Piazza Fontana Marose
I could get used to hotel life, particularly one with such excellent breakfasts, friendly staff and perfect location – in the Piazza Fontana Marose, with the Via Garibaldi at one end and Via Luccoli going down the hill to Charles and Pierre’s place.
The view from my bedroom window was of course of a palazzo. The piazza is home to three: the Palazzi Spinola, Interiano and Negrone.
The 15th century Palazzo Spinola dei Marmi (now the Bank of Sardinia) is next to my hotel. I love the black and white bands of marble. Like lots of the important palaces it was on the city’s list of places to play host to important visitors and later one of these years was Josephine Bonaparte. I find the Palazzo Negrone, on the left of the second photo, less impressive. But a nice view to wake up to.
We kicked off to an early start: lots of ground to cover in my one full day in Genoa. The day ended up making yesterday’s trek a little stroll.
To quote Mark Twain again:
I have not been to church so often in a long time as I have in the last few weeks. The people in these old lands seem to make churches their specialty.
I loved the exteriors but as an atheist from a Protestant culture I have to say that I find the interiors of many Catholic churches bizarrely over the top ornamented. Photography is forbidden in these churches, so you are spared these pictures, but I regret not being able to take them to help me remember which church was which!
The first we visited, the 13th century San Matteo, is part of the Piazza San Matteo – a visual gem. The church and the houses that surround the piazza belonged to the rich and powerful Doria family. Again, I love the black and white Gothic facades.
San Lorenzo is Genoa’s cathedral. It seems to have taken a few more centuries to be built and was never completed. But it is magnificent and I particularly loved the columns, or rather ‘colonnettes’ supporting the three great arches at the West end.
Chiesa del Gesu
This was a pleasant 16th century church, set in a piazza dominated by the Palazzo Ducale. It featured two Reubens paintings which I did not think particularly good, but I liked its elegant proportions and the light shining on the gilt decoration.
Lastly we visited this much earlier Romanesque church. My main memory is of a charming Flemish triptych in one of the side chapels.
After that morning packed with churches, we made our way out through the magnificent giant old city wall. We passed the house dating from the time of Christopher Columbus and then went down towards the harbour for lunch.
My appreciation of the old port was blemished by total fatigue! But also, the port has suffered from some pretty dreadful commercial development and worst of all, an unsightly dual carriageway – albeit high up – cutting off the port from what would once have beena handsome sea front.
Funicular to panorama
After lunch we took one of the three funiculars up to the hills above Genoa – a great way to appreciate that Genoa is packed onto a hilly terrain. The track was almost vertical and mostly underground. At the top we should have had amazing views of the city, but the weather had decided to become misty and sombre. Still, there was a dramatic view of the Lanterna, the 15th century lighthouse, still in use, which is one of the world’s oldest and tallest.
Villa del Principe
Charles and Pierre had one last treasure to show me: a palazzo built by Andrea Doria, a wealthy and powerful admiral in 16th century Genoa. At first I was disappointed: we arrived by train and the huge but rather tired looking palazzo is surrounded by roads and trains, and its former glorious south-facing gardens now look over docks and a raised motorway.
The villa and its former glorious gardens have suffered from years of neglect, culminating in serious damage during the Second World War, when it was bombed by the Allies, who mistakenly thought it was the German headquarters, when actually they were in a nearby hotel.
The gardens are sad, though there is clearly work going on to restore them. But the interior produced some absolute gems. You come first to a covered but exterior gallery, with frescoes of telve warriors of the Doria family, dressed bizarrely as Romans. Then you come to a hall with a superb ceiling frescoe of Jupiter (by this time I had been told no photos, unfortunately).
But what I will always remember is the astounding 15th cent Flemish tapestries recounting the feats of Alexander the Great. I’ve never really been a fan of tapestries but these were absolutely splendid. We spent quite some time working out the dramas being enacted. (I have reproduced the postcards, given the absence of photos).
That was then enough, despite the fact that I could see many more treasures in the galleries beyond. But a suitable end to my day and a half in Genoawith my mad but dear friends Charles and Pierre.