The Palio di San Pietro
On June 29th (or the Sunday closest to that date), Genoa celebrates a Saint traditionally linked with the sea: the "Fisherman Saint" Peter, dedicated to whom is a church overlooking the Foce neighbourhood where the Bisagno riverbed meets the sea.
It is in this neighbourhood and along Corso Italia that the traditional Fiera di San Pietro is held, with a colourful array of hundreds upon hundreds of stalls offering a variety of merchandise, gifts, sweets, curios and attractions.
The Fiera di San Pietro opens on Saturday afternoon and continues all day Sunday until 11:30p.m., when the horizon of the sea beyond the Govi Gardens in the Foce neighbourhood becomes the spectacular backdrop for a traditional firework display.
On the Sunday afternoon, the Foce area also hosts the traditional, eagerly anticipated race to claim the trophy of the Palio Marinaro Genovese di San Pietro.
Just like the Regata delle Antiche Repubbliche Marinare Italiane (Regatta of Ancient Italian Maritime Republics), this Palio originated in 1955, taking its cue from the "race" fishermen typically engaged in to reach the shore before the others so that they would be the first to sell their fish.
Competing in the Palio Marinaro di San Pietro, held on the waters in front of the San Nazaro beach establishments, are the fiberglass fishing boats of Genoa's "neighbourhoods" (Voltri, Sestri Ponente, Foce, Sturla-Vernazzola, Quinto, Nervi, and S. Illario/Capolungo), on each of which four rowers and a coxswain take their positions. The race course, covering 1 nautical mile, is composed of 6 turning points.
Since 2009, the Palio has also reintroduced the thrilling "climb of the ship's boys": at the end of the race on the sea, once the fishing boats have reached the shore, each ship's boy has to run to his neighbourhood's "castle", climb to the top and plant his neighbourhood's pennant. The neighbourhood whose ship's boy is the first to complete this difficult challenge is the winner.
As a trophy, the winning crew is awarded a reproduction of the ancient door-knocker depicting Neptune, from the northern entrance of the Palazzo del Principe.
What makes the event even more evocative are the figures dressed in historical costumes who parade around the town, re-enacting different eras of Genoa's seafaring history; the parade is introduced by the Gonfalon of the Medieval Pageant of Genoa, held up by 3 gonfaloniers escorted by 2 soldiers, all in medieval dress.