The Italian city where the houses are fit for royalty
Plus, we'll get you in the mood before you go with movie suggestions, reading lists and recipes from Stanley Tucci.
(CNN) — It's the Italian city home to palaces so spectacular that they're UNESCO World Heritage sites.
A city that was once home to so much wealth that the local aristocracy lived in environments literally fit for a king, and the place where Rubens began his great artistic career.
It's home to what's said to be the most intact medieval city center in Europe, and beautiful art nouveau architecture in its "new" area (yes, this is a city where "new" is still old).
But what drew UNESCO's attention in 2006 was the Palazzi dei Rolli, or Rolli Palaces -- a system of aristocratic mansions so spectacular that they were used as proto-hotels for visiting dignitaries and even royalty.
CA AlessiRolli is the plural of "rollo" -- the old word for "list" -- so the term means "Palaces of the List."
That's because they were, quite literally, mansions added to a Renaissance-era list compiled by the all-powerful Republic of Genoa.
"Instead of being met in a royal palace, like at Versailles or Madrid, they were in the individual homes of aristocrats."
Aivar Mikko/Alamy Stock PhotoThe aristocrats already effectively ran Genoa -- it was, says Montanari, an "oligarchical society."
The Rolli Palaces are probably the most important trigger now that pushes people to see the city.
Three streets -- via Garibaldi, via Balbi and via Cairoli -- wrap around Genoa's original medieval center, filled with vast palaces, built on that unimaginable banking wealth.
Via Garibaldi, which sits at the northern edge of the medieval city, on a hillside, was in fact called "Strada Nuova" or "new street" when it was built.