superba

Genoa, superb for men and for walls

Like a middle land embracing sea and mountains, Genoa has earned a variety of nicknames throughout its history.

Among the many, “la Superba” is certainly the best-known appellation of the Ligurian city, assigned to it by Francesco Petrarch back in 1358 (just a few years ago).

In this article we will find out why Genoa is called the Superb, and the meaning of that nickname.

Itinerarium Syriacum: the journey of Francis Petrarch

It was way back in 1358, when the poet from Arezzo Francesco Petrarch traveled to Genoa to visit the sacred places of Jesus’ life: in this city he began the writing of Itinerarium Syriacum, a letter intended for his friend Giovanni Mandelli, but also for all those pilgrims heading for Jerusalem.

In fact, the Itinerarium Syriacum described the locations the poet passed through along the Tyrrhenian coast on his way to the Holy Land.

This is why Genoa is called the Superb

During his stay in Genoa, Petrarch could not help but notice the magnificence of this city: on the one hand the infinite grandeur of the sea, on the other the grandeur of the mountains.

Petrarch described the city with admiration in his piece Description of Genoa thus:

“You will see a royal city, leaning against an alpine hill, superb in men and walls, whose appearance alone indicates her to be the lady of the sea.”

It seems as if the writer wanted to refer to the appearance of the city. An imposing and grand city that proudly reaches out to the sea-that is why Genoa is called the Superb.

For more than eight centuries Genoa was also called The Dominant, The Dominant of the Seas, and The Republic of the Magnificent.

The origin of the name of Genoa

Genoa’s name comes from the Latin Genua: it is traced back to an Indo-European root that alludes to one of the ancient waterways on the site, or to the shape of the settlement by the sea. We are talking about the Indo-European roots geneu (knee) or genu (jaw, mouth).

Confirmation comes from the discovery of some archaeological finds from the ancient village in Brignole Square, dating back to the Bronze Age, the Etruscan necropolis at Acquasola, and the 5,000 B.C. pile dwelling in Victoria Square.

These findings confirmed that Genoa’s earliest settlements arose along the right bank of the Bisagno stream.

Other theories trace the origin of the name back to the Etruscan word Kainua, found engraved on a fragment of a vase, and which in the Etruscan language would mean “new city.” Or it could derive from the Greek Xenos, “foreigner,” which in this context indicates a gathering place for foreigners, a characteristic of a port city.

Legend has it that Genoa’s name derives from one of the oldest and most important deities of Roman, Italic, and Latin religion: we are talking about Janus, god of beginnings, both material and immaterial. This is because just like the two-faced Janus, Genoa has two faces-one facing the sea, the other beyond the mountains that surround the city.

Visiting the Superb, between history and the Middle Ages

Genoa is a city rich in history: here you can delve into Europe’s largest historic center to visit the Palazzi dei Rolli (UNESCO World Heritage Site), or visit the Old Port, once the center of Genoese merchant activity.

If you want to learn more about activities to do in Genoa, or places to visit on foot, we recommend reading our article on 10 things to see in Genoa.

Where to stay

Just under a kilometer from the city center and a hundred meters from Brignole train station, Urban Flora is the perfect place to visit La Superba.

With us you will experience a Scandinavian-modern look, where fresh and pleasant plants will make you enjoy as much relaxation as possible and for an unforgettable vacation. All rooms provide a private bathroom, smart TV and free Wi-Fi that will make you feel right at home. Book your room now or contact us to ask for more information.

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