Genoa: Two Churches, Two “Museums,” and Chris’s Place

Churches, museums, and art galleries labelled as museums* tend to occupy large parts of my visits to old European cities. Today perpetuated that tradition.

But, wait. There’s more. I also visited Chris’s place. However, Chris’s place now serves as a museum. An actual museum, not an art gallery. Not much of one, it’s true. But read on, dear reader.

* Way back in 2019, on a post in this journal about the Thysen-Bornemisza Museum in Madrid, I did a long riff about how what I call an art gallery, Europeans tend to call a museum (or, rather, the equivalent in their language). And what I call a museum they they tend to also call a museum (or, rather, again, the equivalent in their native tongue). That also applies in this post.

Churches, Part I: Basilica Santa Maria delle Vigne

Basilica Santa Maria delle Vigne
Basilica Santa Maria delle Vigne

The first of the two churches I visited today was the Basilica Santa Maria delle Vigne. It is a beautiful old church.

Artworks adorn the walls of the basilica. Pillars to the left and right frame the paintings. Some of the pillars are plain cylinders. Others have spiralling edges. That is to say, the pillars to the left and right of each painting are roughly identical. But they vary among the paintings.

It’s a church. So I don’t need to tell you that there’s a lot of Christian prayer infrastructure and iconography. Since I don’t need to tell you, I won’t. I’m lazy.

Painting framed left and right by cylindrical columns
Painting framed left and right by cylindrical columns
Painting framed left and right by spiral-edged columns
Painting framed left and right by spiral-edged columns

Museums / Galleries, Part I: Palazzo Bianco & Palazzo Tursi

Painting of a dude playing a guitar-like instrument
Painting of a dude playing a guitar-like instrument

Palazzo Bianco and Palazzo Tursi* are attached. Each contains a distinct art gallery/museum. Because they are connected, you can walk from one to the other. And a single ticket covers both.

* Would a shorter way of saying “Palazzo Bianco and Palazzo Tursi” in proper Italian be “Palazzi Bianco e Tursi?” I like to give in to my slothfulness and use all available shortcuts, but I didn’t want to mess up the Italian. Of course, this paragraph required way more work than just saying “Palazzo Bianco and Palazzo Tursi” and leaving it at that. I hate it when I work against my best interests. Never mind. Pretend I never wrote this paragraphs. It’s a few minutes of effort that I’ll never get back.

Palazzo Bianco

Religion
Religion

The “museum” in the Palazzo Bianco is an art gallery. It contains mostly paintings. So, it’s an art gallery, not a museum, damn it. This is a hill I will die on.

The paintings are predominantly from the Renaissance era. I spotted a few more recent than that. But none that I saw were from within the past roughly 150 years.

The vast majority of the paintings from the Renaissance had a religious theme. Why do so many pieces from that period feature God, God’s son, and/or God’s, um, er, what’s the relationship of the mother of God’s son to God? I never hear anyone talk about what to call that relationship.

But, whatever you call it, love is love. I have no problem whatsoever with a mixed deity-mortal relationship. Live and let live, I always say. Well, maybe not always. I do take time to order meals in a restaurant occasionally, particularly while travelling. But I’m sure I’ve said it at least a couple of times other than right now.

There is also often an angel or a few angels, and maybe an Apostle or two, in the paintings. But that just strengthens my point. It’s almost all religion, religion, and more religion.

Religion
Religion

Sometimes I’ll look at a Renaissance painting and not immediately recognize that it has a religious theme. Then I’ll look closer and think, “Wait. Why are those cherubic babies floating? And why do they have wings? Oh, damn. They’re not just cherubic. They’re cherubs. There’s no escaping religion in these galleries, is there? Too bad those Renaissance people didn’t live long enough to see Paul Cézanne paint fruit. They missed a lot by being born when they were.”

And even when I see a painting that I’m entirely certain is not religion-based, someone will tell me, “No, no, no. How can you not see it? They’re not just an attractive mother and cute child. That’s Mary and Jesus.” Oh, Jesus.

What was it with those Renaissance people? Was God the only one who had enough money to commission art back then?

More religion
More religion

Furthermore, I’m fairly ignorant about Renaissance art, so maybe there are some examples of which I’m unaware, but why, except for the Last Seder, is it all Christianity? Would it kill them to paint a colourful Purim celebration? Or maybe a traditional family Chanukkah menorah lighting? And they even had to turn the Last Seder into a Last Supper Christian thing. It’s anti-Semitism, I tell ya.

Enough said about that.

At the top of this section on the Palazzo Bianco and to the right, I included a photo of a painting of a dude playing a guitar-like instrument. I included it not because I am particularly fond of it. In fact, meh. I included it because it’s one of only a few at the Palazzo Bianco that was not religious. At least I think it wasn’t. If it was, in fact, a painting of an entertainer playing the instrumental accompaniment to the singing of Chad Gadya at the Last Seder/Supper, please keep that information to yourself. I don’t want to know.

Palazzo Tursi

An old violin at Palazzo Tursi
An old violin at Palazzo Tursi

The museum in the Palazzo Tursi is indeed what I would call a museum. It holds very few paintings or sculptures. Its displays consist primarily of ceramics, tapestries, coins, and a couple of items of clothing. I.e., it’s decorative and functional art. If you’re unfamiliar with my feelings about museums of decorative and functional art, please refer to my entry on Palazzo Zuckermann from my time in Padua. So, enough said about Palazzo Tursi.

Well, almost enough. It also contained a couple of small rooms with old musical instruments, including the violin of Nicolò Paganini. So, there’s that too.

Churches, Part II: Basilica della Santissima Annunziata del Vastato

The ceiling of Basilica della Santissima Annunziata del Vastato
The ceiling of Basilica della Santissima Annunziata del Vastato

The Basilica della Santissima Annunziata del Vastato is borderline gorgeous. There are paintings throughout, including on the ceiling. Golden-coloured, sculpted adornments fill in much of the area on the walls and ceiling where there aren’t paintings.

My words can’t do it justice. My words usually can’t do justice to anything. But that’s neither here nor there.

By the way, I didn’t think of it when I was in the Basilica Santa Maria delle Vigne, but neither of the churches I was in today covered their crucifixes with cloth like the Padua Duomo did when I was there. As I explained in my entry on the Padua Doumo, I looked it up. Covering crucifixes is something that is supposed to be done for Passiontide, which is the last two weeks of Lent. I also looked up Lent. It ends on Holy Saturday, the day after Good Friday. Tomorrow is Good Friday. So, it’s still Passiontide.

Zooming in on an adornment
Zooming in on an adornment

I guess the churches here aren’t as passionate as the Padua Duomo. Although, you’d think they’d be even more affected by the tide, what with being by the sea and all.

Museums / Galleries, Part II: Royal Palace Museum

The thrown room. (An actual throne room, not a "he's busy, sitting on the throne" room
The thrown room. (An actual throne room, not a “he’s busy, sitting on the throne” room

I’m going to give the Royal Palace Museum (Palazzo Reale) a pass on the art gallery versus museum question and let it call itself a museum. I’m generous that way. Sometimes I think I’m too soft.

The Royal Palace does display paintings and sculptures, but it mostly displays the former Royal Palace. So, yeah, it’s a museum.

Rooms are sumptuously furnished. The palace gives a sense of how the royalty lived. Let’s just say, it’s not like how you or I live.

A royal bedroom
A royal bedroom

Well, let me correct myself. It’s not how I live. This journal is on the worldwide web. Almost no one finds it, but anyone could. Anyone including a member of one of a current royal family. I admit, it’s highly unlikely, but you never know. If you are a member of a royal family, then maybe it’s exactly like how you live. Please, Your Highness, invite me over for tea one day and let me compare for myself.

A view of the hulking overhead expressway and beyond
A view of the hulking overhead expressway and beyond

A large terrace on the second floor affords a stunning view of the hulking elevated expressway that runs along Genoa’s waterfront (and the port beyond it). King Vittorio Emanuele III ceded the palace to the Italian state in 1919, so I doubt the royals were bothered much by the elevated expressway.

Chris’s Place

The Chris of whom I speak is, of course, Christopher Columbus. He was born here in Genoa and spent his childhood here, don’t ya know. He later went on to kinda, sorta, “discover” America.

“Discover” is in quotes because how do you discover a place that other people discovered and had been living in for a very long before you arrived?

That having been said, if I tell all of my friends that I discovered a great, little, out-of-the-way restaurant they have to try, I don’t think any of them would fault me for my use of “discover.” This is despite the fact that the restaurant was already discovered by the restauranteur and probably a bunch of other patrons before I “discovered” it. Then again, I have only three friends, so it’s not a statistically significant sample size. And I haven’t polled them, so maybe they would fault me. Never mind.

“Kinda, sorta” is there because Chris never made it to the North American mainland. He did touch on South and Central America. And he visited Cuba and some of the other Caribbean islands. But that’s it. And he thought the Caribbean islands were the East Indies. So, he was a bit off on that.

The Columbus family's dining room
The Columbus family’s dining room

With all that being said, the house (reconstructed in the eighteenth century) that Chris lived in from age four to 15 is open to the public to visit for a fee.

Pay very close attention to what I’m about to tell you. Very close. You will greatly benefit from taking my advice if you’re ever in Genoa. I recommend as strongly as I possibly can, and I’d recommend it even more strongly if I could, that, if you are ever here, you absolutely, positively should not bother going to visit the Columbus house unless you’ve completely run out of other things to do.

There is very little there. I visited the Christopher Columbus house so you don’t have to.

The Columbus family—Christopher, his parents, his two brothers and his one sister—had the entire second floor of the building. The entire second floor is two small—nay, puny—rooms.

The Columbus family's other room
The Columbus family’s other room

I live alone. I consider my condo to be small. It’s larger than the space the whole Columbus family lived in. No wonder Chris grew up to want to head out onto the wide, open seas.

Attached to the walls are some placards describing in Italian and English the life and times of Chris when he lived in Genoa. (He moved to Portugal before he joined the cruising set.) There’s not a lot of descriptive text on the walls because there are not a lot of walls.

The first floor of the building, which, remember, the Columbus family didn’t occupy, currently houses the small ticket office. So they haven’t been able to add displays there either.

Aside

Navigation

I use a GPS-based mapping app to navigate while travelling. I like it because it easily allows me to download the maps I need before I leave so I can access them while travelling, even if I’m not connected to the internet.

Sometimes, the GPS is somewhat location-challenged. That has been a problem particularly here in Genoa. It wasn’t as bad even in the narrow laneways of Venice. Here in Genoa, when I’m in some of the warrens of narrow laneways between four-or-so-storey buildings it can be way off.

When the app’s GPS feature isn’t confident it can accurately pinpoint my location it draws a shaded circle around the location arrow on the screen. The size of the circle varies with its level of confidence. (And sometimes it’s over-confident.) I think it’s trying to tell me, “I’m moderately confident, but not entirely certain, that you’re somewhere within this circle. But your guess is as good as mine.”

In the middle of those aforesaid warrens, sometimes the circle filled up the entire screen. I think the app was trying to tell me, “ACCCKKKKHHH! I’m lost! I’m thoroughly and hopelessly lost! Help me! Someone, please help me! There’s no hope! I’ll never find my way home!”

It figures I’d end up with a panicky, neurotic app.

Needless to say, I didn’t always follow the path I thought I was following. When I got into an at least somewhat open area I was able to get a more accurate reading and make a course correction.

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