Genoa, “La Superba”: The Rise and Fall of a Merchant Pirate Superpower

In This Review

Genoa, “La Superba”: The Rise and Fall of a Merchant Pirate Superpower
By Nicholas Walton
Oxford University Press, 2015
256 pp.

British expats have written so many books about Italian daily life that I habitually ignore them when selecting titles to review. Yet this one caught my eye. Most such books cover standard tourist spots or cute country houses, but this one profiles Genoa, a gritty port city that once held a privileged spot on the Grand Tour of the continent that was a rite of passage for wealthy Europeans from the mid-seventeenth to the mid-nineteenth century. Genoa now attracts few foreigners aside from those changing trains. Although the book is filled with the requisite stories about colorful locals, architectural monuments, and the unique cuisine served in neighborhood restaurants, it also dwells extensively on Genoa’s fascinating history. Even well-read Europhiles tend to forget about the bold Genoese, who held their own for centuries through trading and piracy and also supplied naval mercenaries to the world, notably John Cabot and Christopher Columbus. Walton’s description of the city’s past and present may convince readers, as it convinced me, to put Genoa on the itinerary of a future visit to Italy.

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