Port of Genoa
Review and History

Located on the shores of the Liguarian Sea, the Port of Genoa is the hub of Italy's Riviera and the capital of the Genova province and the Liguria region. The Port of Genoa is just over 50 nautical miles northwest of the Port of La Spezia in Italy and 100 nautical miles northeast of the Port of Cannes in France. The city covers the western slope of the Apennine Mountains and a narrow coastal plain along the sea. In 2004, over 600 thousand people called the Port of Genoa home.



Photo by Chensiyuan

With a long maritime history, the Port of Genoa enjoys a wonderful climate. Tourism is its most important economic sector, but it was an important industrial center in the past. Today, the old factories have converted into other businesses that include banking, insurance, communications, commerce, and services. Having been one of the four Sea Republics in ancient Italy, the Port of Genoa was tremendously powerful and wealthy. It seaport has long been the foundation for the city's economy. In 2004, Genoa was selected as one of two European Capitals of Culture by the European Union.

Port History

The Port of Genoa was occupied by the Ligures, an ancient Italic tribe, as early as the 6th Century BC. Calling themselves Ambrones, meaning "people of the waters," their culture stretched from northern Italy into Gaul. They were eventually absorbed by the Gauls and later by the Romans.

A 6th Century BC cemetery in the Port of Genoa proves that Greeks occupied the site, but historians believe the harbor was in use long before that. Scholars suggest that the Etruscans and the Phoenicians probably had sea bases in the Port of Genoa.

The Port of Genoa's development and growth was intimately connected to maritime trade and traffic in these ancient days. Cultures with languages other than Ligurian established settlements on Castle Hill from the 6th Century to operate manage their sea-borne trade. During this era, the Port of Genoa was little more than a small sheltered Bay.

During the era of the Roman Empire, the Port of Genoa was in the shadow of Marseille. Being allied with Rome during the Second Punic War, the Carthaginians destroyed the city in 209 BC. The Port of Genoa was rebuilt, and it won municipal status after the end of the Carthaginian Wars. It was a castrum, or fortified Roman town, with busy trade in skins, wood, and honey that were transported to mainland cities.

Port of Genoa

Port of Genoa

Photo by Aklyuch

After the Western Roman Empire fell, the Ostrogoths occupied the Port of Genoa. Then the Byzantines made it the base for their local governor after the Gothic War. During the 7th Century AD, the Germanic Lombards ruled the Port of Genoa, and they destroyed the city's Roman walls.

When the Frank Empire conquered the Lombards, the Port of Genoa became part of that kingdom in 773 under the rule of Ademarus, the first Carolingian count of Genoa. The city's walls were rebuilt during this period.

For many centuries, the Port of Genoa was a simple, small fishing village with a slowly-growing merchant fleet. Arab pirates sacked and burned the town in 934, but it was soon rebuilt. Trade began to grow again, and wealthy merchants built the first wooden wharves to import goods like silk and spices from the Islamic world.

During the 10th Century, the Port of Genoa became one of several independent city-states in Italy, a "Maritime Republic" like Venice, Pisa, and Amalfi. While the Holy Roman Empire was the ruling body, and the Bishop of Genoa was president of the city, the Port of Genoa was really ruled by an elected popular assembly. The ports trade, ship-building, and banking activities gave it one of the biggest and most powerful navies in the Mediterranean region. Merchant families in the Port of Genoa struggled for domination.

The Republic of Genoa controlled an area that included all of Liguria, Piedmont, Corsica, and Sardinia. It also had near-complete control over the Tyrrhenian Sea to the east of southern Italy. Through its participation in the Crusades, the Port of Genoa established colonies in the Middle East, Northern Africa, Sicily, and the Aegean Sea region. Crusaders from Genoa brought back a glass goblet from Arabia that the people honored as the Holy Grail.

Allied with the Byzantine Empire, the Port of Genoa was relatively unscathed by the collapse of the Crusader States. It was able to expand into the Crimean and Black Sea areas. The Republic of Genoa ran like a business for many years. The Port of Genoa reached its political peak in the late 13th Century when it won the naval Battle of Meloria in 1284 over the Duchy of Pisa and when it defeated Venice in 1298.

The Black Death brought an end to the Republic's golden age when the disease arrived in Europe from the Genoese trading post at Theodosia in the Crimea. The Port of Genoa suffered a near-total population and economic collapse.

After the plague subsided, the Port of Genoa adopted Venice's style of government under a ruling doge (or duke). The Port of Genoa continued to struggle with its long-time rival, Venice. In 1381, the War of Chioggia ended when Venice defeated Genoa. For a time in the late 14th Century and early 15th Century, the French dominated the Port of Genoa. After that, the Visconti of Milan ruled the city. Genoa lost Corsica when it revolted. It lost its colonies in the Middle East to the Ottoman Empire and Arab powers, and it lost Sardinia to the Kingdom of Aragon.

Christopher Columbus was born in the Port of Genoa, and he donated a tenth of his income from discovering the Americas to Genoa's Bank of San Giorgio to relieve the city from taxes on food. In 1528, Andrea Doria instituted a new constitution for the Port of Genoa that brought it under the control of the Spanish Empire.

<i>Port of Genua 1660</i><br>by Adriaen van der Cabel

Port of Genua 1660
by Adriaen van der Cabel

Dutch painter, draughtsman and etcher, circa 1660.
Photo by Adriaen van der Cabel

The city underwent an era of economic recovery, bringing new fortunes to many Port of Genoa families. The Port of Genoa reached a new peak in the 16th Century, and it was a magnet for many world-famous artists and architects.

In 1684, the French bombarded the Port of Genoa, and Austria occupied the city in 1746. In 1768, the city had to turn Corsica over to the French. With the introduction of trade routes to the New World and away from the Mediterranean region, the Port of Genoa's fortunes began to decline. At the end of the 18th Century, Napoleon made the Port of Genoa a French protectorate, calling it the Ligurian Republic. France then annexed the new republic in 1805.

In 1814 when the Genoese revolted against France and won independence for the Port of Genoa, the city was incorporated into the Kingdom of Sardinia, ruled by the House of Savoy, with the approval of the Congress of Vienna. While its union with Savoy brought economic stability to the Port of Genoa, the citizens chaffed at the control and revolted.

In 1860, world-famous freedom fighter Giuseppe Garibaldi departed the Port of Genoa with more than a thousand volunteers to begin the Second Italian War of Independence. The "Expedition of the Thousand" brought an end to the Kingdom of the Two Sicilies and was a first step in the eventual creation of the unified Kingdom of Italy.

Voltri quarter of Genoa

Voltri quarter of Genoa

Photo by Mattana

Italy's unification in 1861 increased the Port of Genoa's influence, and it was Italy's most important commercial port, competing with Marseille for Mediterranean trade. It also completed with ports in the North Sea for trade with Switzerland and inland central Europe.

When international trade began to decline in the 20th Century, the Port of Genoa enjoyed increasing trade to and from northern Italy.

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