Genoa: brief historical overview
Genoa,an ancient Roman and Carolingian city, was a maritime republic and Queen of the Tyrrhenian until the fall of Constantinople to the Turks in 1453. This brought its flourishing colonial period to an end.
Genoa recovered its autonomy under Andrea Doria's government of aristocrats. Doria occupied the city on behalf of Spain, guaranteeing a regime of total independence that was maintained (albeit with occasional gaps) until annexation by the House of Savoy in the XIX century.
Its glorious history is reflected in its captivating historic centre, perfectly preserving not only monuments but also a genuine "of the people" cultural atmosphere.
It is in fact the best example in Europe of a medieval city that is almost perfectly preserved: from the "Ripa Maris" to the palazzi of the "Via Aurea", from the Colle di Castello (Castle Hill) that was the site of the first settlement, to the 2000-year old Commenda di Prè.
The weaving city alleys (known as "carruggi", from the Latin "quadrivium") are tangled yet connected, and offer a charming walk back into history.
For a long walk in the "carruggi", don't miss a visit to the Palazzo Ducale (Ducal Palace), that housed the government from 1200. With Simon Boccanegra, the first Doge, who made it his seat of government in 1339, the palace became known as "Ducale" and was, from then on, the residence of the Doges. Over the years the building has suffered destruction, numerous modifications, fires, reconstructions and restorations. After a recent restoration lasting ten years, the palace is today an all-purpose building - the real heart of the principal cultural activities of the city and the surrounding area.
Not to be missed
Apart from its magnificent historic centre, Genoa offers a number of fascinating visits without you even having to leave the city.
One is undoubtedly a visit to the "Lanterna", the port's lighthouse. 117 metres above sea level, it beams its light a distance of 36 nautical miles and is one of the oldest lighthouses still in operation.
Another recommended excursion, also connected to the marine life of the city, is to the Aquarium. This is the largest in Europe and represents an important point of reference for the city and the scientific community. The exhibition area covers 10,000 sq m including environments that have been perfectly reproduced, and where you can see over 600 different aquatic species. This is a fascinating voyage across the oceans, starting from the origin of life and finishing with current issues such as protecting ecosystems. Around every corner of the journey is a surprise: it is like diving into all the seas of the world, in an attempt to uncover their hidden mysteries.
Events not to be missed
During the Holy Week leading up to Easter the processions of the "Casacce", "Sepolcri" (Sepulchres) and "Sacre Rappresentazioni" (Holy Performances) cross the city.
Also in spring, every four years the "Regata delle Repubbliche Marinare" (Regatta of the Maritime Republics) is held. This is a spectacular challenge between Amalfi, Genoa, Pisa and Venice, and with crews of oarsmen in costumes showing the colours of their respective Republics.
At the same time the "Grande Corteo Storico" procession is held, recalling major events from the history of the four cities.