Via Garabaldi began its life as the Strada Maggiore, one of the Strade Nuove (new streets) that were created as part of an urban planning project in 16th century Genoa. The new streets were wider than the medieval streets, and here the wealthiest citizens built their elaborate Renaissance and Baroque palazzi (palaces). During the days of the powerful admiral Andrea Doria, the palazzi were used to host visiting dignitaries, based on a list that categorized the palaces according to the importance of the dignitaries that could be entertained there. It was a bit like the star system for hotels, but the guests stayed free of charge. The palaces on the list became known as the Palazzi dei Rolli (palaces of the roll). The area of Genova that houses forty two of the palaces now has UNESCO World Heritage designation.
Although the Italian word "palazzo" can apply to a broad range of dwellings, these were palaces in the true sense of the word. Definitely 5 stars! Today, many of the palaces are open to the public as museums. Others are in use as places of business (mainly banks because, as Rick says, who but the banks could afford places like these!) The palaces typically have three or four stories, grand staircases, beautiful courtyards and gardens, frescoed ceilings and elaborate facades. It is important to note that in those days, each story was from 20-30' high.
On a quiet Saturday afternoon, we took a walk down Via Garabaldi. We gaped at the elaborate facades and courtyards, to a background of beautiful singing provided by a street performer. It was difficult to capture in photos, but we tried.
I hate to admit it, but one of our favourite places on Via Garibaldi was a decorating store! The contrast between old and new somehow worked.
Three of the palaces on Via Garibaldi are now museums, and a single ticket gives access to the Palazzo Rosso, Palazzo Bianco and Piazzo Doria Tursi (now the Municipio, or town hall). The Palazzo Bianco and Palazzo Rosso house room upon room of art, including works by Van Dyck, Rubens, Strozzi, Caravaggio and the Genovese artist known as Il Grechetto. Caravaggio's Ecce Homo was one we'd been waiting to see:
In the Palazzo Tursi we saw Paganini's violin, which he bequeathed to his home town in his will.
And it was in the Palazzo Tursi that we also saw the masterpiece that literally made us gasp: Canova's Maddalena penitente.
It may be worth a trip to Genoa just to see it. But there are a lot of reasons to come to Genoa, and we'll tell you more later. Next, a trip to the cemetery.