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Lighthouse (Lanterna) of Genoa: history, legends and other curiosities

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The Lighthouse (Lanterna) is the harbour lighthouse and the symbol of the city of Genoa.

Always an indispensable tool for the night navigation of ships entering and leaving the port, its powerful beam of light also signalled the presence of pirates who, in the past, infested the waters of the Mediterranean.

It could, in fact, illuminate up to 50 kilometres away!

The Lanterna towers above sea level, a total of 117 metres: to its 77 metres in height, another 40 metres of the promontory on which it rests must be added.

Together with the Naval Museum of Pegli, the Commenda di Prè and the Galata Museo del Mare, since 2005 the Lanterna Museum has been part of Mu.MA – Istituzione Musei del Mare e delle Migrazioni, a cultural pole linked to the themes of the sea, travel and dialogue between peoples, knowledge and religions.

We visited the Lanterna in Genoa and, in this article, you will find many interesting facts and a practical guide to organise your trip, even with children in tow.

Legends about the Lighthouse (Lanterna) of Genoa

The legend about the Genoa Lantern is very curious and I will tell you about it.

Once the Lanterna was built, the architect who designed it was thrown into the sea from its summit by the Genoese.

Legend has it that there were two motives for the crazy gesture.

The first, to prevent the architect from reproducing elsewhere such an aesthetically and functionally perfect work.

Second motive, not to settle the bill (it is no coincidence that we Genoese have a reputation for being stingy).

The choice is yours!

Lighthouse (Lanterna) of Genoa curiosities

The Lighthouse (Lanterna) of Genoa is the oldest lighthouse in Europe, among those still in operation, and the tallest in Italy.

In Europe, however, it lost its height record in 1902 when the Finistère Lighthouse was built, some 5 metres higher than the Lanterna di Genova.

At present, the Lanterna is used as an airport lighthouse for the city of Genoa, regulating air and naval traffic.

Lighthouse (Lanterna) of Genoa
The Lanterna of Genoa from the Lanterna Promenade

Some history of the Genoa Lanterna

There are no certain documents but it is thought that the Lanterna was built in the early 12th century.

Its primary function was to signal the presence of the harbour to passing ships, which is why, in ancient times, bundles of dried heather and broom stems were burned on its top .

In1326, the first olive-oil lantern was installed, whose light was concentrated in a beam thanks to transparent crystals produced by skilled Ligurian and Venetian glass masters.

In 1340, the city’s coat of arms was painted (red cross on a white background).

The tower changed its use over the years (in 1400, for instance, it became a prison), and in 1543 it was rebuilt in its current structure at the behest of Doge Andrea Centurione Pietrasanta , who had the work financed by the Banco di San Giorgio.

Following the death of one of the keepers who was struck by lightning, several improvements were made , including a lightning protection system and the consolidation of the base of the tower to give it greater stability.

The power of the lighthouse also grew thanks to the advent of new optical systems and fuels such as acetylene gas and pressurised oil up toelectrification.

Visit Lighthouse (Lanterna) of Genoa

The visit to the Genoa Lanterna consists of three parts: the Open Air Museum, the Lantern Museum, and the ascent to the viewing terrace.

Open Air Museum

The recommended tour of the Lanterna begins at the Open Air Museum, an open-air museum at the foot of the lantern. It is characterised by a series of panels narrating the activities and trades of the port, in the present and in the past.

open air museum
Open Air Museum

The Open Air Museum runs adjacent to the seventeenth-century fortifications where the nineteenth-century Porta Nuova della Lanterna, the ancient gateway to Genoa, can still be seen from the western side.

On the façade, a memorial plaque commemorates the 15 British sailors who lost their lives in the task of clearing the waters of the port of Genoa of enemy mines.

Lighthouse (Lanterna) of Genoa
Memorial plaque

Lanterna Museum

The Lanterna Museum is located below the tower, inside Savoy fortifications dating back to 1830.

In the ancient cannon rooms and the Ghibelline gallery, the history and architectural and urbandevelopment of the city of Genoa is retraced.

Interesting old prints of the city, published between the second half of the 16th century and the end of the19th century, can be seen.

In the rifle rooms, the museum houses lenses including the so-called Fresnel lens, very similar to the one used by the Lantern.

With its own rotating beam of light, such a lens reproduces the subjective view from inside an actual lighthouse .

lanterna museum
Lanterna Museum
print
Beautiful prints inside the Museum
Lighthouse (Lanterna) of Genoa
Old Lantern Emergency Lighthouse
Lighthouse (Lanterna) of Genoa
Fresnel lens

The climb inside the Tower

The Lanterna of Genoa is a square-based tower made entirely of natural stone.

There are 365 stairs leading to its top, but only the first 172 are accessible to the public.

As you may have guessed, therefore, to get to the Lanterna’s panoramic terrace, it is necessary to climb several flights of stairs, not particularly steep but not suitable for people with disabilities, heart problems or who suffer from claustrophobia.

stairs
Ramp of stairs inside the Lanterna

A small door leads to the terrace that runs around the lighthouse, from which the view sweeps over the port of Genoa with its containers, the sights of the Old Port, and the hills surrounding the city on which the Forts of Genoa stand, reaching as far as the mountain of Portofino.

The view from up there is truly marvellous, even more impressive in my opinion at sunset time when the sky turns red!

terrace
Access to the panoramic terrace
panorama
Sunset panorama
Lighthouse (Lanterna) of Genoa
In the distance, the Bigo and other Porto Antico attractions

Entrance ticket: price and how to buy it

The entrance ticket to the Lanterna includes the Open Air Museum, the Lanterna Museum and the ascent to the panoramic terrace, and costs €8.00 (free for children aged 0-6 and disabled persons with accompanying persons).

There are reductions of €2.00 for Genoa residents and other reductions that can be viewed on the official website.

There is also a cumulative ticket with the Genoa Aquarium.

If you want to avoid the queue at the ticket office and secure entry at the desired time – you can buy your ticket here.

How to get to the Lighthouse (Lanterna) of Genoa

Getting to the Lighthouse (Lanterna) of Genoa is easy.

Arriving by car

The nearest motorway exit to the Lanterna is Genova Ovest.

Where to park near the Lanterna

The nearest car park to the Lanterna is at the Ferry Terminal.

To use the car park free of charge, you will need to buy something or just have a coffee at a bar in the shopping arcade.

Present your receipt and you will be entitled to hours of free parking.

The same goes for the Esselunga car park: if you buy something at the supermarket, you will also be entitled to 2 hours of free parking here (get your ticket stamped at the cash desk).

At this point, continue on foot (the Lanterna is located in the harbour area and can only and exclusively be reached on foot) following the signs leading to the beginning of the so-called Passeggiata della Lanterna, in Via Milano.

Lighthouse (Lanterna) of Genoa
The beginning of the Passeggiata della Lanterna
lanterna walk
Lanterna Walk

The route is about 800 metres long and runs along a wooden footbridge .

The ticket office is located just beyond the start of the walk.

Arriving by train

The nearest railway station to the Lanterna is Genova Principe.

From here, you can approach the Lanterna by metro, getting off at the Dinegro stop (1 stop).

Then continue in the direction of the Ferry Terminal, which is about 400 metres from the metro stop, and follow the signs for the Passeggiata della Lanterna.

Arriving by metro

If you are in the centre of Genoa, the quickest way to get to the Lanterna is by metro, which leaves from Genova Brignole station and passes through Piazza de Ferrari and the Porto Antico.

In about ten minutes, you will have arrived at Dinegro.

Then continue in the direction of the Ferry Terminal.

How long does the visit to the Lighthouse (Lanterna) of Genoa last

A visit to the Lanterna takes approximately 40 minutes.

Keep in mind that, to this, the time needed to walk the 800 metres of the wooden footbridge (Passeggiata della Lanterna) must be added.

In total, therefore, count on an hour or so, or a little more if you have small children who walk slowly.

Lanterna di Genova: opening hours

The Lanterna’s opening hours change according to the period.

Before you go, check them on the official website.

It may be useful to know that, in the event of weather warnings and storms, visits to the Lantern are interrupted.

lanterna of genoa
Illuminated Lantern

Lanterna in Genoa with children

The visit inside the Lantern is not feasible with pushchairs, due to the numerous stairs.

I recommend the use of a baby carrier or backpack if the child is small.

The stairs are passable for children aged 3 years/3 years and a half and upwards, and the viewing terrace is not exposed, so a visit to the Lanterna is, to all intents and purposes, feasible even with children in tow.

lanterna viewing
Lanterna viewing terrace

The terrace is exposed to the winds, so I recommend a hat or jacket with a hood, especially for younger children or those who are more sensitive.

The Lanterna is currently run by the Associazione Amici della Lanterna, which periodically organises guided tours and workshops for children.

Where to eat near the Lanterna

For a snack or a quick lunch, you can find refreshment inside the Ferry Terminal.

If time is on your side, I recommend instead a stop at the trattoria Osteria Marinara A Lanterna da Don Gallo in Via Milano 134R.

The osteria was founded in 1981 by Don Andrea Gallo; the aim was to give former drug addicts from the San Benedetto al Porto Community a future .

The dishes on offer are really good, the fish is very fresh and the welcome is warm.

Reservations are recommended at 39 010256425.

Where to sleep near the Lanterna

The Lanterna is slightly off-centre from the other attractions in Genoa, so it is not a convenient area for sleeping.

The best neighbourhoods for overnight stays are the Porto Antico, near the Aquarium, the Bigo and many other attractions, the city centre, and the historical centre.

In this article, I have summarised the best hotels in Genoa, divided by area and other needs (low-cost, families with children etc).

Conclusions

The Lighthouse (Lanterna) is an attraction you cannot miss if you want to get to know an important piece of Genoa‘s history.

As already indicated, the visit is feasible also with children (but not with pushchairs) and the most suggestive time is definitely sunset.

Leave a comment below if you have any doubts or curiosity!

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Continue reading:

1. The Galata Sea Museum

2. Itinerary in the historic centre of Genoa

3. Where to sleep in Genoa

4. Sanctuary of the Madonnetta with the permanent crib

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