The hundred-year period between 1550 and 1650 is known as Genoa’s Golden Age. Huge wealth and large families were the main drivers behind substantial change in the city, on a social, political and urban front.
New streets and squares were created, opening up spaces that until that point had not existed.
Genoa’s social life consisted of rendezvous, strolls, fashion and elegance. The city was modernised, and part of the city’s fabric was altered: expanding, opening up, demolishing and razing to the ground.
New, large public buildings sprung up, alongside private residences, city and country palazzi and churches.
The Strade Nuove (‘New Streets’) and the Palazzi dei Rolli were the first example in Europe of unified urban planning where the designs were built by private owners. The Palazzi dei Rolli were residences built by the richest and most powerful aristocratic families in the Republic of Genoa at the height of its financial power, when trading through its port was at its peak.
Strada Nuova, with its lavish residential palazzi, was the district inhabited by the nobility. The buildings are imposing, with three or four storeys, large open staircases, courtyards and loggias that tower over the enclosed gardens on multiple levels squeezed into relatively small spaces.
The Palazzi were designed as a network of residences to welcome state visits to the Republic; kings, princes and aristocrats of every rank and from every nation were hosted in the grandiose buildings. This helped to promote an architectural model and a way of living that attracted famous artists and travellers, including the Flemish artist Peter Paul Rubens, who was inspired to create a series of illustrations.