Genoa, Ital. Genova, city (1991 pop. 678,771), capital of Genoa prov. and of Liguria, NW Italy, on the Ligurian Sea. Beautifully situated on the Italian Riviera, it is the chief seaport of Italy and rivals Marseilles, France, as the leading Mediterranean port. It is an outlet for the Po Valley and for central Europe and handles extensive passenger and freight traffic. Genoa's harbor facilities, badly damaged in World War II and by storms in 1954-55, have been rebuilt and greatly modernized. The city is also a commercial and industrial center. Such manufactures as iron and steel, chemicals, petroleum, airplanes, ships, locomotives, motor vehicles, and textiles long led the economy, but the service sector is increasingly important while industry has slowly and steadily declined.

Points of Interest

Among Genoa's notable buildings are the Cathedral of San Lorenzo (rebuilt in 1100 and frequently restored), the palace of the doges, the richly decorated churches of the Annunciation and of St. Ambrose (both 16th cent.), the medieval Church of San Donato, many Renaissance palaces, and the Carlo Felice opera house (19th cent.). The city is surrounded by old walls and forts, and the steep and narrow streets of the harbor section are very picturesque. The 16th-century Lanterna [lighthouse] is an emblem of Genoa. The Old Port was redesigned in 1992 by Renzo Piano; a modern aquarium and tropical greenhouse (the Bolla) are there. Genoa has several museums and a university (founded 1243).


An ancient town of the Ligures, Genoa flourished under Roman rule. Around the 10th cent. it became a free commune governed by consuls. Its maritime power increased steadily. Helped by Pisa, Genoa drove (11th cent.) the Arabs from Corsica and Sardinia. Rivalry over control of Sardinia resulted in long wars with Pisa; Genoa finally triumphed in the naval battle of Meloria (1284).

The Crusades brought Genoa great wealth, and the republic acquired possessions and trading privileges in areas from Spain to the Crimea. Genoa's expansion and its military defense were largely financed by a group of merchants who in 1408 organized a powerful bank, the Banco San Giorgio. Genoese policy in the eastern Mediterranean clashed with the ambitions of Venice, and long wars resulted, ending with the Peace of Turin (1381), which slightly favored Venice. Meanwhile, the Genoese republic was weakened by factional strife between Guelphs and Ghibellines, between nobles and the popular party. In 1339 the first doge (chief magistrate) for life was elected.

As Genoa gradually gained control of the cities of Liguria, it lost its outlying possessions. Rival factions in the city resorted to foreign aid. From the late 14th to the 16th cent., France and Milan in turn controlled the city, although nominal independence was preserved.

The power of Genoa was revived by the seaman and statesman Andrea Doria, who wrote a new constitution in 1528; the conspiracy (1547) of the Fieschi family against his dictatorship failed. Later the city came under Spanish, French, and Austrian control. The Austrians were expelled by a popular uprising in 1746, but in 1768 Genoa had to cede Corsica, its last outlying possession, to France. In 1797, French military pressure resulted in the end of aristocratic rule and the formation of the Ligurian Republic, which Napoleon I formally annexed to France in 1805. The Congress of Vienna united (1814) Genoa and Liguria with the kingdom of Sardinia. In 1922 a major European economic conference (see Genoa, Conference of) was held in the city.

Genoa, Conference of, 1922, at Genoa, Italy. Representatives of 34 nations convened on Apr. 10 to attempt the reconstruction of European finance and commerce. It was the first conference after World War I in which Germany and the Soviet Union were accepted on a par with other nations. The USSR, despite its repudiation of the czarist national debt, had offered to discuss the question at an international assembly. This offer marked the first Soviet attempt to enter the European diplomatic circle after the Russian Revolution. At Genoa the creditor nations—all represented except the United States—demanded recognition of the czarist debt, compensation for confiscated property, and guarantees for future contracts. The Russians, headed by Georgi Chicherin, offered to recognize the debt in return for cancellation of the Russian war debt, compensation for damages inflicted by Allied forces in their intervention after the revolution, and extensive credit for the Soviet government. The divergent purposes of the former Allies and the distrust caused by the announcement of the Treaty of Rapallo (see Rapallo, Treaty of, 1922) between Germany and the USSR made agreement impossible, and the conference adjourned on May 19.
Genoa (Genova, , in Italian; Zena [ˈzeːna] in Genoese and Ligurian; Genua in Latin and, archaically, in English) is a city and an important seaport in northern Italy, the capital of the Province of Genoa and of the region of Liguria. The city has a population of about 620,000 and the urban area has a population of about 890,000.

Origins of the name

Genua was a city of the ancient Ligurians. Its name is probably Ligurian, meaning "knee", i.e. "angle", from its geographical position, thus akin to the name of Geneva. Or it could derive from the Celtic root genu-, genawa (pl. genowe), meaning "mouth", i.e., estuary, or from the Latin word of Celtic origin "ianua", meaning "door". Part of the old city of Genoa was inscribed on the World Heritage List (UNESCO) in 2006 (see below).


The flag of Genoa is a St. George's Cross flag, a red cross on a lime white field, identical to the Flag of England, which also incorporates the St. George's Cross.


Ancient era and early Middle Ages

Genoa's history goes back to ancient times. The first historically known inhabitants of the area are the Ligures, an Italic tribe. The attribution of its foundation to Celts in 2500–2000 BC has been recently recognized as wrong.

A city cemetery, dating from the 6th and 5th centuries BC, testifies to the occupation of the site by the Greeks, but the fine harbor probably was in use much earlier, perhaps by the Etruscans. It is also probable that the Phoenicians had bases in Genoa, or in the nearby area, since an inscription with an alphabet similar to that used in Tyre has been found .

In the Roman era, Genoa was overshadowed by the powerful Marseille and Vada Sabatia, near modern Savona. Different from other Ligures and Celt settlements of the area, it was allied to Rome through a foedus aequum ("Equal pact") in the course of the Second Punic War. It was therefore destroyed by the Carthaginians in 209 BC. The town was rebuilt and, after the end of the Carthaginian Wars, received municipal rights. The original castrum thenceforth expanded towards the current areas of Santa Maria di Castello and the San Lorenzo promontory. Genoese trades included skins, wood, and honey. Goods were shipped in the mainland up to important cities like Tortona and Piacenza.

After the fall of the Western Roman Empire, Genoa was occupied by the Ostrogoths. After the Gothic War, the Byzantines made it the seat of their vicar. When the Lombards invaded Italy in 568, the Bishop of Milan fled and held his seat in Genoa. Pope Gregory the Great was closely connected to these bishops in exile, for example involving himself the election of Deusdedit. The Lombards, under King Rothari, finally captured Genoa and other Ligurian cities in about 643. In 773 the Lombard Kingdom was annexed by the Frank empire; the first Carolingian count of Genoa was Ademarus, who was given the title praefectus civitatis Genuensis. Ademarus died in Corsica while fighting against the Saracens. In this period the Roman walls, destroyed by the Lombards, were rebuilt and extended.

For the following several centuries, Genoa was little more than a small, obscure fishing center, slowly building its merchant fleet which was to become the leading commercial carrier of the Mediterranean Sea. The town was sacked and burned in 934 by Arab pirates but it was quickly rebuilt.

In the 10th century the city, now part of the Marca Januensis ("Genoese Mark") was under the Obertenghi family, whose first member was Obertus I. Genoa was one of the first cities in Italy to have some citizenship rights granted by local feudataries.

Middle Ages and Renaissance

Before 1100, Genoa emerged as an independent city-state, one of a number of Italian city-states during this period. Nominally, the Holy Roman Emperor was overlord and the Bishop of Genoa was president of the city; however, actual power was wielded by a number of "consuls" annually elected by popular assembly. Genoa was one of the so-called "Maritime Republics" (Repubbliche Marinare), along with Venice, Pisa, and Amalfi) and trade, shipbuilding and banking helped support one of the largest and most powerful navies in the Mediterranean. The Adorno, Campofregoso, and other smaller merchant families all fought for power in this Republic, as the power of the consuls allowed each family faction to gain wealth and power in the city. The Republic of Genoa extended over modern Liguria and Piedmont, Sardinia, Corsica and had practically complete control of the Tyrrhenian Sea. Through Genoese participation on the Crusades, colonies were established in the Middle East, in the Aegean, in Sicily and Northern Africa. Genoese Crusaders brought home a green glass goblet from the Levant, which Genoese long regarded as the Holy Grail.

The collapse of the Crusader States was offset by Genoa’s alliance with the Byzantine Empire, which opened opportunities of expansion into the Black Sea and Crimea. Internal feuds between the powerful families, the Grimaldi and Fieschi, the Doria, Spinola, and others caused much disruption, but in general the republic was run much as a business affair. In 1218–1220 Genoa was served by the Guelph podestà Rambertino Buvalelli, who probably introduced Occitan literature to the city, which was soon to boast such troubadours as Jacme Grils, Lanfranc Cigala, and Bonifaci Calvo. Genoa's political zenith came with its victory over the Duchy of Pisa at the naval Battle of Meloria (1284), and its persistent rival, Venice, in 1298.

However, this prosperity did not last. The Black Death was imported into Europe in 1349 from the Genoese trading post at Caffa (Theodosia) in Crimea, on the Black Sea. Following the economic and population collapse, Genoa adopted the Venetian model of government, and was presided over by a doge (see Doge of Genoa). The wars with Venice continued, and the War of Chioggia (1378–1381), ended with a victory for Venice. In 1390 Genoa initiated a crusade against the Barbary pirates with help of the French and laid siege to Mahdia. After a period of French domination from 1394–1409, Genoa came under rule by the Visconti of Milan. Genoa lost Sardinia to Aragon, Corsica to internal revolt and its Middle Eastern colonies to the Ottoman Empire and the Arabs.

Christopher Columbus, a native of Genoa, donated one-tenth of his income from the discovery of the Americas for Spain to the Bank of San Giorgio in Genoa for the relief of taxation on foods. The Spanish connection was reinforced by Andrea Doria, who established a new constitution in 1528, making Genoa a satellite of the Spanish Empire. Under the ensuing economic recovery, many Genoese families amassed tremendous fortunes. At the time of Genoa’s peak in the 16th century, the city attracted many artists, including Rubens, Caravaggio and Van Dyck. The famed architect Galeazzo Alessi (1512–1572) designed many of the city’s splendid palazzi. A number of Genoese Baroque and Rococo artists settled elsewhere and a number of local artists became prominent.

Genoa suffered from French bombardment in 1684, and was occupied by Austria in 1746 during the War of the Austrian Succession. In 1768, Genoa was forced to also cede Corsica to France.

Modern history

thumb|right|200px|Genoa in [[1810]] With the shift in world economy and trade routes to the New World and away from the Mediterranean, Genoa's political and economic power went into steady decline.

In 1797, under pressure from Napoleon, Genoa became a French protectorate called the Ligurian Republic, which was annexed by France in 1805. This affair is commemorated in the famous first sentence of Tolstoy's War and Peace:

"Well, Prince, so Genoa and Lucca are now just family estates of the Buonapartes.(...) And what do you think of this latest comedy, the coronation at Milan, the comedy of the people of Genoa and Lucca laying their petitions [to be annexed to France] before Monsieur Buonaparte, and Monsieur Buonaparte sitting on a throne and granting the petitions of the nations?" (spoken by a thoroughly anti-Boanapartist Russian aristocrat, soon after the news reached Saint Petersburg).

Although the Genoese revolted against France in 1814 and liberated the city on their own, delegates at the Congress of Vienna sanctioned its incorporation into Piedmont (Kingdom of Sardinia), thus ending the three century old struggle by the House of Savoy to acquire the city. The king of Piedmont even sent the Bersaglieri to sack the city, defining the Genoese as "scum". The city soon gained a reputation as a hotbed of anti-Savoy republican agitation, although the union with Savoy was economically very beneficial. With the growth of the Risorgimento movement, the Genoese turned their struggles from Giuseppe Mazzini's vision of a local republic into a struggle for a unified Italy under a liberalized Savoy monarchy. In 1860, Giuseppe Garibaldi set out from Genoa with over a thousand volunteers to begin the campaign. This is called the departure of the thousands and a monument is set on the rock where the group departed from.

During World War II the British fleet bombarded Genoa and one bomb fell into the cathedral of San Lorenzo without exploding. It is now available to public viewing on the cathedral premises. The city was liberated by the partisans a few days before the arrival of the Allies.

The 27th G8 summit in the city, in July 2001, was overshadowed by violent protests, with one protester, Carlo Giuliani, killed amid accusations of police brutality. In 2007 15 officials, who included police, prison officials and two doctors, were found guilty by an Italian court of mistreating protesters. A judge handed down prison sentences ranging from five months to five years.

In 2004, the European Union designated Genoa as the European Capital of Culture, along with the French city of Lille.

Main sights

''For a more extensive list, see Buildings and structures in Genoa.

The main features of central Genoa include Piazza de Ferrari, around which are sited the Opera and the Palace of the Doges. There is also a house where Christopher Columbus is said to have been born.

Strada Nuova (now Via Garibaldi), in the old city, was inscribed on the World Heritage List in 2006. This district was designed in the mid-16th century to accommodate Mannerist palaces of the city's most eminent families, including Palazzo Rosso (now a museum), Palazzo Bianco, Palazzo Grimaldi and Palazzo Reale. The famous art college, Musei di Strada Nuova and the Palazzo del Principe are also located on this street.

Other landmarks of the city include St. Lawrence Cathedral (Cattedrale di San Lorenzo), the Old Harbor (Porto Antico), transformed into a mall by architect Renzo Piano, and the famous cemetery of Staglieno, renowned for its monuments and statues. The Museo d'Arte Orientale has one of the largest collections of Oriental art in Europe. The 19th century neo-gothic castle, Castello d'Albertis, once home to explorer Enrico Alberto d'Albertis, now houses the Museum of World Cultures.

Other than the old city sights, Genoa also has a large aquarium located in the above-mentioned old harbor. The Aquarium of Genoa is one of the largest in Europe.

The port of Genoa also contains an ancient lighthouse, called the "Torre della Lanterna" (i.e., "the tower of the lantern"). It is the oldest working lighthouse in the world, one of the five tallest, and the tallest brick one, and it is Genoa's landmark.

Boccadasse is a picturesque neighborhood in the east side of the city.


In 2007, there were 610,887 people residing in Genoa, located in the province of Genoa, Liguria, of whom 47% were male and 53% were female. Minors (children ages 18 and younger) totalled 14.12 percent of the population compared to pensioners who number 26.67 percent. This compares with the Italian average of 18.06 percent (minors) and 19.94 percent (pensioners). The average age of Genoa residents is 47 compared to the Italian average of 42. In the five years between 2002 and 2007, the population of Genoa grew by 1 percent, while Italy as a whole grew by 3.85 percent. The current birth rate of Genoa is 7.49 births per 1,000 inhabitants compared to the Italian average of 9.45 births. Genoa has the lowest birth rate and is the most aged of any large Italian city.

As of 2006, 94.23% of the population was Italian. The largest immigrant group comes the Americas (mostly from Ecuador): 2.76%, other European nations (mostly Albania, and Romania): 1.37%, and North Africa: 0.62%. The city is predominantly Roman Catholic, with small Protestant adherents.



Genoa Cricket and Football Club is one of the oldest football clubs in Italy. The football section of the club was founded in 1897 by James Richardson Spensley, an English doctor, and has won 9 championships and 1 Italy Cup. The other major football club in the city is U.C. Sampdoria, founded in 1946 from the merger of two existing clubs, Andrea Doria (founded in 1895) and Sampierdarenese (founded in 1911). Sampdoria has won one Italian championship, 4 Italy Cups and 1 UEFA Cup Winners' Cup in 1989/90.

Famous people

Famous Genoese include Sinibaldo and Ottobuono Fieschi (Popes Innocent IV and Adrian V) and Pope Benedict XV, navigators Christopher Columbus, Enrico Alberto d'Albertis, Enrico de Candia (Henry, Count of Malta) and Andrea Doria, composers Niccolò Paganini and Michele Novaro, Italian patriots Giuseppe Mazzini and Nino Bixio, writer and translator Fernanda Pivano, poet Edoardo Sanguineti, Communist politician Palmiro Togliatti, architect Renzo Piano, Physics 2002 Nobel Prize winner Riccardo Giacconi, Literature 1975 Nobel Prize winner Eugenio Montale, the court painter Giovanni Maria delle Piane (Il Mulinaretto) from the Delle Piane family, the artist Vanessa Beecroft, comedians Gilberto Govi, Paolo Villaggio, Beppe Grillo, Luca Bizzarri, Paolo Kessisoglu and Maurizio Crozza; singer-songwriters Fabrizio de André and Ivano Fossati, actor Vittorio Gassman, and actress Moana Pozzi, Giorgio Parodi who conceived the motorcycle company Moto Guzzi with Carlo Guzzi and Giovanni Ravelli. Some reports say Giovanni Caboto (John Cabot) is also from Genoa, others say he was from Savona. Saints from Genoa include Romulus, Catherine, and Paula Frassinetti.


  • The University of Genoa, with 40,000 students (one of the largest universities in Italy) was founded in 1471. Its botanical garden, the Orto Botanico dell'Università di Genova, occupies one hectare in the city center.
  • The word jeans comes from Genoa, as a way to pronounce genoese.
  • The Genoese have primarily immigrated to South America; Uruguay, Chile, Argentina all have strong Genoese communities. The special strong connection with Argentina is witnessed by the famous song Ma se ghe penso, and by the episode From the Apennines to the Andes in the book Cuore (Heart) by Edmondo De Amicis; the supporters of the Boca Juniors football team, rooted in the neighborhood of La Boca, in Buenos Aires, are known as los xeneizes (a nickname deriving from the word zeneize, which means "genoese" in their language). Farinata (Fainâ as they call it, a chickpea flatbread) and Torta Pasqualinn-a (a salty artichokes, eggs, and cheese pie) are widely spread in those countries as local dishes, but they are from Genoa.
  • A significant portion of Gibraltar's population is of Genoese origin, since the arrival of Genoese inhabitants in the XVI century. For that reason, a variant of Genoese dialect was still spoken in Gibraltar up to the end of the XVIII century.
  • The Yiddish word Yanova with which Ashkenazi Jews are most commonly calling the Diamante Citron, is a jargon from the city of Genoa which was the cultivation and shipping center for the citron or as they are calling it Etrog.
  • Florida International University in Miami, Florida in the United States has a regional campus in Genoa.

Sister cities

See also

Image gallery


  • Gino Benvenuti. Le repubbliche marinare. Amalfi, Pisa, Genova e Venezia. Netwon Compton, Rome, 1989.
  • Steven A. Epstein; Genoa & the Genoese, 958-1528 University of North Carolina Press, 1996; online edition
  • Steven A. Epstein; "Labour and Port Life in Medieval Genoa." Mediterranean Historical Review 3 (1988): 114-40.
  • Steven A. Epstein; "Business Cycles and the Sense of Time in Medieval Genoa." Business History Review 62 (1988): 238-60.
  • Face Richard. "Secular History in Twelfth-Century Italy: Caffaro of Genoa." Journal of Medieval History 6 (1980): 169-84.
  • Hughes Diane Owen. "Kinsmen and Neighbors in Medieval Genoa." In The Medieval City, edited by Harry A. Miskimin, David Herlihy, and Adam L. Udovitch, pp. 3-28. 1977.
  • Hughes Diane Owen. "Urban Growth and Family Structure in Medieval Genoa." Past and Present 66 (1975): 3-28.
  • Lopez Robert S. "Genoa." In Dictionary of the Middle Ages, pp. 383-87. 1982.
  • Vitale Vito. Breviario della storia di Genova. Vols. 1-2. Genoa, 1955.


External links

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