Sunday, June 9, 2013


Today, I wish I knew more about architecture, because describing my visit with Riccardo to Genova (or as Americans call it, Genoa) on Saturday will be difficult without some knowledge of types of architecture and architectural terminology.  I'll do the best I can.

We took a bus like this to an elevator to get a panoramic view of Genova.  This may look like two buses, but it's an "expandable" bus.  Some of these buses are electric and some are gas powered.  

Almost everywhere in Italy, you'll find something with the Garibaldi name.  This interesting arch gives a nod to him.  We took an elevator nearby to the "almost top" of Genoa.  That's where I took these panoramic shots of the city.

It was a pretty hazy morning so you can hardly tell that there's a sea out there.  Genoa is the capital city of Liguria and the largest seaport in Italy. 

The city proper has a population of about 600,000; the metropolitan area population is about 1.5 million.  It sprawls for 31 kilometers along the coast.  Genova has a long and illustrious history as a center of wealth and commerce.  At one time in its history, it was annexed, along with the rest of Liguria, by France.  It's the birth city of Christopher Columbus.

Off in the distance is La Laterna, a 16th century lighthouse that is an emblem of Genova.

Riccardo and I headed down to street level and started our foot tour of the city.  First stop:  a church, of course.  And this is a pretty spectacular one.

It's San Lorenzo Cathedral, which was built between the 12th and 16th centuries--takes a while to produce a work of architecture like this--and it houses the ashes of John the Baptist, who is the patron saint of Genoa.  It was begun in the Romanesque style and got a Gothic makeover in later years.  The exterior is striped marble and slate.

The decorative columns are pretty impressive.

Every shot you take of the outside columns looks like a separate work of art.

There's a lion--pretty friendly looking, I'd say--guarding each side of the entrance steps.

The black and white stripe theme continues on the inside with the columns and archways lining the center aisle that leads to the ornate altar.  It seems a little discordant at first, but it makes an impression.

The side altar where Saint John's ashes are interred was lined with statuary.  There were crowds of tourists paying homage.  One group was softly singing a Spanish song.

This was a really interesting church and I wish there were some way I could take you on a video tour of it.  Maybe next trip I'll figure out how to do that.

The second church we visited is the Chiesa del Gesu.  In its current form, this church dates back to the mid-16th century.

I would name this the "golden church" because of the amount of it used in its decoration.  There were people engaged in prayer and I didn't want to disturb them, so I borrowed some photos from the Internet.

There are two paintings by Rubens in this church.  This is "The Circumcision of Christ". There's another called "St. Ignatius Curing the Sick", but I couldn't find a picture of it.  The style of the frescoes in this church was unique, and I wish I could have found some pictures to illustrate.  

In the same piazza as this church were some other examples of the grand buildings of Genoa.  This is the the center of government for Liguria.  The governor of this province makes more money than President Obama!  I was pretty shocked also when Riccardo told me that there are 1000 Italian parlimentarians who make 20,000 euro per month!  

This is the Palazza Ducale,  which is now used as a multi-cultural center, housing libraries and conference facilities.  

We had no idea what these pink characters were--they looked like a cross between a pig and a rat--nor why they were there.  They looked very out of place.

This is Genoa's theater--for operas, concerts, plays, etc.

One of my favorite buildings in the city--I love the rounded front, and I don't know the style of architecture.  The only identification on the building was for the Italian Postal Service.  We wondered if they occupied the whole building.

The bank that Riccardo retired from has its headquarters in a large, more modern building.

After wandering around for a few hours, we went to this restaurant in the old town and had a traditional Ligurian dish called "stoccafisso".  It's a stew made of dried codfish, potatoes, and olives in a tomato sauce.  We enjoyed some very good white house wine with our fish stew.  

Then we headed for the harbor.  There is this architectural structure called "Bigo", which has both an artistic  and a utilitarian purpose.  It supports a structured tent as well as an elevator that offers a panoramic view of the harbor.  Unfortunately, the elevator was having some technical difficulties.  

In the harbor area is the Palazzo San Giorgia, which now houses the offices of the Port Authority.  Marco Polo was held prisoner here in the late 13th century and during that time wrote the account of his travels in China. 

At some point in the day, we stumbled upon what was purported to be the house where Christopher Columbus lived.  We paid 5 euros each to tour 4 tiny rooms which contained mostly matted and framed stamps of him.  It should be called the Christopher Columbus Stamp Museum.  I later read that it may not be his house, but only one similar to it.  I felt really bad when I read this, because there was a feeling of privilege at treading on the same steps as my country's discoverer. 

Next to the house are the beautiful remains of a 12th century cloister.

And up the steps was one of the old gates to the city, Porto Soprano, which dates back to the 7th century.

Before we went back to the train station, we walked down this street that was lined with one beautiful building after another.  You couldn't step back far enough to get the whole building in a photograph, but I think you'll see the wonder of it all.

There are really interesting architectural features on many of the buildings.

Stone carvings above doorways.

A macho man or two flexing his muscles.

A Madonna and Child gracing a corner.

I took over 100 photographs in Genoa and left some shoe leather there too.  But I think I've given you a good sample of some of the wonderful architecture in this lovely city, and I'll leave you with my Monet photograph....

The Water Lillies.

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