Genoa has been an important maritime power since the 11th century, with its famous Lanterna lighthouse on its promontory guiding ships into port since the Middle Ages.
Genoa is largest commercial port in Italy and has been at the centre of Genoan life and development throughout the city’s history.
Direct access to the sea in a region dominated by steep cliffs was Genoa’s major advantage over surrounding countryside and made it an obvious choice for settlement and commercial development as a port.
Historians believe that the natural harbour provided by Genoa has been used since the 1st century BC, by the Etruscan and Ligurian people who originally inhabited the region.
By the 11th century, Genoa was a significant axis for trade between Europe, the Mediterranean and the Black Sea.
An enduring symbol of this maritime power is the famous Lanterna lighthouse, which still watches over the port today.
It was first constructed in 1128, using dried juniper wood to fuel the signal fires and guide ships safely into port.
This ancient maritime history has produced a number of important Genoese admirals and seafarers, the most famous of whom is Christopher Colombus.
Colombus’s voyages across the Atlantic in the 15th century were critical to the European understanding of geography and navigation, and the colonization of the Americas in the subsequent years.
As well as maritime pride in their most famous citizen, Genoese natives have long been associated with the sea and port through their work as camalli.
Derived from the word for camels, the “Company of the Caravan” is an ancient guild of camalli port workers, established in 1340.
The modern port of Genoa is situated across the western half of the city’s coastline, stretching over 17 kilometres and providing nearly 50 kilometres of berthing and facilities for passenger and freight ships.