Genoa, ‘La Superba’

The Rise and Fall of a Merchant Pirate Superpower

June 2015 9781849045124 240pp
EU Customers


Genoa has an incredible story to tell. It rose from an obscurity imposed by its harsh geography to become a merchant-pirate superpower that helped create the medieval world. It fought bitter battles with its great rival Venice and imprisoned Marco Polo, as the feuding city-states connected Europe to the glories of the East. It introduced the Black Death to Europe, led the fight against the Barbary Corsairs, bankrolled Imperial Spain, and gave the world Christopher Columbus and a host of fearless explorers. Genoa and Liguria provided the brains and the heroism behind the Risorgimento, and was the last place emigrants saw before building new lives across the Atlantic. It played host to writers and Grand Tourists, gave football to the Italians, and helped build modern Italy. Today, along with the glorious Riviera coast of Liguria, Genoa provides some of the finest places on earth to sip wine, eat pesto and enjoy spectacular views. This book brings the past to life and paints a portrait of a modern port city and region that is only now coming to terms with a past that is as bloody, fascinating and influential as any in Europe.


‘A journalist who lived in the city for some years, Walton illuminates the history with compelling episodes and human drama.’ — Times Literary Supplement

‘A warmth in the telling typifies this book as a whole, a rousing exercise in campanilismo, the Italian word that invokes the image of a bell tower to enshrine an unshakeable dedication to the home patch.’ — Literary Review

‘At last. An approachable and informative book about Genoa, one of the world’s great cities, but sadly underrated and still one of Italy’s best kept secrets. Read, explore, enjoy.’ — Andrew Graham-Dixon, art critic and broadcaster

‘Part lively history, part personal travelogue, Nicholas Walton writes with gusto of this quirkiest, least known and most authentic of Italian cities. He vividly conjures an extraordinary past populated by pirates, adventurers and eccentrics, its landscapes, its buildings, inhabitants, food and culture. This book’s an invitation to go there straight away.’ — Roger Crowley, author of City of Fortune: How Venice Won and Lost a Naval Empire

’A spirited evocation of Genoa medieval and modern, a city of agile businessmen, talented navigators and citizens with their eyes open to the world, but also a port with its fair share of pirates, pimps and profiteers. Genoa, ‘La Superba’ is not just a very pleasurable read — it also uncovers a city of beguiling beauty and genuine importance in the history of Europe, the Mediterranean and the world whose role has far too long been overshadowed by that of its great rival, Venice.’ — David Abulafia, Professor of Mediterranean History, University of Cambridge

‘Walton presents a passionate, idiosyncratic history of the Genoan city-state, glorying in the medieval piratical enterprise that brought it both fame and notoriety. …  Many stories are gleaned from local traditions and charming interviews. … One of Walton’s strengths is his depiction of the city itself, with its narrow alleyways and jumbled mixture of centuries of building, and like the local architecture, he slides easily from past to present and back again. This book is an unashamed celebration of Genoa, warts and all, a city that “does not get the credit its extraordinary history deserves”.’ — Publishers Weekly

Genoa, “La Superba” is a swashbuckling ride through the history of the Republic of Genoa. … Genoa was a city of adventurers … and the 240 pages of the book are as crammed full of … anecdotes as the centuries-old vicoli are full of tales … [Walton’s book] is a romantic letter to the people of a city who need to look beyond its shores again and rediscover who they once were…’ — Delicious Italy

‘[This is] an incredibly detailed, charming, and intriguing work that’s part travel diary, and part thoughtfully researched history book about a captivating city that remains woefully underrated. If you were looking for a reason to visit Genoa, Walton just gave you a thousand in under 220 pages. … This is far from a dusty, dry history text or simple travel guide. The lively Genoese stories, along with Walton’s humorous modern day accounts are brilliantly woven together making this book an absolute pleasure to read. Historian and traveller alike will find remarkable information crammed within its 218 pages. Walton gives an outstanding account of centuries of Genoese life and sheds an important light on the contributions made by this fearless city to the annals of Italian history.’ — Medievalists


Nicholas Walton is a journalist and writer. He learned his trade reporting from around the world with the BBC World Service and, after several years in Singapore, now lives in the Netherlands. His first book, Genoa, ‘La Superba’ , is also published by Hurst.


Request an academic inspection copy Request a press review copy
Inspection Copy Request
Review Copy Request
Join our mailing list

Subscribers receive exclusive discounts and early access to new books from Hurst.