One hundred years old shops

A journey into the commercial heart of Genoa, discovering the oldest shops.

Mazzini shopping in the caruggi; Verdi showing up on time every morning in the Soziglia pastry shop to enjoy the never-failing jam-filled brioche (inevitably christened Falstaff). True images from over a century ago.

Perhaps a little faded, but they remained identical in one respect at least: many of those shops are still the same as they were at the end of the century.

In a modern city, where new businesses, restaurant chains and shops virtually identical to others all over the world are opening all the time (globalisation does not spare even the small retailer), there are more than a hundred shops that have already celebrated their first century. And no fewer than eleven have passed the two-century mark.

Most of the century-old shops are located in the Old Town or in Portoria, but you can find vintage shops in all Genoese neighbourhoods. It is therefore worth taking a look around the oldest shops to discover the charm of the past, but also the strength of the present.

It should not be forgotten, in fact, that those who have withstood the harsh law of the market over the decades have first and foremost been able to win over customers generation after generation and have made the company’s historical heritage a distinctive, high quality element.

Starting from the FAI’s Giacalone barber shop, founded in 1820 in vico Caprettari, you can easily reach many 19th-century shops, including the so called sciamadde, i.e. shops selling pies and chickpea farinata, where you can also enjoy properly prepared castagnaccio and fried panissa. Then you cannot help but pass by Via dei Giustiniani and sit around the marble tables of “Sa Pesta”, the grand gourmet of chickpea farinata. Or treat yourself to a “takeaway” at “Antica Sciamadda” in Via San Giorgio, a small shop with a vintage wood-fired oven, currently run by young people full of enthusiasm.

Just walk up towards Porta Soprana to dive into all types of chocolate at Viganotti‘s (1822), in vico dei Castagna, an old-fashioned shop that makes all the surrounding carruggi smell good. Thank goodness, because often, especially before the holidays, people queue outside the door to buy beautiful pralines and colourful cassatas!

Pursuing the call of the city’s oldest sweet flavours, you can detour to Piazza Soziglia, where the Fratelli Klainguti café-pastry shop, founded back in 1828, is located. Today the restaurant is closed awaiting a buyer. But it is not hard to imagine yourself here, sitting in a retro-looking little room, tasting croissants with jam and icing. These are the famous Falstaffs, invented by the pastry chef at the end of the 19th century in honour of Giuseppe Verdi himself, a frequent visitor to the café during his stays in Genoa. The composer showed great gratitude for the dedication of this speciality and, in fact, an autographed business card is still in plain view in the shop, on which it reads: “Thank you for the Falstaff! Very good, much better than mine”.

A little further on, past the historic Barisione stationery shop (1878), is the extraordinary showcase of Romanengo, the oldest confectioner’s shop in Genoa, which for over two hundred years has been manufacturing yummy jams, sugared almonds, candied fruits and delicious rosolio drops prepared according to centuries-old recipes.