Jonathan Keates

Escaping the Vicoli

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

By Nicholas Walton

Hurst & Company 218pp £14.99 order from our bookshop

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.

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