Tuesday 10 June 2014

italy week: la superba

The city of Genoa is known as La Superba, the proud one, for its illustrious history punctuated with many treasures and landmarks as testament to its past and current achievements. The name of Genoa, like Geneva, means the knee—but possibly not because the Italian peninsula below looks like a boot.
We toured the old harbor with its ancient and iconic light house and wide berths.  The galleon that was the principle setting of Roman Polanski’s swashbuckling film Pirates is moored there as well.   The Port of Genoa, though with a lot of quays for cruise ships and flashy yachts, is one of the most logistical sophisticated and well-designed cargo marinas in the world, and also features a very fine aquarium that we’ll have to make it a point to visit next time—when we have more time to see it and the wealth of museums here properly.
We also visited Piazza de Ferrari with its large fountain, behind the Duomo and buffered by the Palace of the Doges and the Genovesi Bourse and get our bearings.
The fountain’s water was dyed orange for, as stated, multiple sclerosis awareness.  We strolled in a covered arcade and we walked through the maze of narrow alleyways (caruggi) of the oldest parts of the city to admire the rows of aristocratic palazzi along Via Balbi, constructed as residences for the Republic’s powerful families.  Cristoforo Colombo also hailed from Genoa (though there is some dispute among scholars and various countries and regions try to claim him as their own, like Charlemagne), though voyaged West to reach the East under the patronage of the Castillian crown.
Other powers rejected his requests for financial aid not because they believed the world was flat but rather that the explorer had majorly under-estimated the accepted size of the globe, known since antiquity.
In fact, Columbus never did acknowledge the existence of the intervening continent as anything other than an unknown part of Asia.  Against the advice of council, the Spanish court eventually agreed to fund the exploration, including Columbus’ request to be named admiral of the seas and royalties from any property claimed for the monarchs.  Some scholars believe that Spain conceded to such terms because they did not really expect him to return—and just in case, did not want him to take his plans elsewhere.
Despite Genoa’s decision not to vet its native son, the republic’s independent existence that spanned almost eight hundred years saw many conquests and colonies and outposts a world away, including Galata in Constantinople, the Crimea and other lands on the Black Sea, much of the Greek Isles, Flanders, Tunisia, Algeria, and Gibraltar (though often these colonies were just gated communities, sometimes just a single building, but with extra-territorial rights for merchants and their families—like a consul), with trade connections extending La Superba’s influence even further.