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Genoa and the port



What happened in 2004 when Genoa was European Capital of Culture, and specifically in relation to the port and the shipping industry?

How did this program relate to the other aspects of Genoa undoing its negative image as ugly duckling of the Mediterranean and being transformed into a swan?

Crucial was the renovation of the port and old town since they dismantled the till then existing overhead highway which blocked literally the view of the port if sitting somewhere in the old town.



         Overview of the port of Genoa


In memory of 1975

Ever since I made that study about the economic conditions of the port of Genoa (1975), I remember this being a port in transition. Bulk cargo was no longer shipped. Instead containers had been introduced with the explicit purpose to prevent further thefts. Naturally it meant the new interest was how to steal an entire container. That can be considered to be equally a lucrative business provided some writer would not take on the entire aura still prevailing in the old town with all its prostitutes and reminders of times when Napolean was imprisoned on the Elbe island. Going back to the 11th century when the first Bank was created and Columbos (he was born in Genoa 1451) setting sail in Genoa to discover the New World (even though the story is told quite differently), it meant ever since a dialectic of capital going back to the land to invest in property when times were ripe to do so or else to take the capital to sea, literally speaking, if the economy was in decline. That marks the semanitics of the ship owners or how capital flows are steered through centuries of knowing when to seize what great opportunities. Altogether Genoa had in the upper hills its aristocratic class made distinct by every house having above its entrance a quote from a poem by Dante, while way below, down by the sea, the common folk mingled with those working in the port. As long as it was bulk cargo, the crews needed to unload or load ships were quite large and naturally required a defty kind of organization if work was to be done under reasonable wages. Since that was never really the case, there was always a lot of trouble in the port. Once the containers were used, all these crews were no longer needed. It was more than just dismantling the entire port for the entire work force was stripped of its identification possibilities with different categories of tasks assigned each morning in a huge hall when some knew which ships were bound to come in and needed so to speak a helping hand. To be there at that time meant to listen during the breaks to someone just strumming the guitar with a few tunes on the lips while men still breathing out the sweat collected in their clothes stood around and listened. Their silence made possible an economy of words. It gave to each articulated thought another sense of time and space with the rhythm to be compared with making love to a woman comparable to the wide open sea awaiting outside the port.

Hatto Fischer




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