Genoa

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Seaward view of Genoa in 2016

Genoa (Italian: Genova; Ligurian: Zêna) is a city in and the capital of the Italian region of Liguria, and the sixth-largest city in Italy. In 2023, 558,745 people lived within the city's administrative limits. While its metropolitan area has 813,626 inhabitants, more than 1.5 million people live in the wider metropolitan area stretching along the Italian Riviera.

Aphorism and epigraph[edit]

As the griffin throttles,
So Genoa crushes
  • Vedrai una città regale, addossata ad una collina alpestre, superba per uomini e per mura, il cui solo aspetto la indica signora del mare.
  • Source of Genova la Superba ("Genoa the Proud")
  • Genua habet portum, mercesque domosque superbas.
  • Genoa has a port, goods, and proud houses.
  • Cette ville n'a que trois rues, et elle est un des plus belles du monde.
  • Genoa has only three streets and yet is one of the most beautiful cities in the world.
    • Antoine Valery, Voyages en Italie, Vol. 3 (Paris, 1838), p. 377
    • William M. Johnston, In Search of Italy (1987), p. 18

History and journalism[edit]

If there were war with Venice a truce was made with Pisa
—Robert W. Carden
  • If there were war with Venice a truce was made with Pisa; and whenever there was war with either there was usually peace at home, so that the frequent outbreaks of civil war coincided with periods of external inactivity, and perhaps served to keep the Genoese exercised in the military arts.
  • Italy is, after France and perhaps in the same degree, the land in which love of country has the deepest roots in the hearts of its inhabitants. The fact is that perhaps nowhere else has nature been so prodigal with its enchantments and seductions. Therefore, although Italy has been, since the fall of the Caesars, the object of European covetousness, the eternal battlefield of powerful neighbors, and the theatre of the fiercest and most prolonged civil wars, her children have always refused to leave her. Save for some commercial colonies hastily thrown upon the shores of Asia by Genoa and Venice, history has not, in fact, recorded in Italy any important outward movement of population.
  • The Pope, anxiously revolving the sad vicissitudes of the Christians in the east, turned to Venice and Genoa, praying them for the love of Christ to combine and save the fair island of Cyprus, still unpolluted by the presence of the infidels. But the lion of St Mark was a fierce yoke-fellow. The more restricted the field of influence became between Venice and Genoa the more bitter grew their jealousy. Two fleets were, however, fitted out in response to the Papal appeal. Their prows had scarcely touched Cyprian waters when a fight took place between some of the allied ships, and to the edification of the Saracen the two greatest maritime powers of Christendom were soon engaged in mutual destruction.
  • At Genoa the whole Commonweale is governed by them that are borne of the eight and twenty families, and none is called to any charge whatsoever if he be not of this number, which they call an aggregation. Thence are taken the foure hundreth, of whome the great Counsell consisteth, having the whole power and authoritie of the State, and they are chosen from yeare to yeare, out of whom is made another Counsell, which is likewise annuall, called the little Counsel; & this is assembled more often than the great Counsell, and therein the affaires are commonly treated of. For the great Counsell is never held, but for the creation of the Duke and the eight Governours of the Commonweale, which are renued every two yeares, or to consult of peace and warre, and other matters of great consequence. All the Magistrates there, what authority soever they have, are Syndiquez so soone as their charge is expired, that is, they may be accused and called to account.

Memoir, travelogue and correspondence[edit]

No heat, just air that one likes to sit out in, and not to walk up hills in
John Ruskin
Santa Maria di Carignano, from the tower of which one gets such a wonderful view over the whole town
Pyotr Tchaikovsky
  • South from Piemont and Lumbardy, lieth the Riviera of Genoa, along the Mediterrean sea: the territory of which is narrow, but above one hundreth miles in length: All which is exceeding rocky and mountainous, yet producing good store of Orenges, Lemmons, Figges and Ches-nuts, whereon the Mountaineri onely live, being either rosted, or baked in bread: The chiefe Cities of this Genewesen Liguria, are Genoa and Savona.
  • Leaving Piemont, and coasting the sassinous shoare of Genoaes revieroe, I ported Ligorne, the great Dukes Sea-haven; ...
  • 17 October 1644. ... We passed over to the Pharos, or Lantern, a tower of very great height. Here we took horses, and made the circuit of the city as far as the new walls, built of a prodigious height, and with Herculean industry; witness those vast pieces of whole mountains which they have hewn away, and blown up with gunpowder, to render them steep and inaccessible. They are not much less than twenty English miles in extent, reaching beyond the utmost buildings of the city. From one of these promontories we could easily discern the island of Corsica; and from the same, eastward, we saw a vale having a great torrent running through a most desolate barren country; and then turning our eyes more northward, saw those delicious villas of St. Pietro d'Arena, which present another Genoa to you, the ravishing retirements of the Genoese nobility. Hence, with much pain, we descended toward the Arsenal, where the galleys lie in excellent order.
  • Long before turning the Pharos point which conceals the city, the light-house of Genoa is seen, marking its situation. At length, the city itself bursts upon the view, sweeping round the bay in the form of an amphitheatre, backed by a line of hills, and, together with its harbour crowded with masts, and the venerable fortifications which defend the bay, presenting a very noble and striking appearance.
  • At Genoa I remained two days. To the peculiar attractions of a port, and that too a port of the Mediterranean, were added the magnificence and glories of a capital. ... It is not wide, is without side-walks, and but for the structures that line its two sides, would offer nothing remarkable. For more than a mile, however, it is a succession of edifices, that, in any other country but Italy, would be deemed fit for royalty.
  • Got here quite comfortably—no heat, just air that one likes to sit out in, and not to walk up hills in. A heavenly place it is. Not so the road here from Savona.
    • John Ruskin, letter to his father from Genoa, 26 April 1845
    • Harold I. Shapiro, ed. Ruskin in Italy: Letters to His Parents, 1845 (1972), p. 40
  • It is a place that ‘grows upon you’ every day. There seems to be always something to find out in it. There are the most extraordinary alleys and by-ways to walk about in. You can lose your way (what a comfort that is, when you are idle!) twenty times a day, if you like; and turn up again, under the most unexpected and surprising difficulties. It abounds in the strangest contrasts; things that are picturesque, ugly, mean, magnificent, delightful, and offensive, break upon the view at every turn.
  • Rien n'annonce mieux l'Italie que Gênes; c'est le digne portique de marbre de cette éternelle galerie qui finit au golfe de Tarente; c'est le péristyle de ce musée qui expose ses tableaux, ses statues, ses villes, sur la muraille des Apennins; et rafraîchit son atmosphère avec les brises croisées de ses deux mers.
  • Nothing announces Italy better than Genoa; it is the worthy marble portico of this eternal gallery which ends at the Gulf of Taranto; it is the peristyle of this museum which exhibits its paintings, its statues, its cities, on the wall of the Apennines; and refreshes its atmosphere with the cross breezes of its two seas.
  • Я и забыл Вам сказать, что провел в Генуе сутки и в очень хорошем расположении духа. Только вчера начал хандрить. Генуя в своем роде чудное место. Были ли Вы в S-ta Maria di Carignano, c колокольни которой открывается дивный вид на всю Геную? Очень живописно.
  • I quite forgot to tell you, I spent a day in Genoa. In its way it is a fine place. Do you know Santa Maria di Carignano, from the tower of which one gets such a wonderful view over the whole town? Extraordinarily picturesque!
  • Une des plus belles choses qu'on puisse voir au monde: Gênes, de la haute mer.
    Au fond du golfe, la ville se soulève comme si elle sortait des flots, au pied de la montagne. Le long des deux côtes qui s’arrondissent autour d’elle pour l’enfermer, la protéger et la caresser, dirait-on, quinze petites cités, des voisines, des vassales, des servantes, reflètent et baignent dans l’eau leurs maisons claires. ...
  • One of the most beautiful things that can be seen in this world is Genoa viewed from the sea.
    At the head of the bay the city rises as if from out of the water. On both sides, which make a curve around Genoa, as if to protect and caress it, fifteen small towns, neighbors, vassals, servants, reflect and bathe their light-colored houses in the waters. To the left are Cogoleto, Arenzano, Voltri, Pra, Pegli, Sestri-Ponente, and San Pier d’Arena; to the right, Sturla, Quarto, Quinto, Nervi, Bogliasco, Sori, Recco, Camogli, the last white spot on the cape of Porto-Fino, which closes the gulf on the southeast.
  • Hautes maisons (jusqu'à treize étages), ruelles des plus étroites dans la vieille ville. Fraîches et malodorantes. Le soir, occupées par une foule compacte. De jour, davantage par la jeunesse. Langes flottant dans l'air comme autant de drapeaux dans une ville pavoisée. Cordes tendues entre les fenêtres qui se font face. De jour, soleil ardent sur ces ruelles, reflets métalliques de la mer là en bas, afflux de lumière de toute part; éblouissements. À quoi s'ajoutent les résonances d'un orgue de Barbarie, pittoresque métier. Tout autour, ronde d'enfants. Le théâtre dans la réalité. Emporté avec moi assez de mélancolie par-delà le Saint-Gothard. L'influence de Dionysos sur moi n'est pas si simple.
  • High houses (up to thirteen floors), extremely narrow alleys in the old town. Cool and smelly. In the evening, thickly filled with people. In daytime, more with youngsters, Their swaddling clothes wave in the air like flags over a celebrating town. Strings hang from window to window across the street. By day, stinging sun in these alleys, the sparkling, metallic reflections of the sea; below, a flood of light from all sides: dazzling brilliance. Add to all this the sound of a hurdy-gurdy, a picturesque trade. Children dancing all around. Theater turned real. I have taken a certain amount of melancholy along with me over the Gotthard Pass. Dionysos doesn’t have a simple effect on me.
  • Tra l'azzurro ed il bianco, sul fondo dei colli di un verde opaco, Genova è misteriosa al modo di Londra, l'altra città europea fatta a compartimenti stagni.
  • Between the blue and the white, against the backdrop of the opaque green hills, Genoa is mysterious in the way of London, the other European city made up of water-tight compartments.

Poetry[edit]

  • We loved that hall, tho’ white and cold,
    Those nichèd shapes of noble mould,
      A princely people’s awful princes,
    The grave, severe Genovese of old.

Poems of Places[edit]

Henry W. Longfellow, ed., Poems of Places, Italy, Vol. 1 (Boston: James R. Osgood & Co., 1877), pp. 179–183
Thy pharos, Genoa, ... Burning in stillness on its craggy seat
Samuel Rogers
  • At length the day departed, and the moon
    Rose like another sun, illumining
    Waters and woods and cloud-capt promontories,
    Glades for a hermit’s cell, a lady’s bower,
    Scenes of Elysium, such as Night alone
    Reveals below, nor often,—scenes that fled
    As at the waving of a wizard’s wand,
    And left behind them, as their parting gift,
    A thousand nameless odours. All was still;
    And now the nightingale her song poured forth
    In such a torrent of heartfelt delight,
    So fast it flowed, her tongue so voluble,
    As if she thought her hearers would be gone
    Ere half was told. ’Twas where in the northwest,
    Still unassailed and unassailable,
    Thy pharos, Genoa, first displayed itself,
    Burning in stillness on its craggy seat;
    That guiding star so oft the only one,
    When those now glowing in the azure vault
    Are dark and silent. ’Twas where o’er the sea
    (For we were now within a cable’s length)
    Delicious gardens hung; green galleries,
    And marble terraces in many a flight,
    And fairy arches flung from cliff to cliff,
    Wildering, enchanting; and, above them all,
    A palace, such as somewhere in the East,
    In Zenastan or Araby the blest,
    Among its golden groves and fruits of gold,
    And fountains scattering rainbows in the sky,
    Rose, when Aladdin rubbed the wondrous lamp;
    Such, if not fairer; and, when we shot by,
    A scene of revelry, in long array,
    As with the radiance of the setting sun,
    The windows blazing. But we now approached
    A city far-renowned; and wonder ceased.
Calling them round, thou gav’st them more than life, / Giving what, lost, makes life not worth the keeping
—Samuel Rogers
  • This house was Andrea Doria’s. Here he lived;
    And here at eve relaxing, when ashore,
    Held many a pleasant, many a grave discourse
    With them that sought him, walking to and fro
    As on his deck. ’Tis less in length and breadth
    Than many a cabin in a ship of war;
    But ’tis of marble, and at once inspires
    The reverence due to ancient dignity.
    He left it for a better; and ’tis now
    A house of trade, the meanest merchandise
    Cumbering its floors. Yet, fallen as it is,
    ’Tis still the noblest dwelling, even in Genoa!
    And hadst thou, Andrea, lived there to the last,
    Thou hadst done well; for there is that without,
    That in the wall, which monarchs could not give,
    Nor thou take with thee, that which says aloud,
    It was thy country’s gift to her deliverer.
    ’Tis in the heart of Genoa (he who comes
    Must come on foot) and in a place of stir;
    Men on their daily business, early and late,
    Thronging thy very threshold. But, when there,
    Thou wert among thy fellow-citizens,
    Thy children, for they hailed thee as their sire:
    And on a spot thou must have loved, for there,
    Calling them round, thou gav’st them more than life,
    Giving what, lost, makes life not worth the keeping.
    There thou didst do, indeed, an act divine;
    Nor couldst thou leave thy door or enter in,
    Without a blessing on thee. Thou art now
    Again among them. Thy brave mariners,
    They who had fought so often by thy side,
    Staining the mountain-billows, bore thee back;
    And thou art sleeping in thy funeral-chamber.
    Thine was a glorious course; but couldst thou there
    Clad in thy cere-cloth,—in that silent vault,
    Where thou art gathered to thy ancestors,—
    Open thy secret heart and tell us all,
    Then should we hear thee with a sigh confess,
    A sigh how heavy, that thy happiest hours
    Were passed before these sacred walls were left,
    Before the ocean-wave thy wealth reflected,
    And pomp and power drew envy, stirring up
    The ambitious man, that in a perilous hour
    Fell from the plank.
Whose prow descended first the Hesperian sea, / And gave our world her mate beyond the brine, / Was nurtured, whilst an infant, at thy knee
Aubrey Thomas de Vere
  • Ah! what avails it, Genoa, now to thee
    That Doria, feared by monarchs, once was thine?
    Univied ruin! in thy sad decline
    From virtuous greatness, what avails that he
    Whose prow descended first the Hesperian sea,
    And gave our world her mate beyond the brine,
    Was nurtured, whilst an infant, at thy knee?—
    All things must perish,—all but things divine.
    Flowers, and the stars, and virtue,—these alone,
    The self-subsisting shapes, or self-renewing,
    Survive. All else are sentenced. Wisest were
    That builder who should plan with strictest care
    (Ere yet the wood was felled or hewn the stone)
    The aspect only of his pile in ruin!
  • How sweet the stars are, trembling in the sky,
    As I look up across the shadowy trees,
    Whose branches softly melt in heaven’s seas,
    And mix with stars as griefs with destinies.
    How sweet they are that overhead do fly
    And reel and burn like sweet dreams born divine
    That high in heaven grow restless if too fine
    For human uses. Sweet the sleepy air
    That scarce can hold the moonlight in its arms,
    For dreaming and for sleeping; sweet the stair
    Of clouds that winds to God, upheld in palms
    Of planets poised in the dark atmosphere;
    Sweet all things here atwixt the seas and skies,—
    Sights, sounds, and odors of this Paradise!
    • Cora Kennedy Aitkin, "In Genoa. Night at the Paradiso"
  • Gently, as roses die, the day declines;
    On the charmed air there is a hush the while;
    And delicate are the twilight-tints that smile
    Upon the summits of the Apennines.
    The moon is up; and o’er the warm wave shines
    A faery bridge of light, whose beams beguile
    The fancy to some far and fortunate isle,
    Which love in solitude unlonely shrines.
    The blue night of Italian summer glooms
    Around us; over the crystalline swell
    I gaze on Genoa’s spires and palace-domes:
    City of cities, the superb, farewell!
    The beautiful, in nature’s bloom, is thine;
    And Art hath made it deathless and divine!

External links[edit]

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