Accompanied by a most courteous marchand, called Tomson, we went to view the rarities. The city is built in the hollow or bosom of a mountain, whose ascent is very steep, high, and rocky, so that, from the Lantern and Mole to the hill, it represents the shape of a theater; the streets and buildings so ranged one above another, as our seats are in the playhouses; but, from their materials, beauty, and structure, never was an artificial scene more beautiful to the eye, nor is any place, for the size of it, so full of well-designed and stately palaces, as may be easily concluded by that rare book1 in a large folio which the great virtuoso and painter, Paul Rubens, has published, though it contains [the description of] only one street and two or three churches.

 

“Genova (Genoa)” by Braun and Hogenberg from Civitates Orbis Terrarum. 1572

The first palace we went to visit was that of Hieronymo del Negros2, to which we passed by boat across the harbor. Here I could not but observe the sudden and devilish passion of a seaman, who plying us was intercepted by another fellow, that interposed his boat before him and took us in; for the tears gushing out of his eyes, he put his finger in his mouth and almost bit it off by the joint, showing it to his antagonist as an assurance to him of some bloody revenge, if ever he came near that part of the harbor again. Indeed this beautiful city is more stained with such horrid acts of revenge and murders, than any one place in Europe, or haply in the world, where there is a political government, which makes it unsafe to strangers. It is made a galley matter to carry a knife whose point is not broken off.

“Palazzo Di Negro” from the Palazzi di Genova by Peter Paul Rubens. 1622. Source: rijksmuseum

This palace of Negros is richly furnished with the rarest pictures; on the terrace, or hilly garden, there is a grove of stately trees, among which are sheep, shepherds, and wild beasts, cut very artificially in a gray stone; fountains, rocks, and fish ponds; casting your eyes one way, you would imagine yourself in a wilderness and silent country; sideways, in the heart of a great city; and backward, in the midst of the sea. All this is within one acre of ground. In the house, I noticed those red-plaster floors which are made so hard, and kept so polished, that for some time one would take them for whole pieces of porphyry. I have frequently wondered that we never practiced this [art] in England for cabinets and rooms of state3, for it appears to me beyond any invention of that kind; but by their carefully covering them with canvass and fine mattresses, where there is much passage, I suppose they are not lasting there in glory, and haply they are often repaired.

There are numerous other palaces of particular curiosities, for the marchands being very rich, have, like our neighbors, the Hollanders4 , little or no extent of ground to employ their estates in; as those in pictures and hangings, so these lay it out on marble houses and rich furniture. One of the greatest here for circuit is that of the Prince Doria, which reaches from the sea to the summit of the mountains. The house is most magnificently built without, nor less gloriously furnished within5, having whole tables and bedsteads of massy silver, many of them set with agates, onyxes, cornelians, lazulis, pearls, torquoises, and other precious stones. The pictures and statues are innumerable. To this palace belong three gardens, the first whereof is beautified with a terrace, supported by pillars of marble; there is a fountain of eagles, and one of Neptune, with other sea-gods, all of the purest white marble; they stand in a most ample basin of the same stone. At the side of this garden is such an aviary as Sir Francis Bacon describes in his “Sermones Fidelium,” or “Essays,” wherein grow trees of more than two feet diameter, besides cypress, myrtles, lentiscuses, and other rare shrubs, which serve to nestle and perch all sorts of birds, who have air and place enough under their airy canopy, supported with huge iron work, stupendous for its fabric and the charge. The other two gardens are full of orange trees, citrons, and pomegranates, fountains, grots, and statues. One of the latter is a colossal Jupiter, under which is the sepulchre of a beloved dog, for the care of which one of this family received of the King of Spain 500 crowns a year, during the life of that faithful animal. The reservoir of water here is a most admirable piece of art; and so is the grotto over against it.

Detail showing the King of Spain’s dog from “Ritratto del Cane Rolando” by Aurelio Lomi. Date unknown, artist lived 1546-1622.

We went hence to the Palace of the Dukes, where is also the Court of Justice; thence to the Merchant’s Walk, rarely covered. Near the Ducal Palace we saw the public armory, which was almost all new, most neatly kept and ordered, sufficient for 30,000 men. We were showed many rare inventions and engines of war peculiar to that armory, as in the state when guns were first put in use. The garrison of the town chiefly consists of Germans and Corsicans. The famous Strada Nova, built wholly of polished marble, was designed by Rubens, and for stateliness of the buildings, paving, and evenness of the street, is far superior to any in Europe, for the number of houses; that of Don Carlo Doria is a most magnificent structure.

“Palazzo Carlo Doria Tursi” from the Palazzi di Genova by Peter Paul Rubens. 1622.

In the gardens of the old Marquis Spinola, I saw huge citrons hanging on the trees, applied like our apricots to the walls. The churches are no less splendid than the palaces; that of St. Francis is wholly built of Parian marble; St. Laurence, in the middle of the city, of white and black polished stone, the inside wholly incrusted with marble and other precious materials; on the altar of St. John stand four sumptuous columns of porphyry; and here we were showed an emerald, supposed to be one of the largest in the world. The church of St. Ambrosio, belonging to the Jesuits, will, when finished, exceed all the rest; and that of the Annunciada, founded at the charges of one family, in the present and future design can never be outdone for cost and art. From the churches we walked to the Mole, a work of solid huge stone, stretching itself near 600 paces into the main sea, and secures the harbor, heretofore of no safety. Of all the wonders of Italy, for the art and nature of the design, nothing parallels this. We passed over to the Pharos, or Lantern, a tower of very great height. Here we took horses, and made the circuit of the city as far as the new walls, built of a prodigious height, and with Herculean industry; witness those vast pieces of whole mountains which they have hewn away, and blown up with gunpowder, to render them steep and inaccessible. They are not much less than twenty English miles in extent, reaching beyond the utmost buildings of the city. From one of these promontories we could easily discern the island of Corsica; and from the same, eastward, we saw a vale having a great torrent running through a most desolate barren country; and then turning our eyes more northward, saw those delicious villas of St. Pietro d’Arena, which present another Genoa to you, the ravishing retirements of the Genoese nobility. Hence, with much pain, we descended toward the Arsenal, where the galleys lie in excellent order.

The inhabitants of the city are much affected to the Spanish mode and stately garb. From the narrowness of the streets, they use sedans and litters, and not coaches.


  1. Palazzi di Genova, 139 plates published by Rubens at Antwerp in 1622, from designs probably made at Genoa in 1607. –AD 

  2. Almost certainly the “Palazzo Ambrogio Di Negro” home of Ambrogio Di Negro, doge of Genova in 1585.  This palace is said to have a pensile, or hanging garden. -GS 

  3. There are such at Hardwick Hall, in Derbyshire, a seat of the Duke of Devonshire. –AD 

  4. Cf. ante, p22 -AD 

  5. In his Voyage to Italy, 1670, i. p. 94, Lassels says that one of these weighed 24,000 lbs. – AD