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The Monumental Cemetery of Staglieno

The magnificent sea port of Genoa, situated in the north of Italy, is the perfect spot for a two-day getaway. There you can discover the jewels yielded by the sediment of numerous stories that took place in that city over the years.

The old harbour is undoubtedly Genoa’s major attraction. To mark the 500th anniversary of the discovery of America – one of the city’s most celebrated citizens was Christopher Columbus – the harbour was renovated, a make-over that was long overdue. The result of that restoration includes the Bigo, a futuristic structure designed by Renzo Piano affording interesting views over the city, in addition to the Aquarium, the Biosphere and the Galata Sea Museum, one of the largest marine exhibitions in Europe.

But, apart from its harbour, the capital of Liguria offers many other enticements, such as strolling through the Old Town and wandering around the caruggi or dark, narrow back streets. Also worth visiting are the Palazzi dei Rolli, a system of 16th- and 17th-century Renaissance and Baroque palaces, forty-two of which are listed as World Heritage Sites by UNESCO. Not to be missed either are Genoa Cathedral, dedicated to St Lawrence, and the spectacular Piazza de Ferrari. For those eager to delve into Italy’s history, the place to head for is the Museo del Risorgimento, housed in the erstwhile residence of Giuseppe Mazzini, a key figure in the unification of the country.

The Monumental Cemetery of Staglieno

Apart from these monuments and landmarks, which you are sure to come across in the course of any tourist itinerary through the city, Genoa has another unusual attraction well worth visiting, the Monumental Cemetery of Staglieno. Located on the outskirts of Genoa, on a hillside next to the Bisagno Valley in the Staglieno district, lies one of Europe’s largest cemeteries, celebrated for its interesting sculptural and architectural ensembles on tombs and pantheons.

The construction of cemeteries on the outskirts of towns got under way after the 1804 Napoleonic Edict of Saint-Cloud, by which burials in churches or within city walls were banned. In the case of Genoa, Carlo Barabino was tasked with designing the city’s new cemetery in 1835. Construction work began in 1844 and the precinct was inaugurated in 1851, although building continued until 1880. The precinct was extended over time and areas dedicated to other religions were added, notably the Jewish, Orthodox, Protestant and English cemeteries – the latter houses the tomb of  Oscar Wilde’s wife, Constance Lloyd.

Its origins coincide with the rise of a markedly affluent bourgeoisie, intent on extolling their merits for posterity, to which end they commissioned artists to adorn their opulent mausoleums. These artists included such sculptors as Leonardo Bistolfi, Augusto Rivalta, Giulio Monteverde and Edoardo Alfieri.

A walk through this graveyard effectively becomes a tour of the different art styles that emerged in the 19th and 20th century, as visitors are regaled with works of Neoclassicism, Symbolism, Liberty and Art Deco. This is augmented by the presence of nature, in the guise of plant growth interspersed among the various architectural features, making for an unsettling yet inspiring experience.

Many a visitor has succumbed to the charms of this monumental cemetery. Friedrich Nietzsche and Paul Rée used to discuss philosophy as they strolled through it, while Hemingway described it as “One of the wonders of the world”. Peter Saville, for his part, used photos by Bernard Pierre Wolff of some of the sculptures in the cemetery when he designed the Joy Division album covers for Love Will Tear Us Apart and Closer.

Book your Vueling to this fantastic Mediterranean city – discover its old harbour, stroll through itscaruggi,soak up the beauty of its palaces and drop in on this very special cemetery.

Text by Los Viajes de ISABELYLUIS

Images by jeff kerwin, Enrico Sirola, Superchilum

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