All “sea routes” lead to Genoa, a hub not only for goods, but also for ideas and relations networks. This has always been the case, or at least since the era of the Maritime Republic. In the 20th century the city’s fame grew and the Bristol Palace, inaugurated in 1904, soon became the haunt of the beau monde, of the members of the Italian and international high society who happened to find themselves in Genoa for whatever reason. One such was a genius of the calibre of Guglielmo Marconi, the inventor of the radio. A native of Bologna, in Genoa he found a stimulating, welcoming environment, a springboard for one of his most famous achievements.
A radio bridge between Genoa and Australia
at 11.30 in the morning on March 26 1930
a man in a sailor’s uniform presses a button
. On the other side of the world, in Australia, it’s the middle of the night: 3,000 people
are waiting with their noses upturned and with bated breath outside Sydney Town Hall. In an instant the building is illuminated by 2,800 sparkling lights. Then a voice travels across the vast distance. “Hello Australia,”
it says. “This is Guglielmo Marconi speaking on board the yacht Elettra in Genoa, Italy.” Edited footage of that historic day has been conserved by the Istituto Luce
, the old Educational Film Union Institute.
The radio signal had crossed land and sea, covering 14,000 kilometres in an instant. Directing the electromagnetic wave was the great inventor in person on board his yacht-cum-home-cum-laboratory berthed in Genoa harbour. In 1930 as the father of radio and winner of the Nobel Prize for Physics 20 years earlier, he was a famous name everywhere. In his Nobel acceptance speech in 1909, he had said that, “In this way it may someday be possible for messages to be sent to such distant lands by means of a very small amount of electrical energy, and therefore at a correspondingly small expense”.
Marconi, a special guest at the Bristol
Marconi conducted many experiments travelling around the world on his yacht Elettra, a navy reconnaissance vessel converted into a floating home and laboratory. But Genoa for him was a home from home and he often berthed in the Gulf of Tigullio, part of the larger Gulf of Genoa, since then known also as the Gulf of Marconi. A marquis by birth, Marconi was president both of the National Research Councul and of the Italian Royal Academy, the present-day “Lincean Academy”. In Genoa he frequented high society, for whom the Bristol Palace was a regular haunt. He was also a founding member of the local Rotary Club, which used to hold its weekly meetings at the hotel.