See The Majestic UNESCO Monuments
The stunning Palaces of the Rolls in Genoa, Italy are a proud part of the city’s heritage and culture. Dozens of beautiful stately homes here are UNESCO listed. If you plan on going to Genoa, take a stroll to see the architectural splendour of these majestic monuments in the historic part of the city, a real highlight not to be missed.
You can easily include Genoa in your trip to Italy, accessible from many major tourist spots. I spent a few days in this delightful part of the country after visiting Cinque Terre, La Spezia and Milan, and loved everything about this gorgeous seaside city. I’m sure you will too.
The Palazzi dei Rolli of Genoa are the city’s most significant tourist attraction and a Unesco World Heritage Site. They are scattered around the city but a number of the palaces are found in one elegant district. Many of these splendid palatial buildings are gathered in one location.
These palaces served an important and unique function for the international diplomatic community. What does this mean?
An unusual urban system of lodging and hospitality for important guests of the state was created here, a first in Europe, whereby the exclusive residences belonging to the nobility were used as VIP accommodation. A curious concept which was put in place in the absence of a royal court in Genoa which would normally host official guests, as in other kingdoms.
The Genoese Aristocrats
The Republic of Genoa in the 1500’s was a maritime power in Europe and the city was flourishing. Certain families became super wealthy amassing their fortunes from trade, banking and building ships.
These Genoese aristocrats decided they wanted to build their lavish homes next to each other, in an exclusive avenue, near the medieval centre and close to the port.
There were 4 main elite families of Genoa at the time – Spinola, Grimaldi, Doria, Fieschi. Many of the palaces bear these names.
They were given permission to build their palatial homes to create their own prestigious district. But in return they were obliged by Genoa’s Senate in 1576, to host important visiting dignitaries, such as princes, lords and cardinals, at their private palaces and in so doing display Genoa’s exquisite wealth and power to the world.
The Rolli system
The prestigious palaces were each categorised on an official list, a roll, according to their suitability for particular distinguished guests. The more important the guest, the more luxurious the palace they lodged in.
For the powerful families, it was considered a privilege to be part of the Rolli system.
They had to fund the cost of accommodating the dignitaries themselves.
The UNESCO Palaces
Dozens of palaces located in the historic part of the city, 42 palaces to be exact, that used to belong to the nobility from the 16th to 18th centuries, are now part of the UNESCO world heritage listing.
The Renaissance and Baroque style architecture of the mansions is stunning. All of them have 3 or 4 stories, hidden gardens within the grounds, courtyards, balconies, fountains, lavish halls and atriums, and are richly decorated throughout with splendid art and frescoes.
The exterior facades of marble, elaborate gilded features and embellished family crests are beautiful.
Many have been preserved as they were originally.
The main road is Via Garibaldi, an impressive thoroughfare of palaces. Definitely a highlight of the city. Here you will see wall-to-wall palaces. There is 14 palaces in total here.
The street is 250m long, but very narrow, mainly for pedestrians, and is shadowed by the immense buildings, built shoulder to shoulder on either side.
The road was initially named Strada Nuova (New Street). Other Strade Nuove in the city are Via Balbi and Via Cairoli, with grand palaces also.
Take a stroll down Via Garibaldi. Admire the beauty of these historic mansions. There are many cafes and ice cream shops along the road to enjoy as well.
Visit The Palazzi dei Rolli
Some of the palaces are now art galleries, museums, banks and offices, and are open for you to visit all year round.
The most notable palaces in Via Garibaldi are Palazzo Doria Tursi, Palazzo Bianco and Palazzo Rosso. These form the Strada Nuova Museum Complex, bursting with paintings, frescoes, famous artefacts and masterpieces on exhibition.
Other palaces are private residences, which only open during the Rolli Days. This is a regular event held a few days per year, celebrating the palaces in all their glory. During these days the public can visit some of the mansions and view the opulence of the interiors, adorned with art frescoes and antique furnishings, and relive the magnificent history of the Rolli.
Rolli Days: Usually held in May and October. Check website for details.
Location: The main street of the Palaces of the Rolls is called Via G. Garibaldi, where there are 14 palazzi together.
Cost: Walking the street is free. Some palazzi are free to enter. Others cost a few euros.
iPhone App: There is a handy Palazzi dei Rolli Genova App which you can download here.
Map: Check this map to see where all the Palazzi dei Rolli are located.
I recommend you visit the Palazzi dei Rolli in Genoa for yourself if you are planning a trip to Northern Italy.
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Recommended tours of Genoa including Palaces of The Rolls
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I booked my accommodation through Booking.com and I was very happy. The apartment was huge, clean, well appointed and had fabulous views of the city and sea, as you can see here.