One of the greatest landmarks in Genoa, a city located just south of Milan in northern Italy, is a remarkable lighthouse that is much older than all the structures surrounding it.
Let’s take a closer look at some of the most interesting facts about the Lighthouse of Genoa, a symbol of the city that has an extensive history dating back to the Middle Ages.
1. It’s the most distinctive landmark in the Port of Genoa
As you probably expected, the Lighthouse of Geno is located right in the heart of the Port of Genoa, one of the biggest ports in Europe. It’s the most famous port in Italy considering its extensive history of over 1,000 years in the northern part of the country.
Although it covers an immense area of 700 hectares (1,700 acres) of which 500 hectares (1,200 acres) are occupied by the port itself, it’s not the largest port by trade volume.
The Port of Genoa has a trading volume of 51.6 million tonnes a year which means it’s only surpassed by the Port of Trieste on the Adriatic Coast which has a cargo tonnage of 62 million tonnes.
2. The original lighthouse dates back to the early 12th century
While the port originally opened around the year 1000 A.D., the original Lighthouse of Genoa in this location was built around 1128. This was an equally distinctive landmark as the current version and consisted of 3 crenelated towers.
What’s remarkable is that it was located pretty far from the medieval city and was only incorporated into the outer walls of Genoa in the 17th century.
This medieval structure was damaged multiple times and also served as a prison at one point. It was originally lit with dry pieces of juniper and erica wood, an old system that was replaced with an oil-based lantern in the year 1326.
3. The current lighthouse replaced the medieval one in the 16th century
The current form of the lighthouse was reached during the 16th-century reconstruction phase which was completed in the year 1543. This means it’s the third-oldest lighthouse in the world today.
Only the Tower of Hercules (1st century A.D.) in A Coruña, Spain, and Kõpu Lighthouse (1531), on an island called Hiiumaa, Estonia, are older.
Because there was already a much older structure on this location present it wasn’t a completely newly built lighthouse. The current lighthouse was simply built on top of the ruins of the medieval version that was destroyed during a battle between the Genovese and the French.
4. It’s still one of the tallest lighthouses in the world today
There’s a reason why the Lighthouse of Genoa is one of the most prominent landmarks in the Port of Genoa. That’s because it stands 76 meters (249 feet) tall which makes it the fifth-tallest lighthouse in the world today.
It was built on a natural outcrop along the coastline, the main reason why it dominates the huge port. Together with the rock formation that it was built on it reaches a height of 117 meters (383 feet).
It was the tallest lighthouse in the world between its completion in 1543 and the completion of the lighthouse on Île Vierge, France, in 1902. Together with its natural foundation, it would be the second-tallest lighthouse in the world and the tallest in Europe as well.
5. It’s the symbol of Genoa and also of the city’s local football derby
The Lighthouse of Genoa is the ultimate symbol of this port city in northern Italy. It’s also the symbol of the local derby between the rival football clubs Genoa C.F.C. and U.C. Sampdoria.
When these two football clubs meet each other they play the so-called “Derby della Lanterna.” This game is played in the northeastern part of the city in a stadium they both share called the Stadio Luigi Ferraris.
It’s a heated affair when these two clubs from the same city meet, especially because it’s the oldest derby in Italy.
More interesting facts about the Lighthouse of Genoa
6. The original lighthouse was built in a strategic location alongside the Via de Francia. This was the main medieval road which lead from Paris to Rome.
It remains unclear until today whether or not the road was located in between the sea and the lighthouse to the other way around.
7. There’s only one form of decoration painted on the lighthouse and that’s the coat of arms of the city of Genoa on the lower section.
This was painted on for the first time in the year 1340 to turn the relatively dull-looking structure into a better daymark. The boats that saw this coat of arms were welcomed by having to pay a tax to enter the port.
8. The medieval lighthouse was damaged on multiple occasions and had to be completely rebuilt in the 16th century. The current structure had to undergo several renovations as well, especially following the Bombardment of Genoa by the French in the year 1684.
The final renovation project was completed in 1956 following damage caused by American and British air raids on Genoa at the end of World War II.
9. The primitive wood-based lighting system was replaced by a huge oil lamp in 1326 of which the fire was sparked by olive oil.
Following the invention of the Fresnal Lens in the early 19th century, such a powerful device was first installed in 1840 and became operational in January 1841. Although the structure was completely modernized in 1916, it wasn’t until 1936 that the lighthouse became completely automated.
10. If you want to learn about the lighthouse, the history of the city of Genoa, and its port, then you can visit the Lanterna Museum of “Museo della Lanterna.” This museum can be reached by walking across a section of the 17th-century wall right across from the structure.
You can also visit the interior of the lighthouse and go all the way to the top. Here you can get stunning views of the city of Genoa, its port, and its surroundings.