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Genoa (jĕnˈōwə), Ital. Genova, city (1991 pop. 678,771), capital of Genoa prov. and of Liguria, NW Italy, on the Ligurian Sea. Beautifully situated on the Italian Riviera, it is the chief seaport of Italy and rivals Marseilles, France, as the leading Mediterranean port. It is an outlet for the Po Valley and for central Europe and handles extensive passenger and freight traffic. Genoa's harbor facilities, badly damaged in World War II and by storms in 1954–55, have been rebuilt and greatly modernized. The city is also a commercial and industrial center. Such manufactures as iron and steel, chemicals, petroleum, airplanes, ships, locomotives, motor vehicles, and textiles long led the economy, but the service sector is increasingly important while industry has slowly and steadily declined.

Points of Interest

Among Genoa's notable buildings are the Cathedral of San Lorenzo (rebuilt in 1100 and frequently restored), the palace of the doges, the richly decorated churches of the Annunciation and of St. Ambrose (both 16th cent.), the medieval Church of San Donato, many Renaissance palaces, and the Carlo Felice opera house (19th cent.). The city is surrounded by old walls and forts, and the steep and narrow streets of the harbor section are very picturesque. The 16th-century Lanterna [lighthouse] is an emblem of Genoa. The Old Port was redesigned in 1992 by Renzo Piano; a modern aquarium and tropical greenhouse (the Bolla) are there. Genoa has several museums and a university (founded 1243).


An ancient town of the Ligures, Genoa flourished under Roman rule. Around the 10th cent. it became a free commune governed by consuls. Its maritime power increased steadily. Helped by Pisa, Genoa drove (11th cent.) the Arabs from Corsica and Sardinia. Rivalry over control of Sardinia resulted in long wars with Pisa; Genoa finally triumphed in the naval battle of Meloria (1284).

The Crusades brought Genoa great wealth, and the republic acquired possessions and trading privileges in areas from Spain to the Crimea. Genoa's expansion and its military defense were largely financed by a group of merchants who in 1408 organized a powerful bank, the Banco San Giorgio. Genoese policy in the eastern Mediterranean clashed with the ambitions of Venice, and long wars resulted, ending with the Peace of Turin (1381), which slightly favored Venice. Meanwhile, the Genoese republic was weakened by factional strife between Guelphs and Ghibellines, between nobles and the popular party. In 1339 the first doge (chief magistrate) for life was elected.

As Genoa gradually gained control of the cities of Liguria, it lost its outlying possessions. Rival factions in the city resorted to foreign aid. From the late 14th to the 16th cent., France and Milan in turn controlled the city, although nominal independence was preserved.

The power of Genoa was revived by the seaman and statesman Andrea Doria, who wrote a new constitution in 1528; the conspiracy (1547) of the Fieschi family against his dictatorship failed. Later the city came under Spanish, French, and Austrian control. The Austrians were expelled by a popular uprising in 1746, but in 1768 Genoa had to cede Corsica, its last outlying possession, to France. In 1797, French military pressure resulted in the end of aristocratic rule and the formation of the Ligurian Republic, which Napoleon I formally annexed to France in 1805. The Congress of Vienna united (1814) Genoa and Liguria with the kingdom of Sardinia. In 1922 a major European economic conference (see Genoa, Conference of) was held in the city.

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The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.



or Genova, a city in northern Italy on the coast of the Gulf of Genoa in the Ligurian Sea. Main city of the province of Genoa and Liguria. Population, 842,800 (1969).

Crowded by the mountains (the Ligurian Apennines) and the sea, the city extends more than 30 km along a narrow coastal strip (the Italian Riviera). Genoa comprises the nearest small cities (the industrial suburbs west of Genoa—Cornigliano Ligure, Sampierdarena, Pegli,, Voltri, and Sestri Ponente; the industrial cities in the mountain valleys north of Genoa—Bolzaneto, Rivarolo, and Pontedecimo; and the resort cities east of the city), and together these form the large urban area of Greater Genoa. The famous cemetery of Campo Santo is located in the suburb of Staglieno.

Genoa is one of the major Mediterranean ports; it is the nearest export area for the products of the industrialized region of northern Italy and handles most of the region’s foreign trade. The port of Genoa processes over 20 percent of the freight turnover of all Italian ports (45.4 million tons in 1967, of which 27.4 million tons were petroleum). Petroleum, coal, scrap metal, cotton, wood, and grain are the predominant imports, and the exports are finished industrial products. Genoa is also a major passenger port and a junction for railroad, road, and airline transportation.

Genoa is an industrial and commercial center. Heavy industry is predominant and is distinguished by the high degree of concentration of production and the dominance of several large monopolies (Finsider, Finmechanica, Ansaldo, and others). The largest shipyards in Italy are concentrated in Genoa; other notable industries manufacture aircraft, aviation and marine engines, turbines, boilers, locomotives, tractors, electrical equipment, war matériel, and precision instruments. The city’s other industries include metallurgy (the Cornigliano metallurgical combine is second among Italian plants in terms of capacity), and petroleum refining (10 percent of the country’s capacity). There are also textile, jute, food, and chemical factories and several steam power plants. There is a university (15th century). Genoa attracts many tourists.

There are many architectural monuments in the city, which is positioned like an amphitheater on the slopes surrounding the bay. The most ancient of these are the church of Santa Maria di Castello (11th century) and the cathedral of San Lorenzo (begun in the 11th century, consecrated in 1118, and later rebuilt). The main sights of Genoa are the 16th- and 17th-century palaces and villas (the Palazzo Parodi, 1567, the Cambiaso villa, 1548, and the Pallavicino delle Peschiere villa, 1560-72, by the architect G. Alessi; the Palazzo Municipale, or Doria-Tursi, 1564, by the architect R. Lurago; the Palazzo Durazzo Pallavicini, 1618, and the Palazzo dell’ Université, 1634-36, by the architect B. Bianco) with fountains, vaulted galleries in the courtyards, staircases, and terraced parks, in the composition of which steeply falling relief is effectively employed.

Genoa is characterized by the sharp contrast between the magnificent buildings of the main streets and adjacent slum regions. New buildings and complexes are springing up among the crowded old blocks (the World’s Fair grounds with an oval sports and exhibition hall, 112 m in diameter, 1964, architects, C. Daneri and others; and the multistoried Italian Telephone Company building, 1969, architects, M. Bega and P. Gambaciano). Most of the areas of massive residential construction are outside the city limits (the Bernabo-Brea region, 1951-54, architects, C. Daneri and others); the expensive sections of the seacoast are developed with private and cooperative deluxe houses with spacious, luxuriously decorated apartments (for example, a beach house, 1952, architect, C. Daneri). Genoa’s museums include the galleries at Palazzo Rosso, Palazzo Bianco, and Palazzo Spinola; the City Museum of Ligurian Archaeology (founded in 1892); the Museum of Ligurian Architecture and Sculpture; and the underground museum treasury of the cathedral of San Lorenzo (1956, architect, F. Albini).


History. In antiquity, Genoa was a Ligurian settlement. Conquered by the Romans in the third century B.C., it was one of the most important trading ports of the Roman state. The economic significance of Genoa declined in the early Middle Ages. Under the Lombards (from 641), Genoa was the center of a duchy, and, beginning in the ninth century, a margravedom. The bishop’s power became predominant in the city in the tenth century. In the 11th century, after the northern part of the Tyrrhenian Sea was liberated from the Arabs, Genoa developed trade ties with southern Italy, Sicily, Spain, and Africa. Genoa’s participation in the Crusades allowed it to turn into a major sea power. In the 12th century Genoa was a commune, with power concentrated in the hands of the major merchants and land magnates, who were involved in commerce. At first the commune was headed by a college of consuls, from 1217 by a podestà, from 1257 by a “captain of the people,” from 1270 by two captains of the people, and from 1339 by a doge. Genoa’s chief rivals were the sea republics of Pisa and Venice. In 1284, Genoa routed the Pisan fleet near Meloria, and in 1298 did the same to the Venetian fleet near Curzola; this strengthened Genoa’s position in Byzantium, in the eastern part of the Mediterranean Sea, and in the Black Sea. In the 13th and 14th centuries, Genoa had many colonies in the Crimea (Kafa and others).

In 1380, Genoa was defeated by Venice at Chioggia. The Genoese forces were shattered; after 1396 the city frequently fell under the control of France and Milan. In 1528 the Republic of Genoa was established, dependent on Spain. An aristocratic oligarchy took over the government of the city. Since the Black Sea colonies had been lost in the 15th century, the relocation of trade routes to the Atlantic Ocean in the 16th century led to the end of Genoa’s commercial significance and the curtailment of shipbuilding, in which the rudiments of capitalist relations had appeared as early as the 14th century. In the 15th and 16th centuries the silk industry flourished in Genoa, but the main economic activity became the banking business, particularly credit operations. The bank of San Giorgio became Genoa’s main financial center and conducted international credit operations. From 1797 to 1805 the territory of the Republic of Genoa made up the Ligurian Republic, and after 1815 the city was part of the Kingdom of Sardinia. In 1849 a republican uprising occurred, but it was put down by the royal troops. In the second half of the 19th century, Genoa turned into a major industrial city and became an important center of the workers’ movement. In 1892 the Italian socialist party was founded there.

During World War II, Genoa, which was occupied in September 1943 by fascist German troops, was one of the significant strong points of the resistance movement. It was freed by partisans and a popular uprising in April 1945. After the war, leftist forces held a strong position in the Genoese municipal organs, which until 1951 were headed by Communists.


Vitale, V. Breviario della storia di Genova, vols. 1-2. Genoa, 1955.
Rutenburg, V. I. “Gli Uzzano e Genova.” In Miscellanea storica ligure, fase. 3. Milan, 1963.
Cozzani, E. Genova, 2nd ed. Turin, 1961.


The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.


a port in NW Italy, capital of Liguria, on the Gulf of Genoa: Italy's main port; an independent commercial city with many colonies in the Middle Ages; university (1243); heavy industries. Pop.: 610 307 (2001)
Collins Discovery Encyclopedia, 1st edition © HarperCollins Publishers 2005
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