Among the many beauties of Genoa are its historical palaces, most of which have been nominated UNESCO world heritage sites.
No wonder why: not only these palaces testify the glorious past of the city, but they are also astonishingly beautiful and full of surprises.
We selected some of our favorite noble palaces in Genoa – each one with its unique features – and we will now take you on an original itinerary to discover them.
Palazzo San Giorgio
When in Genoa you will definitely visit the Porto Antico (“Old Harbour”).
Among the many things to see in the area is the wonderful Palazzo San Giorgio (“St. George’s Palace”), with its beautifully painted facade, on Piazza Caricamento.
The palace dates back to 1260 and used to be the town hall.
Throughout history it has been used as a prison – even Marco Polo was imprisoned here! – then a bank.
Today it is the Center of the Harbour Authority.
The back of the palace is the oldest part, with red bricks and stone, while the side facing the port goes back to the Renaissance and is completely painted: St George killing the dragon is the main fresco right in the middle, while on the sides six statues are painted in mock niches, portraying historical characters of Genoa.
The art of painting buildings is something very typical of Genoa and the whole region of Liguria.
From historical palaces to regular buildings, you will find this very special kind of art that transforms two-dimensional surfaces into three-dimensional ones with incredibly realistic fake windows and decorations.
There is so much to discover on our palaces. Remember to look up every now and then: Genoa is full of surprises!
Another example of painted facade is Palazzo Spinola-Grillo, in the city’s historical center, not far from Palazzo San Giorgio.
This building is covered in frescoes and stands out for the beautiful red color used to decorate its facade.
Take a look at the many different styles of these frescoes: from the Middle Ages to the Renaissance, every historical period can be found on the facade of this Palazzo Spinola-Grillo.
The Renaissance fresco that stands out in the middle of the facade on Piazza delle Vigne portrays the God Janus with the Goddess Peace casting out Mars.
While in Piazza delle Vigne, right on the opposite side of the square you will find Palazzo Grillo.
This palace is now a hotel and preserves all the original Renaissance frescoes both on the outside and inside.
Palazzo Grillo is one of the famous “Palazzi dei Rolli” of Genoa.
While it may not sound obvious, the origin of the name “Rolli” goes back to when Genoa was an independent republic, and the meaning of the word is “list” – as in a list of accommodations owned by noble families of Genoa, to host high personalities visiting the Republic.
So this is what these wonderful palaces were used for back then: the Rolli list was a sort of a hotel guide.
Very interesting, isn’t it?
There was even a sort of rating system of first class and second class palaces, and all noble families were competing to host the most people.
While a common misconception portrays Genoa and Liguria as an unfriendly region when it comes to visitors, we take pride in demonstrating how the culture of hospitality is instead deeply rooted in the local culture.
Throughout history the Rolli palaces have hosted important travellers, actors, famous personalities on their cultural, business and leisure travels.
Nowadays, the palaces of Genoa are one of the main points of interest of the city, scattered around the historical center and mainly concentrated in the worldwide famous Via Garibaldi, where the city hall is located.
Also known as Strada Nuova (“New Street”), the sixteenth-century Via Garibaldi is one of the most remarkable roads in the world for its architecture and city planning.
Right here in Via Garibaldi is the highest concentration of historical noble palaces in Genoa, and in a short walk you can admire the peculiar splendor of each one.
Shortly after entering Via Garibaldi you will encounter Palazzo Lomellino, on your right-hand side coming from Piazza delle Vigne, with its pale blue facade and white stucco details.
Notice how the use of colors on the facade make the decorations pop out.
This palace has two unique features when compared to the rest of them: the first one is that there are actual reliefs on the facade and not just painted ones.
The latter is its dreamlike garden built on two levels, with statues portraying mythological scenes, fountains and even a grotto.
Further down Via Garibaldi is Palazzo Rosso – this one on the left.
While Palazzo Lomellino is now owned by a private bank and is only accessible twice a year during the “Rolli Days”, Palazzo Rosso is now a museum so you can visit it anytime.
The other Rolli Palaces that are now museums and can be visited are Palazzo Bianco, Palazzo Tursi, Palazzo Spinola di Pellicceria and Palazzo Reale, all located in Via Garibaldi or nearby.
Palazzo Rosso (“Red Palace”), as many other historical palaces in Genoa, used to be a noble dwelling and dates back to the seventeenth century.
The museum features painting masterpieces by Italian and foreign artists, showcased in the wonderful rooms of the palace with original furniture and art collections.
A newly installed panoramic lift takes visitors to a viewpoint that offers stunning views over the historical center of Genoa and the Strada Nuova.
Discovering the many palaces of Genoa is a great way to learn more about the rich history of our beautiful city and its old town, where you need to get lost while you’re at it!
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