Once a fishing village, Genoa grew without plan or forethought across a series of hillsides. As a result, it feels unpredictable, as... more » if something surprising—a mansion, a crevice, a Minotaur—could be hidden around the next corner. It dominated commerce in the upper Mediterranean for centuries and is renowned for flinging open its doors to anyone with the wherewithal to dock a boat. It’s also absurdly difficult to traverse. "The most winding and incoherent of cities, the most entangled topographical ravel in the world," Henry James called it.
Nevertheless, James loved Genoa. So did Flaubert, and Joseph Conrad, who set part of his last novel there, and Wagner, who insisted that Paris and London "pale by comparison." They loved the eclecticism of its architecture, the unexpected vistas from its hillsides. I’m certain, too, that they reveled in the cerebral conversation that one finds at meals and parties and even trips to the barber in Genoa. It’s a vital, energetic city with a constant bustle and hum; in a country full of dramatic ports with unique characters, it’s the biggest and most important to the national economy." less «