Italy History Guide: History of Genoa

Are you going on holiday to Genoa in Italy? Would you like to know a little about the history of Genoa? Our guide to the history of Genoa provides an overview of some of the most important points in the history of Genoa.

Origins of Genoa in Italy

Genoa is a coastal town situated in the North West between the French border and Tuscany. The history of Genoa as a permanent settlement goes back to the 4th century BC. Because Genoa is located on the coast of the Liguria Sea it served as an important port in the north of Italy importing goods brought from other countries. Genoa developed as a city due to commercial trade at its port and remained a centre of activity until it was briefly invaded by the Franks and later by the Saracens from North Africa.

13th Century history of Genoa

Italy during the 13th century was not a unified country, but rather composed of dozens of independent city states who were often hostile towards each other. In the 13th century a long running animosity between the Italian towns of Genoa and Venice came to a head in a battle, from which Genoa emerged victorious. This laid the path for unrivalled military and commercial power in the North West of Italy enabling Genoa to develop greatly at this time.  Power in Genoa was distributed between a handful of noble families who oversaw and controlled most of its commercial and trading activities. Unfortunately this system was doomed to eventual failure as it was only a matter of time before Genoa was weakened from within due to internal fighting between the noble families of Genoa.

16th Century history of Genoa

The 16th Century is widely believed to be the golden age in the history of Genoa and its artistic and architectural development.  The 16th century was the height of the renaissance that was especially felt all over northern Italy including Genoa, attracting some big name artists to the city to ply their trade. Van Dyck, Rubens & Caraggio are just three examples of renaissance artists who worked in Genoa, and whose art can still be seen at museums in Genoa today. This milieu of cultural development was made possible to a degree by the financial stability afforded to Genoa by it’s ruler at the time. Admiral Andrea Doria of the Imperial Spanish Navy was enjoying great wealth due to the profits being made from trade with the colonies in South America and much of this money was reinvested in Genoa.

Modern History of Genoa

Genoa was instrumental in the unification of Italy in the 19th century taking a leading role in the process. During WWII the people of Genoa were among the few who managed to expel the Nazis and Fascists from their city before the Allies arrived at Genoa.