GENOA bridges between old and new, and acts as a threshold between European and Mediterranean worlds. fascinating and enigmatic, it is a city to discover.

Baroque niche with contemporary insertion, in piazza Sauli.
covered niche
....'sensitive contents hidden', like Genoa itself....

I said to myself, not without an accent of private triumph, that here at last was something it would be almost impossible to modernise.

Henry James, Italian Hours

alley sky gmt
Vertical panoramic of alley (Alessandro Gugliotta, Brenya Martinez, Nicole Thames)

genoa facts / legends


Janus bifrons or Giano bifronte, the Roman deity with two faces, god of beginnings and endings, of ports and doorways, gives his name to the month January and was adopted as a symbol of the city in the middle ages.

marco polo

marco polo
Marco Polo dictated the memoirs of his travels in Asia while imprisoned (as a suspected spy for Venice) in Genoa's Palazzo San Giorgio at the end of the 13th century.


In the 15th century Genoa was the site of the first cycle in the development of modern capitalism (Arrighi), when its wealthy familes moved from trade to finance. Genoa, or La Superba as it came to be called, was one of the wealthiest cities in Europe in the 16th century with an artistic heritage to match.


Jeans are, by many accounts, originally from Genoa (Genes in French). A heavy twilled fabric used for work clothes, there are written accounts of the low cost fabric from Genoa spreading through North Europe in the 17th century.

urban structure

word map
Aerial of Genoa with essential areas and places
Giacomo Brusco plan of Genoa, 1766
Image of a portion of the intact Renaissance street "Strada Nuova", now Via Garibaldi (C. Alvarez, N. Guedes)
Footbridge connecting Spianata di Castelletto to roof entrance of residential building (a common arrangement in Genoa) with view of city center beyond

urban areas

the port

The port with container ships, ferries and pleasure craft, with the lanterna in background

There are actually three "ports":

  • the porto antico or old port, the original nucleus of the city, has only recently been renovated into a public space and now hosts a number of cultural events and touristic attractions including the Aquarium, one of the main tourist draws in Italy, and the Galata Museum of the Sea;
  • the cruise ship and ferry port, which berths large cruise vessels as well as the ferries that connect with various points on the Mediterranean including Barcelona, Sicily and North Africa;
  • the container port, which extends from the area of San Benigno (with the Lanterna or old lighthouse) westward down the coast to Voltri.

It began as a port and remains an important port on the Mediterranean Sea, with related industries such as ship repair still adjacent to the city.

the historic center

Piazza Banchi, from Via S. Luca

The centro storico or historic center is, by some accounts, the largest intact and active medieval quarter in Europe. It is a dense labyrinth of narrow streets and alleys called caruggi populated by Italians and not-Italians, residents and migrants, with small shops and restaurants of every sort and some of the finest palaces and most squalid residences within close proximity to one another. It offers multiple, overlapping views of an Italian city that lives simultaneously with its past, its present and its emerging future.

The modern city (19th century expansion)

de ferrari
Piazza de Ferrari, looking down Via XX Settembre to the left, Via Dante to the right

The modern urban expansion of Genoa was laid out in the 19th century outside the dense medieval quarter with the establishment of Piazza de Ferrari and the monumentalizing of Via XX Settembre to make it the main street of the city. As well as the "old" Palazzo Ducale, around Piazza de Ferrari there are the "new" Teatro Carlo Felice and its companion Galleria Mazzini, the Academy of Fine Arts, and the New Stock Exchange, signs of the changing social structure of the new nation.

the industrial city

Steel mill (now dismantled) in Cornigliano-Genova

There is another aspect of the city and its people: the industrial city, the city of labor. Genoa played a major role in the industrialization of Italy in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, and along with Turin and Milan formed the "Golden Triangle". With the expansion of the port and the rise of heavy industries such as Ansaldo along the Ponente, the population of Genoa grew to over a million during the "Economic Miracle" of the 1960s, when Italy became one of the biggest industrial economies in the world and eventually a member of the G8.

towards the future

the post-industrial city

The Expo area, renovated for the 1992 Columbus celebration

After the period of the Economic Miracle came the downturn, with the decline of heavy industry and loss of jobs causing Genoa to lose a third of its population, now at slightly more than 600,000. With many of its factories closed, Genoa is developing new components of a post-industrial economy (light industries, technology and research, tourism), while it seeks to keep its port and port-related industries competitive.

genoa today tomorrow
from the show genova "oggi e domani"

In the fall of 2011 Urban Lab and the city of Genoa mounted an exposition of projected transformations for the next ten years:

  • limit sprawl to protect the natural landscape;
  • requalify 10 km of coastline;
  • expand the system of light rail for public transport, and reduce vehicular traffic by 8.2%;
  • reduce C02 production by 23.7%;
  • increase public green space by 21%.