The Palazzi dei Rolli in Genoa (Unesco)
Three treasures from the Region of Liguria are listed in UNESCO World Heritage Sites: the Palazzi dei Rolli in Genoa, Beigua Geopark situated between Genoa and Savona, and Portovenere, Cinque Terre and the Islands (Palmaria, Tino and Tinetto) in the province of La Spezia. Three unique places which fully represent the region with its one-of-a-kind mix of nature, history and human endeavour.
Palazzi dei Rolli
Via Aurea, Strada Nuova, via Nuovissima. These street names are still synonymous with modern times. But the streets of the Palazzi dei Rolli represent a slice of the Republic of Genoa’s glorious past.
A walk among these sumptuous residences takes the visitor back to the atmosphere of the 16th and 17th centuries and is also a unique way to experience works of impressive historic and architectural value that are still an integral part of the city’s urban fabric, now the homes of common citizens.
The Genoa of the 17th century is the first European example of an integrated architectural and urbanistic project planned by the government to provide residences and hospitality. In the Republic founded by Andrea Doria between the 16th and 17th centuries there was a system to offer hospitality to illustrious guests and visitors on state business who would be granted lodging in the residences of the most important aristocratic families. This came about through the “Rolli of public lodging”, lists (in various editions and updated versions) containing the names of the palaces that would host notable guests visiting the city. The assignment of the residence was drawn by chance: each “Rollo” was subdivided into three “bussoli” based on the class level of the guest. The first bussolo was for cardinals, princes and viceroys; the second for feudal lords and governors; and the third for princes and ambassadors. The owners of the palaces were obliged to offer their residences to the guests; however, the entire community benefited from the image that was projected, spreading a culture of hospitality and a cultural and architectural model that has remained to this day and has recently been recognised by UNESCO as a “World Heritage Site”. The ideal route to visit the Palazzi dei Rolli begins in via Balbi, then divides into two possibilities: the first, particularly sumptuous and regal, passes down the ancient via Aurea, today called via Garibaldi; the second, no less scenic route is quite lively, passing down via Lomellini and via San Luca, just steps away from the narrow lanes known as the “carruggi”.
Before becoming the central seat of the University of Genoa, via Balbi was one of Genoa’s “New Roads”. The street runs on a slight downward slant and connects Principe Station with Piazza della Nunziata and the Old Harbour, in the direction of the Aquarium, passing alongside the neo-classical façades of the buildings constructed under the Balbi family, powerful financiers of the Republic of Genoa. A visit to the Palazzo Reale Museum enables visitors to experience the atmosphere of the Rolli. Elegant salons filled with sunlight, rich in art and history but also in the details of daily life: in the rooms of the grand floor one can almost imagine catching a glimpse of the sad prince Oddone of Savoy, who suffered from an incurable illness and came here to pass his last years collecting artworks before his death in 1866.
The palaces of via Balbi differ from those in via Garibaldi for the composition of the interior spaces, favouring monumental grand staircases and courtyards divided between east and west alternating with large hanging gardens, such as the two in Palazzo Cattaneo Adorno. One of the gardens is home to two centuries-old palms which now extrude through the walls of the courtyard. The other is a typical 18th century hanging garden.
The University city can be found by just crossing the street. The Literature Department in Palazzo Raggio has a distinctive characteristic: it not only dates to the period of the Rolli but is also a symbol of student protests. The graffiti inside the building is now considered historical: from the student graffiti of 1977 to patriotic frescoes from the years of the Italian Unification.
From via lomellini to piazza banchi
Narrow streets: here the charms of history and architecture mix together with everyday life. The historical palaces are still inhabited today. Between rococo stucco work and neo-classical door frames are women doing their daily shopping, umbrella vendors and idlers. Just steps away from the Via Del Campo mentioned in the song of Italian singer-songwriter Fabrizio de André is one of the jewels of Genoa’s historical centre: Palazzo Spinola di Pellicceria, containing paintings by Rubens, Van Dyck and Bernardo Strozzi.
Continuing along via San Luca there are more palaces that have been transformed into residences. Look upward: with any luck frescoed ceilings by Tavoroni or Lorenzo De Ferrari done for the Grimaldi family be may glimpsed through an open window. The route ends in piazza Bianchi, possibly the heart of the historical centre, just steps away from the sea.
The route that crosses via Cairoli to follow via Garibaldi to Piazza Fontane Maroese and the salita Santa Caterina is one that has made Genoa famous around the world. The magnificence of its palaces has intrigued artists, poets and painters from around the world. Today’s via Garibaldi was built as “Strada Maggiore”, and then turned into “Strada Nuova”, but until the 19th century it was known as “Via Aurea”. Madame de Staël called it “Rue de Rois”, the Street of Kings for the nobility of its architecture.
Over just 250 metres there is a concentration of 14 palaces built between 1550 and 1716. Peter Paul Rubens visited Genoa a number of times in the early 1600s and dedicated a volume illustrating the grandeur of the palaces along Strada Nuova. Today many of the buildings are home to important galleries and museums such as Palazzo Rosso and Palazzo Bianco, or organisations and institutions such as Palazzo Tursi, the Town Hall, which had been erroneously attributed to Michelangelo owing to the bravura of its architecture.
There are also some intriguing secrets that via Aurea can reveal. One anecdote involves telemons, the two statues holding up the doorway of Lercari Parodi, at number 3: their missing noses are a reminder of the terrible revenge of Megollo Lercari, who, after being slapped by the king of Trabzon, took revenge on his enemies by cutting off their noses and ears.
Palazzo Campanella, at via Garibaldi 12, now houses offices and private studios, but an interior design shop on the second floor allows visitors to admire rooms with marvellous stucco work, such as the white alcove stuccoed with the figures of lovers.
Palazzo Podestà, at number 14: a façade decorated with masks, garlands and white triumphs on a dark background hides an interior courtyard with a fountain and a pond full of the giant carps that are the delight of children.
The offices of the Chamber of Commerce, at number 4, can be visited by consulting with the doormen there: it contains splendid tapestries and a gallery of gilded stuccoes.
The frescoes at number 3, Palazzo Lercari Parodi, now home to an auction house, are quite curious: alongside valuable paintings by Cambiaso are frescoes that were “retouched” in the 18th century. Between the Raphaelesque decorations and vaults one may glimpse the surprising depiction of a steam locomotive. Piazza Fontane Marose is the natural outlet of via Garibaldi. Here, tournaments and knight’s jousts are held among the neo-classical façades of Palazzo Pallavicino and the decidedly Genoese-style elegance of Palazzo Spinola with its pattern of white marble and black slate.
The Palazzi dei Rolli, wrote Rolli historical scholar Ennio Poleggi, represent an authentic “republican royal estate”, and still represent a city where contrasts are a source of wealth and culture.
How to get there
By car: exit Genova-Ovest, continue for about 1.5 km in the direction of the centre (via Milano, Via Gramsci). Via Balbi is on the left side of the street. Parking: Park Acquario (780 parking spaces) is located 250 metres from the Rolli. Disabled parking is located in front of the Commenda on the western side of the street.
By train: from Principe Station, walk to Acquaverde, salita San Giovanni, piazza della Commenda; or take bus lines 34, 35 e 37 Gramsci 1/Commenda stop.
From Brignole Station: take trains heading west for Principe Station or bus lines 18 or 18/ Gramsci 3/Commenda stop.
( Fonte: www.turismoinliguria.it)