History And Culture
The name Genova ("Genoa" in English), according to a Roman legend, originated from the Roman god Janus
("Giano" in Italian), protector god of all passageways, including the door to one's home or the gates of a city. This theory has some support in the importance that the Genoese placed on the entrances to their homes: every doorway was decorated with a bas-relief, often with a scene depicting Catholic saints.
Historical surveys place the birth of the city at around the 3rd century B.C. Genoa, a Roman port, was destroyed in the
Punic Wars, and then reconstructed as a military base for the war against the Carthaginians. During the late Roman Empire, and in the High Medieval period, Genoa suffered invasions from the north, and then came under the domination of the Byzantines, the Lombards, and the Franks.
The Medieval period was the first great period of the city. In the 11th century, Genoa became an oligarchic Republic, governed by councils chosen from the various aristocratic families who divide up the city. As a result of this type of government, which guaranteed the interests of the highest-ranked in society, Genoa expanded its territorial possessions throughout nearly 5 centuries, both in the form of commercial markets and actual colonies.
The crusades also helped Genoa secure its role as the maritime leader in the Mediterranean during the centuries to follow.
The alliance between the Genoese Admiral
Andrea Doria and the Spanish Empire of
Carlo V, in 1528, inaugurated the Golden Age of Genoa, during which the Genoese enjoyed great success throughout Europe, thanks to large-scale financial investments. The construction of sumptuous palazzos and magnificent villas also began during this period.
From the 17th century on, Genoa started a period of decline, and fell under the dominion of various European powers. In 1815, the
Congress of Vienna ruled that the ancient Republic of Genoa be annexed to the Kingdom of Savoy, which several decades later became part of a united Italy. It was from Genoa that Garibaldi started his expedition of the Thousand, which would eventually lead to the constitution of the Kingdom of Italy.
Between the 19th and 20th centuries, Genoa experienced great urban development, assuming the role of industrial and port center within the industrial triangle of Genoa, Milan, and Turin. In the 1960's the population of Genoa doubled in size from the first half of the century. And yet its position as the great industrial city fell into crisis in the 1980's, when the model of traditional development based on large, state-sponsored industry became less relevant.
Today, the port of Genoa has reassumed its position as one of the most important port cities in the Mediterranean. Il Porto Antico (the Old Port), reconstructed in 1992 by Renzo Piano, was transformed into a tourist attraction, the motor of a new tourist industry that has enveloped the entire city.