The Colorful Past of Liguria
Genoa: A Proud City with a Glorious Past
Due to the Crusades, Genoa’s powerful naval fleet became one of the most dominant in the Mediterranean around 1000 A.D. This changed the fortunes of Genoa, then a city-state, as it became crucial in transporting the Crusaders eastward. As a result, Genoa was able to establish trading centers in the Eastern Mediterranean. It was during this period that Genoa came to be known as "La Superba" (The Superb or Proud) and is still known by that appellation throughout Italy even today.
Genoa is located in the middle of the region of Liguria (2,098 sq. mi), which is situated on the rim of north western Italy between the Maritime Alps and the Apennines to the north, and the Mediterranean to the south. In the north, Liguria touches Piedmont and Lombardy, with the crest of the mountains serving as a natural border. The entire Italian Riviera is contained within Liguria, with Genoa acting as a midway divide between the Western Riviera (Ponente) and the Eastern Riviera (Levante). Liguria’s population is approx. 1,6 million people, distributed among its four provinces Genoa, Savona, Imperia and La Spezia. The population of Genoa is approx. 600,000 people (December 2012).
Although Genoa was founded by the ancient Ligurians in the 5th century B.C., it were the Romans who developed its harbor and made it a naval base. Genoa asserted its role as an autonomous power in the Middle Ages and frequently undertook naval expeditions to protect its main trade routes from Saracen and pirate encroachments. After 1000 A.D the resulting growth of Genoa’s economic power catapulted the Genoese into the position of Europe’s foremost banking entity, with loan returns reaching their zenith in the 1200-1300’s.
Part of the industrial triangle
The arrival of Napoleon marked the end of Genoa’s independence. In 1815, with the defeat of the French, Genoa's port continued to be one of the most important in Europe, even after it was absorbed into the Kingdom of Piedmont. During the 19th century the city was a focal point of the Italian unification movement, reflected in the ardent contributions of one of its native sons, Giuseppe Mazzini, who was the intellectual force for a united republican Italy.
After World War II, Genoa remained one of Italy’s main economic centers and, together with Turin and Milan, formed the so-called "Industrial triangle." During this period, one of the most vital sectors of the Genoese economy was its port, the largest in the Mediterranean, operated by the Port Authority of Genoa (with a legal and autonomous status broadly similar to the Port Authority of New York & New Jersey). State-owned heavy industries (i.e. shipbuilding, steel mills, energy, electro-mechanical engineering, electronics, and industrial automation) constituted the second crucial element in the economic composition. Indeed, the region was once Italy’s largest concentration of state-held heavy industry.
At present, the port process of reconversion and industrial reconstruction is giving way to the expansion of investments by small- and medium-sized enterprises, particularly in the service sector (tourism, import-export, transport, distribution, banking, and insurance).
Re-development of Porto Antico
The 1992 Christopher Columbus Quincentenaries’ celebrations were the driving force behind an urban renewal initiative which transformed the Porto Antico into a major tourism attraction. Several major public works projects were completed. Porto Antico, the old port area, was re-designed by Genovese architect Renzo Piano and an Aquarium (designed by Peter Chermayeff, the American architect who designed the Baltimore and Boston aquariums) was also constructed. The former EXPO site was re-vamped with new museums. The opera house was renovated, historical buildings such as the Palazzo Ducale were restored, hotels built, and airport facilities improved.
Genoa hosted the G8 summit in 2001 and in 2004 it was selected as the European Capital of Culture.
Today, Genoa has been transformed into a vibrant city with notable international events, such as the annual international boat show, Salone Nautico, which is held every October (www.genoaboatshow.com). Popular cultural events, such as art exhibitions, concerts and fashion shows are also organized to coincide with the boat show.
Genoa is twin city to Columbus, Ohio and Baltimore, Maryland.
SIGNIFICANT EVENTS IN THE HISTORY OF GENOA
500 B.C. - Origin of the city as a commercial and maritime center of Phoenicians and Greeks.
117 A.D. - The city's administrative boundaries are defined in the "Tavola di Polcevera." The Romans make the city its emporium until approximately 300 A.D.
1099 - The Genoese, headed by Guglielmo Embriaco, participate in the First Crusade and subsequently begin purchasing colonies in the Far East.
1100 - The feudal society transforms itself into a mercantile and war faring nobility that gains increasing power thanks to frequent conquests. Great demographic and economic growth.
1200 - The city’s nobility is represented by the Doria-Spinola and by the Fieschi-Grimaldi. Guglielmo Boccanegra becomes the first Captain of the People. Genoa's maritime hegemony increases, with intensified commercial activity in the Mediterranean and Black Sea.
1284 - Genoa defeats the Pisans at Meloria.
1339 - The first permanent republic is instituted with Simon Boccanegra as the first Doge, or chief magistrate, who successfully battles the Tartars, Turks, and Saracens. During this period, Genoa’s great patrician palaces are built, the port expanded, and the great artisan shops extended.
1400 - The most ancient public bank known, the Bank of St. George, is created. It could arm armies, delegate powers, issue money, order credits, and dispatch ambassadors.
1492 - Christopher Columbus, of Genoese origins, discovers America.
1528 - Under Andrea Doria, de facto Prince of Genoa, the city sees the passage from a city-state to oligarchic Republic. Due to the economic-financial power of Genoese bankers and ship owners, this period becomes known as "The Century of the Genoese."
1684 - The naval bombardment by Louis XIV destroys entire sections of the city.
1746 - The city, led by "Balilla," rises and ousts the Austrians with the help of the French and the Spanish.
1797- The Ligurian Democratic Republic replaces the aristocratic one.
1800 - Genoa suffers a heavy siege by Austrian and British troops.
1805 - The Ligurian region is annexed to the French Empire. At the fall of Napoleon, it does not succeed in obtaining independence and is annexed to Piedmont. Subsequently, with the Vienna Congress, it is annexed to the Sardinian Kingdom.
1860 - Giuseppe Garibaldi departs for Sicily with 1000 volunteers from Genoa’s Quarto cliff. The Genoese play an important role in the fight for independence and the unification of Italy. Some of the Risorgimento’s principal protagonists were Genoese, including such famous names as Giuseppe Mazzini, Nino Bixio, Jacopo Ruffini, and Goffredo Mameli (author of the Italian national anthem). The history of the city at this point becomes forever linked to the history of a united Italy.
1926 - Genoa is chosen as the site of the first assembly of the Society of Nations (which would later become the United Nations). During WWII, Genoa contributed to the defeat of Fascism. Genoa is the only European city where German troops surrendered directly to partisans.