The city

The city's origins are lost in the mists of time. Founded by the Ligurians, a proud population inhabiting the Apennines, who were staunchly opposed to the conquest of Rome, in ancient Roman times Genoa was an important military port. Its proximity to the sea has always influenced the history of the city, which developed around a natural bay nestled between the hills to the north and the deep blue Mediterranean to the south.

During the Middle Ages, Genoa became known as "the Magnificent," with its old town reaching the height of its development between the natural harbor known as the Mandraccio and the Lanterna, or lighthouse. During this time, the city abounded with treasure-filled churches, such as Santa Maria di Castello, San Donato, and Santi Cosma e Damiano. The magnificent Cathedral of San Lorenzo was also erected. To this day it houses the Holy Chalice, considered by many to be the Holy Grail associated with Crusades lore. The city’s buildings and towers soared upwards, seeming to touch the sky. The port of Genoa was the ideal place from which to embark on the Crusades, as is still attested by the impressive ecclesiastic complex of the Commenda di S. Giovanni di Pré. Genoa was once known as Ianua, given that it constituted the gateway to the Mediterranean, linking Northern Europe, Africa, the Middle East and the Black Sea.

With the founding of its bank, the Banco San Giorgio, the city became the capital of high finance. Genoese bankers lent large sums of money to all the monarchies of Europe, and the city became an opulent metropolis, whose luxury and wealth attracted artists and travelers from around the world. Rubens spoke of the city’s buildings as being "more worthy of a prince’s court than that of a gentleman." Van Dyck depicted the magnificent Genoese aristocracy with his stunning portraits, while the artists of the Baroque period decorated the city’s sumptuous Palazzi dei Rolli, a select group of grand buildings intended to host visiting members of the nobility.

The Napoleonic Wars and the annexation of the Republic of Genoa to the Kingdom of Piedmont-Sardinia turned the city into the first port of Italy. The old town reached beyond its former boundaries, and the city gradually expanded, sprawling to the hill of Castelletto, with its wide avenues, its squares echoing the urban layout of European cities, and its richly decorated buildings, which indicated the city’s thriving worldwide trade and commerce.

Today Genoa is one of Italy’s most beautiful cities and a UNESCO World Heritage site. We invite you to discover it alongside us.