Beneath the bright autumnal sunshine, the crystal blue waters of the Mediterranean lap gently against the ancient stone of the portside. Genoa’s Porto Antico is abuzz with people enjoying their Saturday afternoon; parents converse intensely, their raucous offspring swerving through the pedestrians, elders watching the world go by, whilst an impromptu football match breaks out by the playground. Everyone is having a good time, seemingly oblivious to the profound history of their environment.
Over the course of history this place has been teeming with a very different sort of activity. Ever since the Roman dynasties ruled supreme, the natural geography of the bay was being harnessed to facilitate maritime activity. Later, it became established as a stopping point on Middle Eastern trade routes and then famous for the voyages of Genoa’s most celebrated son, Christopher Colombus. More recently, the port played its role in the unification of Italy, as Garibaldi’s departure point when waging the Second War of Independence in 1860.
It is no coincidence that the modern-day Genoa Cricket and Football Club chose this regenerated location, oozing with history yet replete with modern amenities, to house their club museum. The maritime vessels have long since departed and the portside edifices dismantled, but the museum sits perfectly alongside the other attractions, shops and eateries that have taken their place.
The Genoa museum is housed in the same building as the club shop and ticket office on Via al Porto Antico, within easy walking distance of the old town centre and close to the San Giorgio metro stop. The museum provides a comprehensive tour through the history of Italy’s oldest football club. As an English visitor – even one with an affinity to Genoa’s cross-town rivals – the museum has a certain poignance as it begins by telling the story of the club’s formation by English migrants in the city. The fully bilingual descriptions on each exhibit certainly help too.
The museum places a strong focus on the club’s foundation and those early years. Whilst this is arguably a matter of necessity, given the rather front-loaded nature of the club’s palmares, it is also a wise choice given the quality of artefacts they hold from this period. The original birth certificate of their founder – James Richardson Spensley, born 17th May 1867 in Stoke Newington – being a case in point.
The centerpiece of the first room is the Coppa D’Onore, the original Italian Championship trophy that was definitively awarded to Genoa following their hat trick of victories in 1898, 1899, 1900. And no wonder it is given such prominence; the trophy had been lost for over a century before it was located in Miami, Florida and returned to the club as recently as 2018.
The museum must be commended for a sizeable area dedicated to its own supporters – displaying a plethora of season tickets, scarves and other memorabilia. It’s a profound gesture of appreciation to Genoa’s numerous affiliated supporters’ clubs. The stand out feature of this room is a “ticket wall”, mapping the evolution of match ticket design since the 1950s. Adjacent to it, and perhaps the most curious artefact on display, is a Genoa-themed juke box.
There is an entire room dedicated to the stadia that have played home to Genoa over the years. Not much to see here, you might think, given that Genoa have inhabited the same stadium for over a century. However, they really push the boat out with a series of scale models, charting the development of the Marassi stadium at various points through its history. The ever-presence of a balsa wood Villa Piantelli on the eastern side of the site, providing a satisfying reference point in each model.
Upon entering the shirt room, you are immediately greeted by a floor-to-ceiling display of Genoa shirts through the ages, housed in smart, black wooden carpentry. The opposite wall is a mirror image, except featuring home shirts rather than away. Photography proves a bit challenging in here – perhaps intentionally so – due to the glare from the highly polished glass-fronted cases. However, the collection of shirts, spanning from the early 20th century to the present day, is a thing of pure joy.
Climbing a set of stairs leads to the final offerings of the collection. The top floor of the museum doubles as press conference space, complete with a video wall and Recaro seats of the type seen in modern dugouts. Here you’ll also find a history of Genoa in the media – newspapers, magazines and posters featuring the rossoblu over the years.
And it is on the top floor that the trophy room can be found. It features a continuous backlit cabinet, spanning two of the walls, displaying the club’s spoils. It’s certainly an eclectic mix, including;
- Palla Henri Dapples – a challenge trophy initiated by Genoa president Henri Dapples in the early 1900s. The polished silver sphere carries a significant dent on one side.
- Viareggio Cup – a coveted Italian youth tournament, held annually. The fabulous trophy features a large, bronze jester standing atop a plinth.
- Anglo-Italian Cup – the now-defunct competition between second tier teams in England and Italy. As winners of the last final in 1996, Genoa seemingly were allowed to keep the trophy.
Having visited the AC Milan museum last year, this offering from Genoa is operating on an altogether higher plain. The absence of glittering scudetti, European Cups and Ballon D’or winners means that Genoa have had to work a little harder and, through thoughtful curation, they have delivered an impressive spectacle. The museum largely eschews interactive novelties, instead focusing on the fundamentals of the artefacts. The result is a glorious treasure trove for the calcio connoisseur.
Admission costs €5 and demands at least 1.5 hours, ideally more, to navigate and absorb the thousands of artefacts on display. If you’ve worked up an appetite whilst doing so, the nearby Trattoria Delle Grazie can also highly recommend. It’s a welcoming establishment with a relaxed atmosphere located 5 minutes’ walk from the museum on Via delle Grazie. It serves mouth-watering traditional Genovese fayre (try the tagliarini de mare) at a very reasonable price.