The Genoese have stopped grumbling. According to the poet Edoardo Sanguineti, the Genoese were always grumbling and this grumbling sound had become Genoa’s background noise, so rooted in her inhabitant that they had lost their original accent. Such grumbling, which had accompanied the slow decline of the city after the end of the second world war, became muffled as Genoa started getting her former color back – not just that of her salt-washed palaces – to take back her rightful position and shed her backwater reputation first with the 1992 Expo and now as a City of Culture for 2004. Today Genoa is dynamic, high-tech and many splendor city as of old, as well as being extremely beautiful in its position between sea and mountains.
She is no longer a Cinderella, but a Queen: first sea power, more powerful than Venice or Pisa in the fourteenth century, a rich and cosmopolitan city that could afford imports from all over the world then known. As one of Europe’s major capital cities in the sixteenth century, it moved from French to Spanish influence and at this time became rich with sumptuous palaces and churches, showing frescoes and stucco work. It became an art capital in the seventeenth century when it received the most fashionable Flemish artists of the time, masters such as Pieter Paul Rubens and Antonie Van Dick. The local aristocracy started to buy on a grand scale the works of such masters as Tintoretto and Titian, Caravaggio and Guercino. In the nineteenth century it became a laboratory for eclectic architecture, which, under the House of Savoy, it saw the rise of such masterpieces as the Carlo Felice theatre and the bizarre buildings of the Florentine architect Gino Coppedé. For a few decades, starting from the fifties, the crisis in industry and in port activities started to dim the ancient splendor of the city which was caught between an awareness of its decadence and a frustrating memory of better times. But pride came back as it is only proper for someone who has been too rich and too powerful. Starting from the late Nineties, Genoa took steps, obstinately but cleverly, to regain her lost splendor. The old, mammoth, unproductive industry was replaced by smaller, more enterprising activities; investments were made in advanced electronics and technology. Genoa changed her face as well as her symbols.
Today they are the Bigo, a large, futuristic building rising out of the water holding an elevator aloft, the work of Renzo Piano for the Old Port. Another symbol is the Aquarium, showing 6,000 animals of 600 different species in almost 10,000 square meters, one of Europe’s largest structures of its kind. The future is now. With Expo ‘92, during which Piano redeveloped 130,000 square meters of the Old Port transforming it into the city’s most avant-garde area, Genoa celebrated her reawakening.
As a City of Culture for 2004 she is confirming her status as one of Europe’s great cultural capitals.Liguria’s capital has been transformed under the direction of Germano Celant, curator at Guggenheim Museum in New York, into a crucible of cultural and architectural experimentation. No cultural field has been left unexplored, in the same way all areas of the city have been restored to a splendor more lasting than the duration of an exhibition.
Structural work includes the Old Museums Site, centered on Via Garibaldi, an old street lined with aristocrats’ residences in the sixteenth century, to the museum site at Parchi di Nervi, to the palaces at Polo della Darsena, as
Well as the most beautiful and important museums.
Genoa will move through culture like a creature moving through music and art, film and dance, performances for
Children, sea fairs, a special edition of the Suq or Peoples’ Bazaar: music concerts, dance lessons, foreign language courses and meetings on cultural integration (Old Port, June 1-15). Though Rubens, who lived in the city at different times, will take place of honor in the celebrations (over the year one hundred and eighteen exhibitions and as many meetings), there will be many others on great artists and movements, for example Chagall (Jewish Museum, April 5 to June 15). One exhibition will focus on silversmiths and goldsmiths in Genoa between the sixteenth and the eighteenth centuries, another on the life and the world of Leon Battista Alberti. Genoa’s year of culture will see a variety of events, ranging through all fields of artistic and cultural Endeavour, to satisfy the curiosity of millions of visitors. In the musical field too, people will move from a tango festival running through the city’s squares to a jazz festival at Golfo Paradiso, and from traditional genoese songs to classical music. People interested in talks will be able to choose from among various Nobel Prize Laureates, including the writers Günter Grass and José Saramago (Teatro dell’Archivolto, January through May). Other events will be dedicated to the sea.
The City of Children, for example, the largest play area in Italy, in the Old Port, will offer interactive games in which younger visitors will be able to play with three-dimensional reconstructed stage settings above and under sea level. The leading exhibition in this are will be one on ocean liners, at The National Museum of Antarctica: photographs, pictures and animation will illustrate in great detail the marine environment and other characteristics of the Antarctic habitat. The idea of the sea, however, is not just a temporary fad. March will see the inauguration of the Museums of the Sea and of Navigation, by the Spanish architect Guillermo Vasquez, and a year later the Dutchman Ben Van Berkel will restore the Parodi Bridge. These are important, monumental works as well as symbols of the subtle, ancestral relationship the Genoese have with the sea, the red thin line that still links, today and always, the city to history.