Aquarium of Genoa, Italy

The Genoa Aquarium is an aquarium located in Ponte Spinola, in the sixteenth-century ancient port of Genoa. At the time of the inauguration it was the largest in Europe and the second in the world.

Owned by Porto Antico di Genova SpA and managed by Costa Edutainment SpA, was inaugurated in 1992 on the occasion of the Colombiadi, or the Expo celebrating the 500th anniversary of the discovery of America. The design of the structure and the surrounding area is by the architect Renzo Piano, the interiors have been designed by the architect Peter Chermayeff. It was subsequently expanded several times. At the time of its inauguration it was the second largest aquarium in the world. From opening to 2014, it has been visited by over 25 million visitors, with an average of 1.2 million per year.

The Aquarium
The 2-hour and 30-minute journey includes 39 tanks plus the 4 open-air ones of the Cetacean Pavilion inaugurated in the summer of 2013. The total area of the structure is 27,000 square meters. The tanks host about 15,000 animals of 400 different species including fish, marine mammals, birds, reptiles, amphibians, invertebrates in environments that reproduce those originating in the individual species with evident educational purposes.

Four large tanks allow you to observe the animals from two different levels; respectively they host manatees, sharks of different species, seals, penguins. Thanks to the new Cetacean Pavilion, dolphins can be admired both from above, thanks to a large glass wall with an opening window, and from an underwater perspective thanks to the 15-meter-long glazed tunnel and the large 20-meter long acrylic.

Twice a day, the public can attend the dolphin meal time with a trainer available to tell curiosities and information on animal biology and on the daily work necessary to maintain these animals.

The special “Adventure Aquarium” and “Secret Aquarium” itineraries are particularly suitable for children: they allow you to discover what is hidden behind the tanks and see the secret areas of the Aquarium. Children will understand and learn much more about the beauty of the aquarium.

Once a month, the Aquarium of Genoa offers the “Night with the Sharks”, offering a maximum of 35 boys per night (aged between 7 and 18 years) to sleep in front of the shark tank, passing a whole night inside the aquarium, to find out all about the nocturnal behavior of its inhabitants.

The moray cave
An imposing cylinder of over 6 meters. The adventure begins to discover the Blue Planet. In the semi-darkness, the imposing moray eel cave appears, a cylindrical tank over 6 meters high, wrapped in a setting reminiscent of the section of a shell. Here, together with the moray eels hidden among the rocky ravines, some scorpionfish can be seen, often motionless on the seabed with which they blend perfectly. In the same room you can also observe two species of seahorse and the most intelligent among invertebrates: the octopus.

The mermaid lagoon
Manatees, herbivorous aquatic mammals swim in the lagoon of the sirens. It seems that these meek animals have given rise to the myth of the sirens, mythological figures “half woman and half fish”. The origin of this legend is probably due to the ways of feeding the manatees, very similar to ours. The Genoa Aquarium is the only structure in Italy and one of the 10 in Europe to maintain this species, at serious risk of extinction.

Virtual reality installation
Comfortably seated and wearing the virtual reality viewers (Samsung Gear VR), visitors begin their journey on an imaginary time machine, starting from modern Italy, making a first stop in Brazil about 112,000,000 years ago and then a second in England, even further back in time – 163,000,000 years ago – where, in the sea depths, you will find the “sea monsters” of the time: Liopleurodon and other species.

The kingdom of ice
Penguins and Antarctic marine species. The evocative setting with ice-effect white lacquered walls accompanies visitors to discover the inhospitable Antarctic continent and sub-Antarctic areas. Contrary to what happens in the continental areas, Antarctic marine waters are far from uninhabited; the species that inhabit them have developed extraordinary adaptations to survive in extreme conditions. The Aquarium of Genoa is the only structure in Europe to host some specimens of invertebrates and Antarctic fish.

In the ice kingdom it is also possible to observe some specimens of Papua penguin and Magellanic penguin; the tank that houses them represents the environment of the Falkland Islands, where both species are found in some periods of the year.

Cetacean Pavilion
On July 27, 2013 the Cetacean Pavilion was inaugurated, designed by architect Renzo Piano. The new structure is located between the Italian ship and the main body and is 23 meters high (like a seven-storey building) for the most part immersed in water, 94 long, 30 wide and houses four pools for a total of 4800 cubic meters of water volume. The exhibition itinerary winds over two floors.

When you enter the Cetacean Pavilion, your breathing stops for a moment and your heart starts to beat fast. The four open-air pools house a social group of bottlenose dolphins, the coastal dolphins. The visit itinerary offers an immersive experience thanks to the two levels that allow you to admire the animals both from the surface, as if you saw them in the open sea, and from an underwater perspective that offers exciting views. An extraordinary window on the Cetacean Sanctuary, the largest Marine Protected Area in the Mediterranean Sea, which allows you to observe dolphins up close thanks to a 24-meter-long glass wall and an impressive underwater tunnel about 15 meters long.

Biodiversity Pavilion
After the inauguration, the structure was enlarged for the first time in 1998 using the spaces of the hull of a ship (called Nave Italia or Nave Blu ) which houses the Biodiversity Pavilion. In a tank the visitor can dip his hands and touch the spokes (tactile tanks) directly. In this area there are not only marine species, but also animals of rain forests or fresh water, such as turtles, snakes, iguanas, amphibians.

The path in the Biodiversity Pavilion winds inside the large Blue Ship of the Genoa Aquarium. In the first area, called Blue Safari, there is the tactile tub, where you can get excited by caressing, with due care, some breed specimens. In the same room you can see sturgeons, ancient fish and surprising biological characteristics. Continuing in the area dedicated to tropical environments, you are immersed in an Indo-Pacific coral lagoon which is home to numerous species such as puffer fish, Napoleon fish and the zebra shark; in front there is an educational area where you can go into the reconstruction of a coral reef portion and discover the biology and ecology of corals through videos, computer graphics animations and three-dimensional reconstructions.

The tropical forest
Tropical forests represent one of the environments with the highest biodiversity: more than half of the animal and plant species existing on Earth live in them. In the area dedicated to the African tropical forest, in the Biodiversity Pavilion, terrestrial or freshwater species live, such as fish, frogs, tortoises, geckos. In this “green” area of the Aquarium you can admire the first plant wall made in Italy, designed by the French architect Patrick Blanc, consisting of over 150 tropical plants fastened in pockets made of a felt layer, and a reconstruction of the Malagasy forest of the Tsingy of Bemaraha.

The routes of the tropics
The last exhibition section of the Biodiversity Pavilion wants to pay homage to the great explorers and naturalists of the past, such as Colombo, Humboldt and Darwin. In this area some freshwater and marine environments of the tropical belt are represented. Here there is also a fun tub for the little ones, where the main characters of the beloved animation film “Finding Nemo” swim: children can play to identify the cartoon favorites, such as Branchia, Dory and of course Nemo.

The jellyfish dance
A room where you can let yourself be carried away by the floating movement of the jellyfish: nine tanks to discover species from different seas of the world, and the main phases of the life cycle of these ancient organisms and with a very simple structure. A dedicated soundtrack and a particular lighting accompanies visitors in this engaging experience.

The world of corals
This area is dedicated to the marine ecosystem which has the greatest variety of animal species and one of the most needy to protect the planet: the coral reefs. It includes three small basins; in the main, thanks to special lamps that reproduce light conditions very similar to those of a full moon night, visitors can admire a particular natural phenomenon: the fluorescence of corals. The other two tanks house colorful tropical species and the small ones of clownfish and cardinalfish that regularly grow in our Aquarium.

Meetings with the staff
Meet with the staff and get involved in the heart of the life of the Genoa Aquarium. A rich program of speeches – 48 weekly meetings in 6 different areas – allows you to interact with the staff who takes care of the animals, to discover all the secrets and curiosities of a place where life is constantly renewed.

Technical specifications
The water of the Aquarium is taken off the coast thanks to a sea outlet which guarantees a constant supply of excellent quality water. It is housed in four tanks located on the side of the two floors. The water is analyzed and purified, then introduced into the tanks, all equipped with mechanical and biological filtration systems, guaranteeing the right temperature, pH and salinity in each room.

Galata Sea Museum
At the Galata Museo del Mare it is possible to board a Genoese Galea of the 17th century 33 meters long, rebuilt in full size on the first floor of the Museum. The visitor can explore the interior, discover life on board, take on the role of a crew member and admire rare finds and works of the time that complete this journey through time.

The Brig of the 19th century
The historical reconstruction of the nineteenth-century schooner brig, one of the great protagonists of the Italian navy of that period, occupies an entire gallery on the second floor of the Galata. The layout illustrates the life on board on these fast, safe ships, suitable for any type of traffic and route, with a wealth of details and anecdotes. All visitors can relive the emotions and suggestions of life on board sailing ships.

The Ocean Crossing
The travel experience continues on the third floor, taking the visitor to the Americas. The permanent and dynamic exhibition tells, in 1,200 square meters and over 40 multimedia and interactive positions, the great ocean crossing of Italian migrants aboard steamships to America, Brazil and Argentina, with a look at the contemporary migratory phenomenon.

The Submarine Nazario Sauro
Visiting the Galata Museo del Mare means having an exclusive sailing experience not only above, but also under the sea, with the submarine Nazario Sauro. The Nazario Sauro, launched in 1976 and operational until 2002, is the first museum ship in Italy to be visited on the water. It offers the thrill of experiencing the living conditions on board a real submarine, also through multimedia and interactive technical solutions.

Submarine Nazario Sauro
The submarine S 518 Nazario Sauro, moored in the area of the Museo Galata Museo del Mare at the port of Genoa, is the first museum ship in Italy to be visited on the water.

The Biosphere is the scenic spherical glass and steel structure located in the Old Port of Genoa, designed by the architect Renzo Piano. It is the place to learn about the fauna and flora of tropical forests, delicate ecosystems threatened by human exploitation. You will be able to observe more than 150 species closely, admire their fragile beauty and understand how their survival depends on you too.

Under the eyes, rare specimens of tropical plants: in addition to the tree ferns, the highest in the world grown in pots, there are plants traditionally used by man, such as the chewing gum tree, the coffee plant, the banana tree and cinnamon.

Eudocimus ruber
All the animals housed in the Biosphere, the scarlet ibis, with the characteristic plumage of an intense red color, is certainly the most showy. It lives in mangroves, tidal areas, estuaries and other wetlands of northeastern South America. It feeds mainly on crustaceans, molluscs and small fish which it seeks in the mud with its long curved beak.

The large tree ferns, the pride of the Biosphere, are primitive plants; they date back to Carboniferous, a period prior to about 100 million years before the appearance of dinosaurs. When they appeared on earth, tree ferns colonized all the emerged areas, competing with the other primitive plants without stem. During the geological eras, while maintaining their original characteristics, they have differentiated into hundreds of species currently spread all over the globe.

Passiflore, plants also known as passion flowers, are very popular with butterflies for laying eggs, because caterpillars feed on their leaves. To defend itself from these voracious organisms, the Passiflora phoenicea species produces two false butterfly eggs on each petiole; the butterfly is thus induced to look for another “less crowded” place of deposition.

Bigo Panoramic Lift
The Bigo is the panoramic lift located in the Porto Antico area near the Genoa Aquarium. Designed by architect Renzo Piano, it offers an extraordinary aerial perspective of one of the largest and richest art centers in Europe.

The lift cabin takes you to 40 meters in height and rotates 360 °, giving you a wide view of the port and city. It is equipped with photographic panels and a multilingual audio system (Italian, English, French and German) that tell the beauties of Genoa; the comments are accompanied by a pleasant background music.

From the lift cabin you can discover the bell towers, the towers, the characteristic slate roofs, the ancient and modern buildings that emerge from the labyrinth of the “caruggi” of Genoa. An amazing visit, which will make you have a unique view of the city.