Porta Soprana is the main gate of the Old Town, located in Piazza Dante, few metres from Piazza de Ferrari. It was once the southern gate of the town and was built up in 1155 on the vestiges of the 9th-century wall (Mura del Barbarossa) and it has been restored several times since the end of the last century.
You can climb up one the 2 towers to have a great view of the old and new Genova.
Close to the Porta Soprana there is the (supposed) House of Columbus... don't waste your time there, Columbus never even saw that house, it's only a tourist trap, even if it's rather nice! ;-)
They say this ruins are all what was remain from the home of Cristoforo Colombo! According to the rumoures Columbus' father may have been employed as the gatekeeper of the nearby Porta Soprana. I am sorry dear Tourist Board of Genova but that story sounds to me as phantasmagoria.
As far as I have learn about the history, in the Medieval times only churches, convents or monasteries were built close to the external parts of the city walls. What use the town could have had of a gatekeeper who sleeps outside the city walls?
The monastery of Sant'Andrea was built in the beginning of the 12th century. It used to stand on the hill with the same name, right beside the Porta Soprano. This cloister, built in the early Gothic style, used to be the part of the complex of the church Sant'Andrea that was later destroyed.
This cloister was laying abandoned in the church of San Agostino but then was brought and placed in its present location in 1022.
These two impressive towers were part of defensive walls that were surrounding the whole city.
During the French revolution the guillotine was kept here, and one of hangman’s used to live on top of one tower.
The view from the top of both towers is nice, you can see rooftops with small gardens on terraces.
Perhaps Marco Polo had a similar view, through the prison window, after loosing the battle between Venetia and Genoa which took place near Korcula island on the Adriatic.
During its long history, at least since 9th century, Genova had been defended by the walls. Large positions of these walls remain to the present time and Genova has more and longer walls than any other Italian town. The parts of these walls are known by the different names, mostly after the period of its construction.
Mura Nuove, from the 17th century, are the most imposing having length of almost 20 kilometres.
Porta Soprana is the best known gate in the ancient Genova city walls, built in the 12th century as a part of the Mura Barbarossa.
In 1155, the Barbarossa defensive walls were extended to give more protection of Genoa, and it was at this time, at the top of St. Andrew hill, the Porta Soprana was built. The pair of medieval towers are said to be the most well known landmark of Genoa. I could just see cloister's behind the gate which belonged to a 12th century Convent.
There used to be three main gates, each with high semicircular towers. Only two can be seen today, “Porta Soprana” and “Porta dei Vacca," the third one, the Porta Aurea was completely demolished.
The wall was buillt to defend Genoa from the the attack by Emperor Frederick 1. Restoration works was carried out in the 20th century. If you observed the walls carefully, you can see the difference in the building materials. Walking through the gates and on its pathway gives u a feel of walking in an old castle but a few more steps you will reach the city that destroy the castles you built in the air :(
La Porta Soprana or Porta di S.Andrea is part of the line of defence that surrounded the city in days gone by. Both the walls, called Barbarossa's walls, where it is possible to carry out a short distance of sentry duty, and the Porta Soprana itself, were built around 1155. During the French Revolution, together with the ideas of liberty and fraternity, the guillotine arrived in Genoa and was placed in one of the two towers and used until 1809. A short walk away is the house og Domenico Colombo, father of Cristoforo.
Soprana Gate and Columbus House
Soprana Gate is one of the most important monument of medioeval militaty architecture and is the only remaining feature with that one named Porta dei Vacca of the circle of walls erected in 1100’s to deterre emperor Federico Barbarossa from attacking Genoa. At the front of the Gate lies the Christopher Columbus'house (opned on Saturday and Sunday) bordering the Romanesque Cloister of St. Andrea. This is a truly charming spot in contrast with the modern square of Piazza Dante.
The name of Christopher Columbus, the explorer of the New World, is in evidence all over Genoa. His statue greets you as soon as you emerge in Piazza Acqueverde from Porta Principe railway station; various public buildings bear his name; even the airport is called Aeroporto Cristoforo Colombo.
However, it is not certain whether Columbus was born in Genoa, in Savona 15km (9 miles) to the west or outside Italy altogether. However, city registers mention his father, a weaver, and different family homes within the city. This small ivy-clad house next to the Porta Soprana may have been Columbus's childhood home, where he first discovered his passion for the sea.
At Porta Soprana, the Eastern gateway to the old city, you can visit what is held out to be Christopher Coloumbus's House, as well as the remains of Sant"Andrea, the cloisters of a 12th century convent