When in Italy someone thinks of this city, which is also called the Superb by its inhabitants, one thinks of pesto sauce, the largest aquarium in Europe, the old port and its dark and tight alleyways.
But the true symbol of Genoa for the locals is the Lantern, on the tip of the port area.
Mural dedicated to the Lantern
The Lantern is an old lighthouse and it symbolizes the ancient history of the region. The historical structure was recently connected to the harbor when the city council built a promenade linking it to the famous aquarium. The route, about 800-meter long, runs along the seventeenth and nineteenth-century city walls and the pathway is a steel and wood pedestrian-only structure.
The city council has also recently created a beautiful and innovative application for smartphones which allows to download information and maps about the port area and that includes the full history of the Lantern in different languages, including a children’s program to learn more about the history and legends of the place.
Located on the headland of Faro’s cape, the Lantern, with its 77 meters of height, is the highest lighthouse facing the Mediterranean sea and the second tallest in Europe.
According to some unofficial sources, the first tower was erected in 1128 and it was an architectural structure similar to the current one but with three overlapping trunks.
The current building dates back to 1543, but the original structure, which was born as a watch tower to announce the arrival of suspicious boats, was similar to the current one in materials used and color. The building was also used as a lighthouse from the start and in 1326 the first olive oil lantern was installed to signal the incoming ships. The lantern’s light was concentrated in a beam thanks to transparent crystals produced by Ligurian and Venetian glass masters, an innovative ‘technology’ for the time.
The Lantern is not the only ancient landmark in the port
Most probably, the oldest representation of this first Lantern dates to 1371 and appears on the cover of a register of maritime authority from this year.
In the fifteenth century, and for a short time, the tower was furthermore used as a prison and, among other famous prisoners, the king of Cyprus was held here for a while.
At the beginning of the sixteenth century, the fortress of Briglia, designed by Louis XII for the troops that ruled the city, was built on this stretch of land: the Genoese, fighting against the French, got bombed and half of the Lantern collapsed during this time.
In 1543, the tower was rebuilt and the old wall was replaced with a newer and stronger one which still stands today.
In recent times, the headlight power increased considerably, both for the introduction of more modern optical systems (a rotating system with Fresnel lenses) and for the introduction of new fuels: acetylene gas first, then pressurized oil, until the electrification of the Lantern which came into effect in 1936.
Inside the Lantern, now a museum, one can observe the old gas-powered emergency lightbulb on the surface of which are visible signs of the Second World War conflict and there are numerous diagrams of the headlamps used at that time.
Nowadays, the lighthouse is no longer used for this purpose but it still is a landmark for the incoming ships because when they see its shape they know they have reached the port of Genoa.
The Lantern, Genoa’s ancient lighthouse