It was the poet Francesco Petrarca who defined Genoa with this adjective. And this city with its imposing appearance and proud character is truly superb.
From the Spianata di Castelletto, on this wonderful sunny day, Genoa looks even more beautiful. The gaze extends over the horizon towards the sea that sparkles in the distance, while the ships glide into the port and the clothes hanging between the facades of the buildings sway in the breeze.
The Castelletto lift, which rises from Piazza Portello a stone's throw from Strada Nuova, is a true Liberty jewel and well represents the soul of a city built on many levels that overlap in a vertical perspective. Belvedere di Castelletto can also be reached on foot, along the so-called creuze, the characteristic paved pedestrian streets often mentioned in the songs of the Genoese singer-songwriter Fabrizio De Andrè.
The noble history of Genoa includes a glorious past, as a dominating republic of the Mediterranean, queen of commerce and navigation. The port still constitutes the beating heart of the city, especially since the port area was completely redesigned by Renzo Piano in 1992, on the occasion of the celebrations of the five hundredth anniversary of the discovery of America.
Today the Porto Antico represents an important pole of attraction: here it is possible to have an aperitif, dine, go shopping, watch a film, go ice skating or dive into the pool. Also located here are the famous Aquarium, the Bigo panoramic lift (which incorporates the ancient manual loading cranes), the Biosphere and the Sea Museum, but also the Magazzini del Cotone, a stone's throw from the famous Lanterna, the undisputed symbol of the city.
And what about the wonderful alleyways of the historic center? A tangle of streets cut out between the buildings, very narrow walkways, crossroads lined with old shops. A true labyrinth of alleys with suggestive names, which unexpectedly open onto charming little squares. Those who look up will appreciate the magnificent votive shrines that were donated by the ancient corporations to light up the streets at night. The spirit of Genoa resides precisely in these alleys where the sacred and the profane merge, where different smells, flavours, languages and cultures have always mixed.
Walking through these narrow streets in the center also means finding yourself, at a certain point, in front of the sumptuous facades of noble residences. Between the Renaissance and the Baroque period, Genoa was enriched with magnificent palaces characterized by sumptuous stucco or marble decorations, grandiose atriums and splendid gardens with superb fountains, frescoed halls, opulent furnishings, precious collections, rich picture galleries. These very luxurious residences did not escape the eye of a refined artist such as the Flemish painter Rubens who, at the beginning of the 1600s, published in a book the collection of drawings of the buildings, which he proposed as a housing model for the nobility from all over Europe.
The Unesco Heritage includes more than forty buildings, the so-called Palazzi dei Rolli, since they were included in the official list (the roll) of prestigious buildings, whose owners were required to host, in turn, the prestigious state visits. Today many of these houses are private residences or headquarters of banks and offices, while other palaces have become museums and can therefore always be visited.
Here in Genoa there remains still so much to see, from the House of Christopher Columbus to the suggestive rock of Boccadasse, from the Caravelle staircase to the ancient Porta Soprana. But for today I decide to stop in the alleys to savour some authentic Genoese life, enjoying an aperitif with a bag of fried fish accompanied by focaccia and Vermentino.