Via Garibaldi, the "Strada Nuova" (New Street) dating to the mid-16th century, is also known as "la Via Aurea" (the Golden Street). With its beautiful palaces, it boasts some of the world’s most fascinating architecture. Opened after 1550, to gather the city's most important families into a single setting, it was originally called "Via Aurea" due to the splendour of its buildings, and then “via nuova delli palazzi” (the new street of palaces) until, at the end of the 1800s, the city decided to name it after Italy's national hero Giuseppe Garibaldi.
The road represents a complex anthology that reiterates, in a Renaissance style and on a scale of particular grandeur, the enduring private entrepreneurship that can be seen in medieval Genoa's most distant origins and for which the city's leading families traditionally strived to group together in neighbourhoods that were ever more impressive in terms of splendour and architectural grandeur. Rubens was so struck by these palaces and their modern appearance that he assembled them in a volume of drawings to serve as examples for the important families of Antwerp.
Today the 14 buildings are home to the Town Hall, major banks, clubs, cultural groups, antique dealers, shops and public and private offices. Via Garibaldi is an ideal place to begin a visit to the Old Town, the largest in Italy and Europe after the historic centre of Venice, which has remained intact to this day.
The "Strade Nuove" (New Streets, comprising Via Garibaldi, Via Cairoli, and Via Balbi) form an urban layout composed mainly of two modern-age residential roads, created by the grandest families of the aristocracy, who built their dwellings on the edge of the historic centre in two consecutive periods (in the 16th and 17th centuries).
On 13 July 2006, the "Strade Nuove" were recognised as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, together with the "Palazzi dei Rolli". The uniform urban layout of these splendid roads and the architectural features of the noble buildings make them an outstanding model of urban development parcelled out within a single framework that remains to this day in the heart of the city, linking the medieval streets to the south with the contemporary traffic structures to the north and forming the finest stretch of the 16th/17th-century circle.
About the Palazzi dei Rolli.
Following the new architectural models of the time, Genoa's nobility had many palaces of great splendour designed and built within the historic centre. The number and magnificence of these gave rise to a peculiar aristocratic residential system, formalised in 1576 by a Decree of the Senate that issued an official list of the dwellings (List of Public Lodgings, also known as Rolli), recognising their unique value. The same decree compelled the owners of the homes to take turns in hosting state visits, in the absence of a royal palace. Host dwellings were chosen in accordance with the importance of the visiting guest: the higher the guest's noble rank, the more sumptuous the mansion that was required and the wealthier the family given the honour - and indeed the burden - of welcoming them.
The area featured on the UNESCO list also extends to the part of the historic centre that runs through Via Lomellini, Piazza Fossatello and Via San Luca to Piazza Banchi, the mercantile heart of the old town: along this stretch lie some of the most important examples of the Palazzi dei Rolli, woven in the modern age into the mediaeval fabric of the city.
To this day, the Palazzi dei Rolli still partly belong to private owners, while some of the buildings today house banks or offices.
The best way to experience the allure of some of these dwellings up close is to take one of the guided tours organised by the city.