We invite you to discover the city of Genoa through its greatest artists and its most famous songs. Are you ready for a musical ride? Put on your headphones and let yourself be guided!
« Nei quartieri dove il sole del buon Dio non dà i suoi raggi / ha già troppi impegni per scaldar la gente d’altri paraggi / Una bimba canta la canzone antica della donnaccia / quel che ancor non sai, tu lo imparerai solo qui fra le mie braccia ». Let’s be honest, the Genoa of Fabrizio De Andrè’s song “Città vecchia” hasn’t existed for some time. The world has moved on, as has the music scene in the city’s old town.
Genoa was a hotbed of literary and musical talent in the 1900s, gifting the world of entertainment stars such as Gino Paoli, Fabrizio De Andrè (aka Faber), Luigi Tenco, Bruno Lauzi, Umberto Bindi, Sergio Endrigo and many others. It was a world of contrasts. Tens of thousands of people found work against the coal-stained backdrop of this purely industrial city, concentrated around its port. And thousands more crowded into the factories in the city’s west end, where the steelworks and shipyards were based. But, paradoxically, out of this immense heavy industry grew some of the most famous names in Italian music.
And it was not only those born in the city; numerous musicians were influenced by and grew artistically because of Genoa, from Ivano Fossati to Paolo Conte, Ricchi e Poveri, Matia Bazar, Vittorio De Scalzi’s New Trolls, and Francesco Baccini.
Crammed in between the colossal industrial works in the west and the golden, jet-set life of the Ligurian Riviera on the east – home to towns such as Santa Margherita and Portofino – Genoa was the birthplace of songs such as “Il cielo in una stanza”, “Io che amo solo te”, and “Ciao amore, ciao,” as well as memorable albums including “La buona novella” and “Storia di un impiegato”. But how can we go back and relive that magical atmosphere, when the city has changed so fundamentally on the surface?
Here’s our suggestion for a very special city tour. Just landed at Christopher Columbus Airport? It’s time to head into the city centre. Along the way you’ll pass by a typical port scene, but one that’s on an entirely different scale, then within minutes you’ll find yourself in the very heart of Genoa. Ready to get started? Grab your headphones and off we go.
CREUZA DE MÄ – Fabrizio De Andrè
Once you reach the Sottoripa neighbourhood, stick your headphones on and get back to basics: “Crëuza de ma” is the only song that can truly introduce you to Genoa’s maze of little vicoli. And don’t worry if you don’t understand a word of the lyrics – Genoese is a tricky dialect! But trust me, Fabrizio De Andrè’s words are perfect for walking you through these tiny streets that have seen centuries of history, war and rebuilding. Although it’s not quite lunchtime yet, we recommend keeping with the musical vibes by stopping off at the Antica Friggitoria Carega. This place’s simplicity and its fried seafood – made the old-fashioned way – are at least half responsible for its great reputation. Besides the fact that it was one of De Andrè’s favourite haunts of course!
Good to carry on? Then let’s head back to Via del Campo and another classic by “Faber,” as he is still affectionately known by the whole city even now, twenty years after his death. Here you’ll find a museum dedicated to this singer-songwriter and to the “Scuola Genovese”. It’s based at Via del Campo 29 Red, which once upon a time was a musical instruments shop owned by Gianni Tassio, a retailer and acquaintance of many of these artists. If the fried snacks back in Sottoripa really whet your appetite, this next song will be right up your street. This time we’ll put on “A Çimma,” dedicated to one of Genoa’s most quintessential dishes: Cima.
The words at the start of the song will draw you into the “Ghetto” neighbourhood, a tangle of lesser-trodden streets away from the main tourist drag. But don’t worry; Genoa is always able to rustle up an airy piazza just around the corner from some dingy alleyway. Here you’ll find a delightful restaurant that weaves together this complex neighbourhood with its contemporary dishes: La Locanda degli Adorno. And there’s nothing like a long walk to burn off your meal.
Genova Blues – Francesco Baccini & Fabrizio De Andrè
Time to leave the historic centre for the completely regenerated Porto Antico, near Genoa’s aquarium. Let’s continue our musical odyssey with “Genova Blues” by Francesco Baccini and Fabrizio De Andrè. This blues ballad tells the tale of a more modern city (we’re in the early 90s now) and will lead you almost naturally to the Genoa Museum, in the Palazzina San Giobatta. With apologies to fans of the city’s other team, Sampdoria, this museum is a great place to learn about the city’s past through its sporting glory!
Let’s move on from the centre of the city to the eastern part of the Riviera. Over in Boccadasse, there are some very well-known songs to put you in just the right mood. Do you know “La Gatta” by Gino Paoli? It was written right here, in this seaside village lapped by the waves. It’s a magical place – a fairytale land within the city. Paoli spent quite a lot of time here, having grown up in the Pegli neighbourhood. And at Strambata, right beside the water’s edge, a welcome glass of wine awaits for the perfect musical aperitif.
But Boccadasse doesn’t end with the houses looking out over the bay. It’s worth scrambling your way up the little alleys (creuze) as far as the Capo Santa Chiara. As you head back down to the sea, switch artist once more. This time, we’ll change the record a bit and go for some 70s prog rock. It was in fact in here in Sturla where the father of founding New Troll Vittorio De Scalzi had a restaurant. Take a seat on the wall in Vernazzola at press play on “Quella carezza della sera”.
Evening is drawing on and it’s time for the last two stop-offs. As you wander down the long seaside street through Sturla, Quarto dei Mille and Quinto, your soundtrack absolutely has to be “Stasera… che sera!” by Matia Bazar. If you’re feeling peckish, I recommend Zio Reginaldo, just before you reach the splendid Nervi. Otherwise, to round off the day, carry on few hundred metres further to the city’s chic Nervi district, where Luigi Tenco used to live.
I hope you’ve enjoyed your whistle-stop tour of Genoa’s music through the years, ahead of the inauguration of the Museo dei Cantautori: the Singer-Songwriters Museum. Let’s finish with the words of Paolo Conte: « Con quella faccia un po’ così / Quell’espressione un po’così / Che abbiamo noi / Che abbiamo visto Genova ». (“With that funny face / That funny expression / We have / Having seen Genoa”).
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