Strada Nuova (or New Street) was new in the second half of the sixteenth century, a major new thoroughfare, cut through the warren of narrow streets of medieval Genoa. Built at a time when Genoa was at the height of its seafaring and commercial power, this street gathered together many of the city’s most powerful families.
The palazzi of Via Garibaldi (as Strada Nuova is now known) were among 163 residences included in the Rolli degli alloggiamenti pubblici di Genova or Lists of the Public Lodgings of Genoa. This wasn’t a guide to grand hotels but rather an ingenious way for the Republic of Genoa to accommodate visiting foreign dignitaries. The Palazzi dei Rolli were subdivided into three categories with with size, beauty and importance as the main criteria for selecting whether each palace was suitable to accommodate cardinals, princes and viceroys, feudal lords, ambassadors or governors. Each state visitor was allocated to a host from the appropriate list by drawing lots.
Today 42 of the palaces are included on a new list, recording their status as part of a UNESCO World Heritage Site. This listing doesn’t come with any obligation to host visiting bishops and ambassadors but rather with an occasional duty to open the palace doors to the general public. Palazzi still in private ownership are only generally open to guided tours a few times a year but many of the front doors are left open allowing curious passersby to venture as far as the entrance lobby or courtyard.
Each palazzo shows its individuality in scale, details and decoration but the layout usually follows a standard pattern. The front door opens first into a lobby (I’m sure there’s a grander name) followed by a paved courtyard with often a garden courtyard beyond. Where the palace is built into the side of a hill the courtyards may be on first or second floor level, conveniently accessible from the principle rooms on the upper floors.
A post for Thursday Doors.