“Liguria is the only region in Italy that is entirely framed by natural borders: the mountains in the north form a gigantic amphitheatre facing the marine stage to the south.”
– Martina Kolb
(“On the Ligurian Edge” from Nietzsche, Freud, Benn and the Azure Spell of Liguria)
One of Italy’s smallest regions, Liguria shares borders with Tuscany and Emilia-Romagna to the east, Piedmonte to the north and France (Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur) to the west.It’s this very geography and terrain – steep, remote and compact – that has shaped and defined Liguria’s history and character. Unlike many other regions that were invaded and captured, her natural borders have kept her relatively protected and, to some extent, isolated.
Not as famous as many of her neighbors, Liguria is rich with treasures waiting to be explored and enjoyed, for only in Liguria will you find…
◊ Genoa, La Superba, the superb one, is capital of Liguria and the sixth largest city in Italy. Defined by her relationship to the sea, she is sophisticated, attractive, proud, and underrated.
◊ The labyrinth of “caruggi”, narrow alleyways in Genoa’s medieval and historical center, are a bustling mélange of neighborhood markets, eateries, and shops as well as piazzette and residences.
◊ Genoa’s Strade Nuove and the Palazzi dei Rolli : Riches and royalty Genovese-style, these opulent palaces were built by the wealthy merely for the express purpose of entertaining prestigious dignitaries and guests. A competition of sorts in an effort to impress and outrank their neighbors, these spectacular palazzi are indisputable testimony to the power and wealth of the era.
◊ Genoa’s renovated Porto Antico, Antique Port, reminds us of the legacy of this formidable Maritime Republic power and, rivaled only by Venice and Pisa, its history of vying for domination of the sea for centuries.
◊ Europe’s largest aquarium, Acquario di Genova, was constructed as part of the 1992 restoration and modernization of the old port to commemorate Columbus’ discovery of America.
◊ Genoa’s legacy of immigration – millions of Italians left their homeland from the port of Genoa. This immigration actually helped to revive the economy of Genoa.
A few facts (The History of Italian Immigration, 2001):
– From 1861 to 1875, historians have estimated that 2 million individuals immigrated from Genoa.
– From 1876 to 1901, the port of Genova made up 61% of oceanic departures, with an annual average of 73,960 boardings.
◊ Galata Museo del Mare in Genoa, the largest museum of its kind in the Mediterranean, was completed in 2004, is a tribute to Genoa’s inextricable relationship with the sea. Among the highlights is an outstanding interactive exhibit, “Memory and Migration”, dedicated to the story of Italian immigration.
◊ There are two Rivieras: The Riviera Ponente to the west of the city of Genoa and extending to the border of France (which includes Savona, Noli, Final Ligure), and; the Riviera di Levante to the south of Genoa to Portovenere (including the famous beaches and towns of Camogli, the Portofino Peninsula, and Cinque Terre).
◊ Liguria is home to the Cinque Terre, the five famous picturesque villages of Vernazza, Manarola, Riomaggiore, Monterosso, and Corneglia.
◊ Nicknamed the “Gulf of Poets”, where the likes of Lord Byron and Shelley as well as D.H. Lawrence and Virginia Woolf visited in the 19th and 20th centuries, the Gulf of La Spezia remains an inviting destination.
◊ The world’s largest frying pan (almost 4 meters in diameter!) is in Camogli and in May it is used to celebrate La Sagre del Pesce.
◊ The textile used for jeans originated in the port of Genoa. Even the word “jeans” is an Americanized version of Genoa where the sturdy blue cotton was worn by dock workers since medieval times!
◊ Liguria can boast of two UNESCO designated sites: Genoa’s Strade Nuove and the Palazzi dei Rolli, and the Cinque Terre, Portovenere and the three islands of Palmaria, Tino and Tinetto.
◊ Flower power: Liguria’s ideal climate makes it one of Italy’s most well-known regions for horticulture and floriculture.
◊ Ligurian cuisine – where to begin?! With Pesto alla Genovese, naturally. Undeniably associated with Genoa and Liguria, even the basil is protected (DOP); signature pasta are trofie and croxetti; mouthwatering street food including farinata (typically made from chickpea flour) and focaccia Genovese.
Chinotto of Savona is among 14 products/processes designated and protected by the Slow Food Movement.
Liguria can also boast excellent olive oil (especially that made from the black olives of Taggia); and, of course, an abundant selection of fresh seafood.
◊ Despite its rugged terrain and sparse vineyards, Liguria produces praiseworthy vintages. Among the favorites from its eight (8) DOC regions are whites; Vermentino, Pigato, and Albarola; and the red Rossese.
◊ Famous Ligurian luminaries include:
Christopher Columbus, of course, famous explorer and navigator.
St. Catherine of Genoa, the Italian mystic who became famous for her work with the sick and the poor.
Andrea Doria, famous Italian condottiero (soldier of fortune) and admiral of the Republic of Genoa who, in his 94 years, was a successful soldier and naval commander. Not only did Doria acquire great wealth, respect powerful influence but he was given the distinguished titles of Liberator and Father of His Country.
Niccolò Paganini, controversial and famous virtuoso violinist, guitarist and composer who revolutionized violin techniques with his extraordinary dexterity and flexibility. He is considered by many to be the greatest violinist of all time.
Giuseppe Mazzini, well known patriot, philosopher, politician and activist for the unification of Italy.
World famous architect, Renzo Piano who, in 1988, was asked by City of Genoa to reconstruct the Porto Antico for the 1992 commemoration to celebrate discovery of America.