Genoa is one of the biggest Euopean cities on the shores of the Mediterranean sea and it is the largest seaport in Italy. It is a long, narrow, sprawling city covering an area of 243 sq.km and has 30 kilometres of coastline.
It is one of the main economic centres in Italy with massive steelworks and shipyards and several large Italian companies are based there. It also has a solid financial sector which dates back to the Middle Ages and in 1407 the Bank of Saint George was founded making it one of the oldest in the world. Genoa also has one of the most important international ports which is a busy commercial hub as well as a ferry port and a marina for private leisure craft.
The most noticeable landmark in Genoa is 'La Lanterna' which is a 76 metre high, 12th century lighthouse in the port. Built on top of a natural rock it actually reaches a height of 117 metres and is the fifth tallest and third oldestlighthouse in the world. Visible from all over the city it is also visible from over 30 kilometres out at sea.
It has become the symbol of the city and has the flag painted on the otherwise undecorated exterior. It is possible to climb the 720 steps to the top of the tower where you will be rewarded with a wonderful panoramic view of the city and the harbour. There is a small elevator available for those unable or unwilling to make the climb.
Genoa is a city full of history, art and culture and the old centre is a fascinating place to wander through. Narrow streets (known locally as caruggi) twist and turn through tall buildings, stunning architecture, historic churches and all lead to open, lively piazzas full of bars and restaurants. The main square is called Piazza de Ferrari with a large fountain at its centre and the Opera House (teatro Carlo Felice),the Palace of the Doges and the house in which Christopher Columbus was supposedly born around the perimeter. The Rolli buildings, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, are a row of 16th century palaces originally built for prominent families. Their architectural beauty, modern design and the expensive materials used make an elegant and impressive sight. Now they have been turned into museums and art galleries and are used as official buildings.
Parts of the original 17th century city walls are still intact, particularly around the 9th century San Lorenzo cathedral. This cathedral is built in the Romanesque-Renaissance style and has black and white horizontal lines, three portals with a large rose window above the centre one. Inside it displays many important paintings and works of art and houses a musuem (Museo del Tesoro).
Another notable example Renaissance church is the Basilica of Santa Maria Assunta which sits on the top of a hill and can be seen from almost anywhere in the city.
There is also a Maritime Musuem in the Villa Doria and Botanical Gardens in the parkland of Villa Durazzo Pallavicini.
Down at the old port (porto antico) a lot of renovation and modernisation has taken place over recent years. All the old historical commercial buildings and warehouses have been restored and used to house musuems and other tourist attractions. The most famous of these is the city's aquarium which is now its biggest attraction with almost two million visitors a year. Built in 1992 for the Genoa Expo, the Acquario di genoa is the largest in Italy and the second largest in the whole of Europe. As well as being an incredible aquarium it is also an educational, scientific and cultural centre which hopes to raise public awareness regarding conservation.
Not far from the aquarium a large glass and metal sphere sits in the centre of the port's water. This was designed by local architect Renzo Pianoand is filled with plants, butterflies and small animals.
In the centre and on the outskirts of the city many green areas have been restored and turned into beautiful gardens and parks which provide shade and peace away from the hustle and bustle of the city itself. In fact, Genoa has 82,000 square metres of public park including the Villetta Di Negro which is right in the heart of city and overlooks the historical centre.
Population density: 2,450.6 per square km
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