1155 and called Porto dei Vacca (beside). There were five sets of walls built at different times in Genoa, and this is from the second set, the Barbarossa walls. This was the western boundary of the city then.
To your left, beyond the elevated highway, is the Palazzo San Giorgio or Palace of St. George with its frescoes. This building was originally built on the waterfront in 1260, from materials that came from the demolition of the Venetian Embassy in Constantinople. Later it was used as a prison, and Marco Polo was the most famous inmate. After his 24 year epic journey to Asia, he returned to find Venice at war with Genoa. While in prison he dictated his travels. He was released in 1299.
The picture below shows several interesting things in the Porto Antico.
As you walk along the waterfront, on your right is a curved area with 'sails' - from November to April this is a skating rink! Next to it is the sculptured Bigo, the panoramic lift. It takes visitors up 40 meters (130 feet) every 10 minutes, and it turns while the sights are explained in several languages.
Behind these, is a large building called Eataly. It is an interesting high-end food market, with restaurants and bars. Go to the third floor for a great view and good food.
You can also walk up stairs at the end of the building to see the view, or go up the glass elevator on the front of the building.
Continue to walk around the waterfront. There is a strange sculpture beside a section of the 16th century wall. Go around the end to see a gate called Porto Siberia - this came from 'Cibaria', which means food. This was the city gate where produce passed - from this port to others in the Mediterranean and arrived from other ports. The sculpture is by Emanuele Luzzi, and there is an exhibition in the building behind. the gate.
Stay beside the water, and you will walk in front of an old warehouse building that has been updated, with lots of stores and restaurants and a convention center. Just as you come around the corner to the waterfront side of the building, there is a public swimming pool.
As you can see in the picture beside, there is a lovely walkway, lined with benches.
Straight ahead, but on the other side of the harbour, is the Lighthouse of Genoa, standing on the ancient point of land at the mouth of the harbour.
It is one of the tallest lighthouses in the world, built in 1128. Your ship will be closer to it, and perhaps you can have a good look at it as you leave port.
Step 2 - Explore the old city
Now we leave the port area, and walk into the oldest part of the city. Cross under the elevated highway at the end of Eataly with the stairs. At the front of the Palace of St. George, turn right and walk past the next building, and around the far end of it. Behind the far end is a wider pedestrian street at a right angle to the port.
This is Via San Lorenzo, and the name is on the wall as you enter the street.
The very narrow side alleys are actually streets, and most have shops. This is the old area, and the narrow streets are called caruggi. Can you imagine these streets 500 years ago.... the smell, the crowded buildings and the darkness of the streets?
©2018 Google Image©2009 TerraMetrics
The picture beside is of one of these caruggi off Via Lorenzo - and not the most narrow. You can see people carrying on their lives in these dark canyons.
The first opening on the street is the piazza in front of the Cathedral of San Lorenzo, the Duomo of Genoa. There has been a church here since the 5th or 6th century, and excavations in the piazza has uncovered walls and streets from the Roman era.
The Genoese fleets in the time of the Crusades were very successful, and as the city prospered, money was available for the building of this major church. It was consecrated in 1118.
There is a museum beneath the cathedral, called the 'Treasure Museum'.
A shell from a British battleship hit the cathedral in error, but it didn't explode. It is still in the church, with this sign attached.... (Translation)
"This bomb, launched by the British Navy, though breaking through the walls of this great cathedral, fell here unexploded on February 9, 1941. In perpetual gratitude, Genoa, the City of Mary, desired to engrave in stone, the memory of such grace."
As you proceed up Via Lorenzo, just behind the church is a street tabernacle (shrine) on the corner of the building (photo beside left). These were put up to protect the people who lived in the building from invasions of armies and disease. Look for more of these as you wander the streets.
Now you have entered the Piazza Matteotti. This is a relatively new square, developed in the 18th century leaving earlier buildings surrounding it. The Palazzo Ducale is the north-east side of the square, once the building that housed the government of the Republic of Genoa. It was built in 1298 and is now used for exhibitions and conferences.
Also on the Piazza Matteotti is the Chiesa del Gesu - the Church of Jesus and Saints Ambrogio and Andrea. The building was built in its present form in 1569, but there were previous churches on the site for almost a millennium. It is very beautiful inside, with a lot of art by famous artists.
Continuing up the street, you will see ahead an old city gate, Porto Soprana. It was built in the middle 1100's, and was mostly reconstructed in the 1800's. Genoa had five sets of walls through the ages, and Porto Soprana is from the second set, called the Barbarossa walls. It is a bit deceiving - the shape of the towers is square when you come from the old city, and looking back the towers are round. Beside are pictures of the same tower.....
After you go through the gate, on your left are the ruins of the Cloister of St. Andrew. There was a 12th century monastery here which was demolished in 1905. This attractive structure is all that was left.
Just through the Porto Soprana is Christopher Columbus' house. This most famous of Genoa's citizens was born in 1451, and was supposed to have lived here, just outside the gate, from 1455 to 1470. The original house was likely destroyed in 1684 when the French bombarded the city. It was rebuilt in the early 1700's on the ruins of the original, so the very old looking parts of the facade may be from the original house.
Go down the stairs from the front of Columbus' house and turn left on the street below, and then immediately left again. In the first block is an amazing building - it is the main post office in Genoa, and as you enter Piazza de Ferrari it becomes even more imposing. It is in the center of the photo beside right.
The piazza is lovely, with grand architecture. These buildings were built mostly in the 18th and 19th centuries.
After admiring the fountain, walk to the opposite corner from where you entered the piazza, to the left of a building with pillars in front (photo beside left), and passing it, take the left of the two street choices ahead. Via XXV Aprile. Walk to where the street turns.
Step 3 - Past the palaces and back to the port
As the street turns, it opens up. Walk straight along the square, and the street we want to take is straight ahead, heading slightly to the left. It is called Via Garibaldi, and the name is on the building as you enter the narrow street.
This may be the most famous street in Genoa - the street of Renaissance palaces. It has been listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It is a pity that the street is quite narrow - it is difficult to get a good view of the facades. Several of the homes are now museums, and these are interesting to explore. They were built in the early 1500's.
©2018 Google Image©2009 TerraMetrics
Via Garibaldi was originally known as the 'Golden Street', because of the splendor of the palaces. The first things to notice are the doorways. It seems the owners tried to outdo one another. In many cases it isn't a door, just a gate into an inner courtyard. There you can find ornate staircases to the second floor. If you can enter any of the palaces, do so. A few are open, at least partially. One is a hotel, a couple are museums - most have been made into apartments.
Below are photos of Number 4, the Palazzo Carrega-Cataldi - the street view, the atrium and a room called 'The Golden Gallery', designed and created by De Ferrari in the 1700's, a fine example of the late Genoese baroque period.
Via Garibaldi Number 5, Palazzo Angelo Giovanni Spinola, has a facade covered with frescoes. It is now owned by a bank, and part of the building is open for visitors.
Via Garibaldi Number 7 is Palazzo Nicolosio Lomellino. This palace has a wonderfully elaborate facade and the atrium is lovely. This is the first palace on Via Garibaldi to have a large garden at the rear of the building.
Via Garibaldi Number 9 is the Palazzo Doria Tursi. This is one of the palaces you can enter, as it is the Genoa City Hall. It has the wonderful courtyard below, and even a clock tower. There are loggias on either side of the palace, and gardens that are lovely.
Via Garibaldi Number 18 is Palazzo Brignole Sale or Palazzo Rosso. It is a museum so you can enter it. The museum has the art of many Italian artists, and the palace itself is also worth a look.
All the buildings on Via Garibaldi are palaces, and all are part of the UNESCO World Heritage Sites.
Continue as the street widens and then narrows as you pass Palazzo della Meridiana, and the street curves. You are now on Via Cairoli. You will come to a busy street, and if you look right, there is a tunnel. Turn left down this busy street and walk until you come to a small square and the lovely Basilica della Santissima Annunziata del Vastato.
Pass the church, and then go down Via Balbi to the left of a two-story yellow-orange wall with a fancy railing around the top and trees showing. Not far down this street is the Palazzo Reale, the Royal Palace, now a museum. The palace has original decor, with great frescoes and art. If it is open, there is an arched entrance that goes through to another arch and into a garden, and this is where the palace frontage below can be seen, facing the sea which makes sense. The inside photo is the galleria in the palace.
(I would suggest you go back to the the entrance where you left Via Balbi, but you can also go down stairs to a community market that is open mornings and from there you are on the waterfront.)
Back on Via Balbi where you entered the Palazzo Reale, continue past the small square about 5 stores, just a short distance - and on your left there is an arch and stairs down into another square, lined with buildings painted in Italian colours of gold, burnt sienna and pink. This is Piazza Truogoli di Santa Brigida. Brigida was a member of the Swedish Royal Family who died as a young woman (after having eight children), and her husband started a monastery here.
In the center of the square is a 'truogoli', or wash-house. There were many in the city, but this is the only one (I think) that has survived. It was built in 1656. A stream ran down one side of the square, and gave water to the wash-house.
On the wall beside the truogoli is a shrine. This was a meeting place for the women of the area. I have included the old photo below - and have put a link to the website as there is no attrition.
The history of the square and truogoli is on the website, translated from Italian so is a bit difficult to understand in places, but is interesting.
Continue straight down the little alley on the right side of the end of the square, and turn left and then right - back to the waterfront street. Cross the street and turn right to the cruise port.
I hope you enjoyed Genoa and that it will become one of your favourite Italian ports!