genoese culture

genoa collage
via san luca
Via S. Luca, one of the main streets in the centro storico

The Genoese are historically known for being "closed" to outsiders, and acting in the self-interest of the family or group. They are also thought to be stingy, and sometimes called the Scots of Italy. Some think them pessimistic, but they might say that they are "realistic".

On the other hand, they are a proud people. Genoa was one of the four ancient maritime republics of Italy, along with Venice, Pisa and Amalfi. Genoa was one of the wealthiest cities in Europe in late 1500s and early 1600s, and financed the military campaigns and colonial endeavors of England and Spain for a healthy profit. And with regard to their being "closed", there is a saying: if you make a friend in Genoa you have a friend for life.

While there are qualities that have been traditionally ascribed to the Genoese, many aspects of what might constitute local or national identity are undergoing transformation. With the declining birthrate, the flow of Italians between regions and of non-Italians into Italy and Liguria, the inter-marriages, the intermixing of children in public schools, the demographics and the idea of identity are changing.

language + dialect

The Italian peninsula has always been composed of many different regions, each with its own distinctive dialect, many of which are still spoken to varying degree. With the unification of Italy in the 19th c. the Tuscan dialect was made the official language of the new nation to help overcome regional differences and form a national identity.

The Genoese dialect, reflecting the city's port culture, is a mix of Italian, Spanish, Portuguese, French, Arabic, and English. Zena is the Genoese dialectical name for Genoa.

A Genoese proverb in dialect:

Dûa ciù un gotto avvenòu che un nêuvo.

Italian: Dura più un bicchiere incrinato che uno nuovo.

English: A cracked glass lasts longer than a new one...


There is no single "Italian" cuisine. There are many distinct and wonderful regional cuisines which vary according to what can be cultivated locally and the customs of the people that have settled there and had exchange with others. Not every Italian eats garlic with everything, Parmesan cheese does not go on every dish and, if you live in Liguria, pesto should not be made or eaten anywhere else in Italy.

The Genoese cuisine relies on what the land, difficult to cultivate, can produce. You won't find the meat dishes of the Piedmont or creamy sauces of Emilia-Romagna. (Rather, you can find them, but they are not considered local cuisine.) However you will find a wonderful cuisine based on simple local ingredients, such as pesto, the sauce made from basil and pine nuts. The best basil for this is grown in Liguria, preferably from the zone of Pra. Other local specialties are focaccia, vegetable pies, and farinata. The most traditional fish dish is baccalà, dried salt cod from Norway, a sign of its maritime history.

EATALY is a new market in the port that promotes slow food (anti-fast food), emphasizing local cuisines, seasonal produce and artisanal production, including wine, cheese, meat, and pasta. While these may come from many regions and in many forms, special attention is given to products from Liguria.


While the "slow food" movement is big in Genoa, there are also MacDonald's and doner kebab shops...

fast-food fresh pasta chain in genoa, here offering gnocchi al pesto


samp-genoa derby
Genoa and Sampdoria are the two teams of Genoa

In Italy calcio is not a game, and the most widely read newspaper is the Gazzetta dello Sport, printed on pink newsprint. The fanatical loyalty of the Genoese is divided between the two local soccer teams: GENOA and SAMPDORIA. Genoa is the oldest soccer team in Italy, founded by the British in 1893 as the "Genoa Cricket and Football Club", using the English pronunciation of Genova. Sampdoria is the newer team and originally had more working class associations. It was formed by combining two older teams: Sampierdarenese and Andrea Doria.