The Lighthouse of Genoa
On this page:
The Lanterna, the Promenade and the Museum
The Lanterna (The Lighthouse)
The Lanterna, symbol of Genoa and most important lighthouse of the city, is a 77-metre-high tower, made of two blocks, square in section, roughly of the same height, and both with a projecting terrace.
Built on a rock of 40 metres of height, the top of the Lanterna stands therefore at 117 metres above the sea level. Its light is visible from more than 50 kilometres away.
The Lanterna has welcomed vessels and boats and guided them into the harbour for centuries. The Lanterna, as we see it today, was built in 1543; unofficial sources, however, date back to 1128 the building on this site of the first tower intended to assist navigators.
Today visitors can climb 172 steps, reach the first terrace (76 m above the sea level), and enjoy the breathtaking view of the port and the old city.
The whole area was restored by the Provincia di Genova between 1995 and 2004 and its other attractions, apart from the Lanterna, are the Museum and the Promenade.
The Promenade is a pedestrian route of about 800 metres. It begins at the Terminal Traghetti (the Ferry-Boat Terminal) and leads the visitor to the Fortifications, the Lanterna and the Museum. Overlooking the quays, the Promenade enjoys an interesting view of the port and its activities.
The Museum, housed in the scenic setting of the Savoy fortifications (1830), is not only the obvious place where to exhibit lamps, lenses and other lighthouse-related objects. Its broader aim is to display and promote the preservation of material culture of Genoa and its territory. The Museum displays on 39 TV sets filmed sequences on Genoa and its port, and footage of interviews with people from every walk of life who can claim a contribution to the making of the present day Genoa. The aim is to provide insight into the history, art, traditions, and peoples of the city.
How to reach us, opening hours, admission
How to reach us
Visiting the Lanterna area is the ideal thing to do if you are in Genoa waiting for a ferry to somewhere (Sicily, Sardinia, Corsica, Tunisia...), and you've got a couple of spare hours; or if you're just arriving here by ship, or you just want to enjoy an unusual, breathtaking view of the city, or - last but not least, of course - if you like lighthouses!
If you look at the map (a clickable thumb on the left of this page), you'll see that the Promenade to the Lanterna begins just at the Terminal Traghetti (Ferry-Boat Terminal), between the car parking of the shopping centre on the western side and the Columbus Sea Hotel. You'd better park your car here.
By bus: from the city centre, n.3 and n.30; from the Porto Antico, n.2 and n.5; from the western part of the city (Sampierdarena and beyond), n.1, 2, 7, 8, 18, and 20.
Get off at Dinegro bus stop, then walk to the Terminal Traghetti.
By metro: get off at Dinegro metro station, then walk to the Terminal Traghetti
The Promenade is open every day from 8 a.m. to sunset.
The Museum and the Lanterna are open:
- during the weekends and on holidays from 2.30 p.m. to 6.30 p.m.
It is not possible (nor necessary) to book the visit.
If you want to visit the area at different times or days, please call (++39) 010 910001 or (++39) 333 9778048, and the visit may be arranged.
The access to the Promenade is free. The ticket for the Museum and the Lanterna costs 6 € (4 € concessions).
Contacts & email
Muvita: 010 910001 or Provincia di Genova: 010 5499469
If you want to drop a line, send us an email! Thank you.
La Lanterna: a bit of history
The first tower
According to unofficial sources, the first tower was built in 1128, and it was almost the same height and size of the present Lanterna, but for three orders of merlons. Fires of heather and gorse were lit on its top, as signals to approaching ships. Documents and chronicles mention the tower without telling us, however, the exact date of its construction. The books kept by the Maritime Authority of each period (the "Consoli del Mare", "I Salvatori del Porto", "I Padri del Comune e Salvatori del Peno" and the "Conservatori del Mare") show how the town took great care of the Tower, to the extent that its edicts provided in detail for its maintenance and its keeping, exacting a special tax from each incoming vessel.
In 1318, during the war between Guelphs and Ghibellines, the tower's foundations were severely damaged by the Ghibeliine army. This led in 1321 to works aimed to reinforce the tower and make it better defendable: a moat was dug on purpose.
The first light was installed in 1326, and its lamp was fuelled with olive oil. It shone in the dark nights, signalling the way into the city to the approaching ships and boats. In 1340 a painter from Milan, Evangelista, painted the Genoise coat of arms on the top of the Tower. The oldest drawing of the Lanterna dates back to 1371: it is a pen drawing on the parchment cover of a book, used by the "Salvatori del Porto" to keep trace of the expenditure for the oil and the lamp crystals, and of the appointments of keepers.
In the Books of the Sea Consuls and of The Saviours of the Port all major events related to the Lanterna are dutifully reported. We learn among other things that:
- around 1400 the Tower was used as a prison (and it was here that, apparently, the king of Cyprus Giacomo from Luisignano and his wife were imprisoned for five years).
- in 1405 a fish and a golden metal cross were put on the top of the dome (at the time the Lighthouse keepers were priests).
- in 1413 an order issued by the Sea Consuls allocated a budget of 36 liras for the maintenance and the management of the lighthouse, whose importance for the safety of shipping was explicitly recognized
- in 1449 Antonio Colombo, Cristoforo Colombo's paternal uncle, was appointed as one of the Lighthouse keepers
- in 1481, 1596 and again in 1602 lightning inflicted serious damage to the Lanterna.
The New Tower
In 1506, during the siege of the French-occupied fort of Briglia, the Genoese insurgents bombed the Tower by mistake and partially destroyed its upper part. It was only in 1543 that it was rebuilt and given the shape we can still see today. The new lantern room was built with wooden staves covered with copper and lead foils, kept together by more than 600 copper nails. Works went on up to 1681, when a new dome was built, partially destroyed only 3 years later, in 1684, when the French bombed the city from the sea.
Il Lanternino (The Small Lantern Room)
For many centuries the crystals for the Lantern Room were provided by artisans from Genoa and Venice. Surviving contracts between Genoese Consuls and master glass-makers tell us that in 1460 crystals used for the lantern were made of 244 pieces. Crystals had to be light and transparent and of set length and width.
Keepers were obliged to live in the lighthouse with their families, and had to polish and clean the glasses. They were given sea sponges and buckets, and egg white was used to clean them.
The illuminating system
Before 1840, metal or glass lamps were in use. In 1840 the first rotating system using a Fresnel lens was put in place (Fire was still olive-oil fuelled). The fixed white light was visible from up to 15 miles away, with one-minute intervals of stronger light visible from 20 miles away.
In 1881 a special Commission in charge with the reorganization of the Italian lighthouse system proposed to build a new lighthouse on the Portofino headland. The Lanterna would eventually lose its importance. The Commission's proposal was not, however, accepted, and the Lanterna, a few years later, became even more important.
The illuminating system was improved with the set up of an eight-panelled lenticular lens system. The range light was increased of 3.7 miles.
In 1913 the panel-based system was replaced by a new rotating mercury float system built in Paris by Henry Lapaute's firm. The 1840 mm diameter optics was oil-vapor fuelled and could generate a 520,000 candlepower beam. It was rotated at a precise rate controlled by a clockwork mechanism (wound up every 5 hours).
Electrification of the Lanterna did not occur until 1936, when its candlepower was increased up to 745,000 DC.
Technical specifications of the Lighthouse
Latitude 44° 22' 15" N - Longitude 8° 54'' 20" E
HEIGHT OF TOWER:
HEIGHT OF LIGHT ABOVE MEAN WATER:
STEPS TO THE LANTERNROOM:
STEPS TO THE FIRST TERRACE:
172 (36 m of height or 76 m above water, the highest point visitors can reach)
4 metres in diameter, glass windows 3.44 metres in height
- rotating optics with focal length of 700 mm, 4 lenticular apparatuses (axis at 45 and 135 degree);
- dimensions of 1.85 m in height, 1.78 in width
- reflecting surface for each panel: 8,344 cmq
120 v 1000 W Halogen Lamp (871,920 CD)
Nominal and Geographical Range: 27 miles (50 km in good weather conditions)
light 0.25 - eclipse 4.75 - light 0.25 - eclipse 14.75. Total duration 20 seconds
Our photo galleries! (captions
of photos are in Italian)
Our page of links to lighthouses in Italy and all over the world.