If like me you’ve been to Milan, then you’re doubtless familiar with the world’s oldest shopping mall. Even those who’ve never been may well have seen pictures of the intersecting glass roofed arcades that are populated by famous caffé shops and top end fashion houses. McDonalds were famously refused the renewal of their lease, allowing Prada to open a second store in the Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II.
Genoa also has its galleria, but before you get too excited about a high class shopping experience as part of your visit to the city I should warn you of two problems. Yes, there is a covered shopping arcade; the Galleria Mazzini, but this is a tired affair that suffered from the bombing of the nearby theatre in WWII. Though the Teatro Carlo Felice was restored in the 90’s the intervening decades made the Galleria less attractive, and nowadays the fashion houses can be found in a nearby street.
But then there’s the Galleria Nino Bixio, and the Galleria Giuseppe Garibaldi. Even more disappointing to the keen shopper, these are very different structures but with a very important role to fulfil. Galleria is also the Italian word for tunnel.
I’ve described the city’s narrow medieval streets before; streets that are totally unsuitable for modern vehicles and certainly not goods vehicles. Deliveries are made by small, mostly electric carts, but moving produce to and from the port requires good roads. These tunnels were built in the 19th century for trams, but early in the 20th were enlarged to allow other road users to by-pass the rabbit warren of La Maddalena.
There is a more significant traffic artery and one that blights the city. Skirting the edge of the newly redeveloped Porto Antico is a hideous flyover, built in the reconstruction period following the war, and bisecting any view of the city from the port (and vice versa). I’m sure those heading for the beautiful coastal ports of the Cinque Terre are grateful for being able to drive over rather than through Genoa, but for those in Italy’s sixth largest city it’s an eyesore. No matter how much you might try to decorate it.