Palazzo San Giorgio
Palace in Genova
While Palazzo San Giorgio, also known as the Palace of Saint George, might not occupy the top tier of Genoa’s tourist attractions, its historical significance is unquestionably noteworthy. Beyond its walls lies the site where Marco Polo penned his renowned memoirs, and it harbored one of history’s oldest banks.
Constructed originally in 1260 by Guglielmo Boccanegra, the uncle of Genoa’s inaugural Doge, Palazzo San Giorgio was envisioned as a hub of civil authority, a counterbalance to the religious power held by the Cathedral of San Lorenzo. Its stint as the municipal epicenter was short-lived, however, as Boccanegra found himself exiled to France in 1262.
Soon after, the palace was repurposed into a prison. Notably, it became the confining space for Marco Polo after his capture by Genoese forces during the Battle of Curzola in 1298. Within those prison walls, Polo recounted his journeys across the East to a fellow inmate, Rustichello da Pisa. The resulting stories, later published as “Il Milione” or “The Travels of Marco Polo,” encapsulated his adventures.
The 14th century brought escalated conflict between Genoa and Venice, burdening the city with public debt. In response, the Bank of Saint George emerged in 1407, ranking among the oldest chartered banks in European history. The bank established its headquarters within Palazzo San Giorgio and remained operational until the fall of the Republic of Genoa in 1797. Ultimately, the bank ceased operations officially in 1805.
Despite facing potential demolition during the 1830s, the palace endured, partially thanks to the fervent protests from Genoa’s populace and intellectuals. Multiple restoration efforts have upheld the structure since the late 19th century, ensuring its resolute presence to this day. The Renaissance-style façade stands adorned with exquisite frescoes, showcasing its enduring grandeur.
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Visiting Palazzo San Giorgio
Open every day except Sundays, from 9: 00 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. and from 4:00 p.m. to 7:00 p.m. Only open from 4:00 p.m. to 7:00 pm on Mondays.