Palaces and Castles

My last couple days in Genoa continued to be entertaining as I explored more of the beautiful city. On Thursday I visited a triad of palatial museums on the historical street by my hostel, Via Garibaldi. All of the palaces along this street used to be occupied by Genovese aristocracy, and nowadays many of them are museums, banks, or shops selling traditional products. A one minute walk got me to Palazzo Rosso, the first palace in the Musei di Strada Nuova group. The palace is named for its red exterior which reminded me of a Margherita pizza.

It's hard to capture the grandeur of these buildings in a picture because the streets are so tiny and I couldn't back up any further. The inside was even more spectacular. The style was very baroque, with extravagant furnishings and colorful frescoes on the ceiling. Today, the palace is mostly used to display Genovese paintings. After checking out this palace, I walked down the street to Palazzo Bianco and Palazzo Tursi, the next palaces in the museum group. These featured more Genovese art and objects from history, such as the composer Paganini's violin.

That night for dinner, following my walking tour guide's suggestion, I bought fresh Pesto di Pra' (pesto is a Genovese speciality) and fresh gnocchi. After eating Genovese pesto, I feel completely spoiled and don't know if I'll be able to have regular pesto again.

On Saturday, I ventured to Castello D'Albertis, a castle overlooking town. My route took me through a neighborhood that I hadn't explored before and I poked into palazzi along the way. Some of them have lovely views of the port and have gardens dotted with palm trees. I loved the almost tropical feeling. I got in something that was like a cross between a funicular and an elevator and rode up through the hill, getting off at the entrance to the castle grounds. Before entering the castle itself, I walked on winding paths through the garden. This too had many palm trees, as well as birds and lizards. I had a fantastic view of all of Genoa from the terrace.

Garden thoroughly explored, I headed into the castle and museum. The castle was constructed in the 19th century for Enrico Alberto D'Albertis, a Genovese captain. The architecture is neo-Gothic with some influence from the places that D'Albertis visited throughout his life. Weapons from China and all over Africa decorate the walls of the main staircase and the ceiling is decorated with Middle Eastern influence.

I wandered into the open rooms which were richly decorated with objects from D'Albertis' journeys to Asia and Africa. The rooms were gorgeous, but the whole thing felt like a huge display of colonialism. I liked walking into the next section of the building which houses the Museum of World Cultures. Here, items from cultures around the world are displayed in exhibits that are closer to their original settings. Afterwards, I walked around the garden some more and enjoyed the sunshine.

On Sunday I returned to one of the palaces that I peeked into the day before. This turned out to be Palazzo Reale, the royal palace of Genoa. I timed my visit well because a celebration called Rolli Days lasted the whole weekend, when many of Genoa's palaces have special openings and admission is free. I entered the courtyard of the residence constructed in the 17th century for the Balbi family. Like other palaces on the street, Palazzo Reale has a stunning view of the port. I headed inside and walked up the staircase to the second floor (which Italians would call the first floor).

The second floor was decorated in Baroque fashion with large windows and candelabras lighting up the pastel walls and gilded trim. The interior reminded me of Versailles, and the resemblance was the most apparent in the Hall of Mirrors.

I made my way through more jaw-dropping rooms decorated with much of the original furniture. I couldn't believe that somebody had the money to pay for all of it. It was lovely to walk through, but I decided that I'd be much happier living in a simpler, smaller home (I wouldn't mind having frescoes with scenes from The Iliad decorating my walls, though). The last room was some kind of throne room and entirely decorated with red and gold. I walked out onto the balcony and looked over the port and courtyard. It's not noticeable while you're walking around the garden, but from up high I could tell that the paths made out of black and white stones are actually mosaics of people and animals.

I still had some of the afternoon left by the time I left the palace, so I walked around the historical district of Genoa and went to the waterfront one last time before going back to the hostel and packing up. Genoa is one of my favorite cities that I've visited so far. There were countless things to do culturally, historically, and gastronomically, and I could've easily had enough to do for another week. I also enjoyed being near the ocean. In the end, I'm content with what I saw, and it's good to move on to another place and see new things. Now I'm in Bologna, and I've been very busy since I got here. I hope that I can make a Bologna post soon so I don't forget anything that I've done!

Sam Mularz3 Comments