When you speak of Genoa, Italy, the one predominant image is the tall lighthouse reigning over the harbor.
Indeed, the Lanterna in Genoa is a city symbol and landmark. Standing tall at 117 meters above sea level, this lighthouse is the world's oldest working lighthouse and certainly one of the world's tallest. It actually is a 77-meter high tower, but as it is perched on a rock 40 meters in height, its total height reaches 117 meters. It occupies the site known as the Capo di Faro, also called the Beacon Promontory.
This ancient lighthouse has proved to be a welcoming light to boats and vessels for several centuries now. The Lanterna, as it is shown today, dates back to 1543, during Andrea Doria's career. However, it is said that the tower preceding the present one was built way back in 1128. The first tower was destroyed due to French raids and bombings during the mid 14th century.
It is made up of two blocks of square stone. Its interiors feature a staircase with flying buttresses. The windows are square-shaped and are designed to let the light out. This lighthouse has recently been open to the public, and it remains active, guiding vessels into the port by way of two white flashes that flare every 5 seconds. This is repeated every 20 seconds, and the light from the 1 kilo-watt halogen lamp can be seen from as far as 25 nautical miles.
This lighthouse takes on additional importance because Genoa is a port city. After all, the Genoa inlet is the largest in the Italian Riviera. For centuries, Greeks and Phoenicians used Genoa as a harbor to trade with existing settlements there. It is also the birthplace of one of the most renowned navigators of all time – Christopher Columbus. Another fascinating factoid is that an uncle of Columbus, Antonio Colombo, served as a lighthouse keeper. The old tower was also used to hold the King of Cyprus, Giacomo di Lusignano, and his wife prisoner.
Climb the 172 steps up to 76 meters above sea level and be rewarded with amazing views of the city, as well as the Gulf of Genoa. If you are not up to the climb, you can also take a small elevator up to the viewing deck.
The Lanterna and the port nearby is the ideal place if you want to catch a ferry to other outlying islands such as Sardinia, Sicily, Tunisia and Corsica. Take note that the lighthouse is only open on weekends and holidays, from 10 in the morning until 6 in the evening. You may also call if you want to visit the lighthouse at a different time. A fee is charged for admission. Other nearby attractions include the Promenade and the museum.
The Lanterna is an enduring and endearing symbol that lives on in the hearts of all Genoese for 9 centuries now. It is a must-see on your visit to Genoa.