Once a glorious port location full of riches, this was once a powerful world trading centre. Today Genoa is a decaying port town yet still with charm and hidden away in Italy’s north west corner.  The glorious facades of grand palaces remain as do the once grand pavement settings. But, unlike in the more grand and wonderfully polished Turin or Rome, what grandeur remains tends to be hidden in slightly downtrodden alleyways that are in desperate urgent need of renovation.

In truth the city of Genoa has improved greatly in recent years; using its position as the European Capital of Culture in 2004 to re-advertise itself to the world as the birthplace of perhaps the greatest explorer there has ever been – Christopher Columbus.

Outside of a few examples (FC Bari’s Stadio San Nicola being one) football stadia in Italy still remains an inner city urban art form.  The city of Genoa remains home to one of these in the Luigi Ferraris Stadium; a venue that plays host to the two major football clubs from the city.

Genoa Cricket and Football Club

The story of football at Genoa CFC mirrors that of the city to which they belong – a club desperate to recapture its long lost glory and status.  If one of its famous sons Columbus gave birth to the ‘new world’, so it was the city of Genoa which helped give birth to the story of modern football in Italy.

In 1893 a group of English expats founded the Genoa Cricket and Athletic Club which went on to field Italy’s first ever football team.  This side proceeded to win six of the first seven Italian championships.  It was an Englishman called James Richardson Spensley who helped establish its football arm as an organised institution in Italy.  In 1897 the footballing sections of the club became predominant thanks to the work of Spensley, incredible for a man who had only arrived in the city of Genoa one year earlier.

Genoa competed in and won the first Italian Championship in 1898 but another landmark was reached in 1901 when the club adopted its famous classic red and navy halved shirts and became known as the rossoblu.

But the most telling landmark for the club since its birth was the move to the Campo Sportivo Marassi which had originally been built by Genoa C.F.C. in 1909 and maintained as a private property.  The stadium as a football venue was inaugurated on 22nd January 1911 with a football match between Genoa and Internazionale.

Since these early years the stadium has been rebuilt three times and was renamed the Luigi Ferraris after the engineer and Genoa centre half of the same name killed during World War One.  Large parts of the old stadium were demolished in the run up to the 1990 FIFA World Cup and a redesign was conducted by the Milanese architect Vittorio Gregotti; a man who would also remodel the Montjuic Stadium for the 1992 Barcelona Olympic Games.

The stadium in Genoa proved to be one of the most popular venues during the 1990 World Cup hosting matches of Sweden, Scotland and the Irish.

Crucially, the rebuild for Italia ’90 included the construction of the four distinctive red brick towers which stand at each corner of the ground. In total however it is the overall shape and feel of the ground which makes the stadium one of the easiest to fill with atmosphere and colour in Italy.

UC Sampdoria

In 1946 Genoa were joined at the Luigi Ferraris by a new Genoa club – UC Sampdoria.  Two successful clubs from Genoa – Society Andrea Doria and Gimnastica Sampierdarenese merged to form the new club Unione Calcio Sampdoria.

Like Genoa CFC all those years previously a new football kit was designed for the new club. This kit was a compromise between the blue shirts of Andrea Doria and the white, red and black midsections of Sampierdarenese – helping to create the kit we know today. The club soon became known as the blucerchiati.

While success for Genoa had came almost overnight it would take almost 40 years for Sampdoria to become a truly successful outfit.  This period of success coincided with the appointment of businessman Paolo Mantovani as club president. For Sampdoria this was a period of great names from Trevor Francis, Roberto Mancini, Sounness, Vialli, Cerezo through to the tactical vision of legendary coach Vujadin Boskov.

The pinnacle for the Sampdoria came in 1992.  Only a Ronald Koeman free-kick at Wembley that went crashing past Gianluca Pagliuca prevented the Genoa club from winning the European Cup leaving captain Mancini crestfallen in tears on the old Wembley pitch.

Like so many grounds in Italy the Luigi Ferraris stadium continues to come under municipal ownership. It is currently still used for the football matches of both Genoa and Sampdoria in Serie A.   Occasionally the Italian national football team will play friendly and international qualification home ties at the stadium.

You can see some of our images from Genoa here.