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Travel stories > Genoa

After our visit to Monte Carlo, we returned to our hotel at Mentone, which we left early on the following day for Genoa, our next halting-place.
The country around Ventimiglia, Bordighera, and San Remo, is in many parts grand and beautiful, affording varied and interesting excursions. These three places are filled with visitors. The date-palm seems to flourish at Bordighera, which is said to have the monopoly of supplying these graceful branches to Rome, for the Church ceremonies at Easter-time.

Savona was the largest town passed on our route. It has a very fine Cathedral, and was at one time a considerable port. A little further eastward on the coast is Pegli, a pretty little seaside place, fast growing into favour. After a very pleasant journey by rail we reached Genoa at 10 p.m.

Genoa, Genes, Genova, as it is called in English, French, and Italian, derives its name from the Latin word genu, the knee, supposed to be the shape of the large inlet of the sea around which the land lies in a vast semicircle. It is also called “La Superba,” from its magnificent situation; indeed, few cities equal its imposing grandeur as seen from the sea. Handsome buildings line the shore for about the length of two miles; splendid palaces, churches, and convents raise tier upon tier on the steep sides of the hills, whose barren summits are crowned by formidable-looking forts and ramparts. Immediately behind are the Apennines, and upon these mountain heights are again several strong forts commanding the town, which is also enclosed by a double line of fortifications on the land side.

From time immemorial Genoa has been famous as a seaport, and as the contemporary and rival of fair Venice, and, like her, has had a proud and eventful history.  Baedeker says, “The beauty of its situation, and the interesting reminiscence of its ancient magnificence, render a visit to Genoa very attractive, especially to the traveller who is visiting Italy for the first time.... The Renaissance palaces are objects of extreme interest, surpassing in number and magnificence those of any other city in Italy. Many of the smaller churches are of very ancient origin, though usually altered in the Gothic period.”

The many splendid palaces of the old nobility, with all their art treasures and galleries of fine paintings by the great masters, have been left to the city as a free gift, with the stipulation of their being open to visitors. Rubens and Vandyke both resided here, and there are a number of their greatest works to be seen. As an example of the wealth of the nobles, the Duke of Galliera, who died in 1876, presented twenty million francs for the improvement of the harbor.

The streets are paved with stone which tires one to walk on. Most people will remember Dickens' amusing remarks on this subject in his “Pictures of Italy.” The Via Roma stretches up the hill, and descends in an almost unbroken line to the valleys beneath the mountains, and is remarkably clean and pleasant. The Via Garibaldi has no less than eighteen splendid marble palaces in succession, while the fine streets, Nuovissima, Balbi, and Carlo Alberto, are also lined with these grand old palaces of the Genoese nobility. Many of them contain rare and magnificent works of art, and their furniture and decorations are rich and beautiful in the extreme.

The churches are also very fine. The Capuchin church of St. Annunziata, in the Piazza del Annunziata, erected in 1587, has a portal upborne by marble columns. It is in the form of a cross, with a dome, the vaulting supported by twelve fluted and inlaid columns, richly gilded and painted.

 But a far more interesting church is the old Cathedral of San Lorenzo, in the Piazza of the same name, and close to the Via Carlo Felice. It is in the Gothic style, or rather represents three different periods, the Romanique, the French Gothic, and the Renaissance. It was mostly built about the year 1100, and restored in 1300. It has a triple portal, with deep-recessed, pointed arches. Above these are several rows of arcades, a small rose window, and a tower with a little dome at the top, two hundred feet high. At the south corner above the central door is a bas-relief of the martyrdom of St. Lawrence, its patron saint, and many quaint carvings of monsters. The beautiful and curiously twisted columns, triple portals, arches, and arcades, as well as the whole facade and front exterior, are of black and white marbles; and there is some very fine bronze-work, painting, and statuary. In the sacristy they show the Sacred Catina (basin), a six-sided piece of glass brought from Caesarea in 1101, and reported to be that which held the Paschal lamb at the Last Supper of our Lord. It was given out to be a pure emerald, till the mistake was detected by a scientific judge. Like Westminster Abbey, the interior of this church has the impress of antiquity, especially in its worn columns. We went to the Sacred Chapel of St. John the Baptist. There are other chapels, paintings, and relics that are well worthy the trouble and time of study, making this ancient cathedral the most interesting duomo in Genoa.

St. Ambrogio, in the Via del Sellag, is rich in pictures. It is splendid in colouring and wonderful in the elaboration of detail. These to some may appear too extravagant. The Santa Maria di Carignano, or Church of the Assumption, in the same street, is one of the finest in Genoa. The walk from here, along the walls and ramparts of St. Chiara, gives a splendid view of The Campo Santo in the distance.

This Campo Santo is indeed most eloquently illustrative of loving reverence and remembrance of the dead, and is quite a museum of beautiful monumental statuary. This burial-ground is a system of sheltered colonnades, where the dead are deposited in sarcophagi, resting on shelves on the inner walls, tier upon tier. The colonnades are paved with marble, and are scrupulously clean. Some have exquisite monuments and statuary, the figures most eloquently expressive of tender feelings of both joy and sorrow. The draperies and lacework are wonderfully real. There are hundreds of others, full of deep pathos, works of Italy's greatest sculptors. The patriot Mazzini is buried here. At the highest point of the cemetery is a rotunda chapel, with very fine statuary of Moses and the prophets, Adam and Eve, and many other subjects.
We left Genoa on the 9th of January for Pisa, en route for Rome.


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