Genoa, ‘La Superba’: The Rise and Fall of a Merchant Pirate Superpower by Nicholas Walton - review by Jonathan Keates

Jonathan Keates

Escaping the Vicoli

Genoa, ‘La Superba’: The Rise and Fall of a Merchant Pirate Superpower

By

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Genoa is the Italian city everyone forgets. A goodly number of Italians are on hand to claim that, awkwardly stuck as it is in their nation’s top-left corner, it does not really belong in Italy at all. Such negativity tends to define the place more broadly. Although van Dyck learned his craft as a portrait painter there and Rubens wrote a book about its splendid palaces, it is not an art city in the league of Florence or Rome. Its history as a maritime republic appears generally tedious, unlike that of Venice, its triumphant, romantic competitor, and it has nurtured no distinguished poets, novelists or musicians. Even the wizard violinist Niccolò Paganini, son of a Genoese shipping clerk, preferred Parma, Nice and Paris to his home town.

Unlike other Italian ports, such as Naples, Ancona or Trieste, lounging so confidently along their shorelines, the city seems permanently ill at ease with its coastal location, jammed into a narrow space between the Ligurian Sea and the western Apennines. The harbour area’s raffish allure was erased during the 1960s

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