top of page

Looking for ancestors
If you are looking for more detailed information about one or more of your ancestors emigrated to your country from Genova and its province areas, Anna will be more than happy to help you in your research. Ask her to look for what you need to know or discover, she is already in the right area knowing the tricks where to enquire properly, avoiding you the nuisance of getting in touch with Italian pubblic offices or churches from a distance.
Write to her by e-mail providing whatever detail you already have and good luck . . .

The big Ligurian Emigration toward the Americas

In the 19th and 20th centuries  emigration from Liguria was mainly the emigration of farmers and artisans who fled the poverty of their region and sought fortune in the rich areas overseas. Gradually the first emigrants urged their relatives and friends to join them and the phenomenon of emigration reached soon impressive dimensions:

- in 1850 5000 Ligurians left from the port of Genoa alone

- between 1849 and 1854, 25,000 people out of 120,000 inhabitants emigrated from the Chiavari area alone (5,000 in average per year)

- on average, every family in the Chiavari area had an emigrant (usually young and male) between 1849 and the 1860s.

In 1853 the Provincial Council of the Province of Chiavari illustrated the situation in the area as follows:

"We are affected in our main industry by the reduction of duties on fabrics, by the introduction of machines for spinning linen... while we see our countryside devastated by disease which has deprived us of the oil harvest for three years, threatened in the kinds of first necessity, we find ourselves reduced to the most deplorable condition imaginable. Therefore an emigration that is frightening and threatens the future of these areas."

Areas of our researches

Genoa city, its closest coastal villages and inland with its municipalities of:


Arenzano, Bogliasco, Busalla, Campomorone, Ceranesi, Cogoleto, Davagna, Fascia, Fontanigorda, Gorreto,

Isola del Cantone, Mele, Mignanego,

Montebruno, Montoggio, Pieve Ligure, Propata, Serra Recco, Riccò, 

Ronco Scrivia, Rondanina, Rovegno, Sant'Olcese, Sori,Tiglieto, Torriglia.

In addition to the area of its own municipality, the territory of Genoa, called "Genovesato", also covers the entire area of the immediate hinterland of the city, a predominantly mountainous territory, characterized by the valleys of Polcevera and Bisagno, as well as from Valle Scrivia with its transversal valleys called Val Vobbia and Val Brevenna, and from Val Trebbia. These valleys preserve artistic and architectural treasures of great value, immersed in a nature of striking beauty, unfortunately depopulated for decades but still retains, thanks to its inhabitants, the most genuine Ligurian traditions.
Not to forget the Stura valley to the west of the province of Genoa and Mount Antola, "the mountain of the Genoese", with the homonymous natural park, and the regional natural park of Beigua from whose mountains you can enjoy a sea view that has no equal.
Genoa and the coastal municipalities closest to the city , together with the mountainous areas of the hinterland, which in the past were the poorest, have suffered a strong emigration to the "Americas" during the nineteenth century, especially to Argentina, Chile, Peru and Uruguay in South America, but also scattered in various states of the United States, up to California during the gold rush.

Gulf of Tigullio coastal towns







Santa Margherita Ligure

Sestri Levante,


For the locals, the name "Gulf of Tigullio" does not only mean the stretch of Genoese coast that goes from Monte di Portofino to the Sestri Levante peninsula, but also its entire mountainous hinterland. Unmistakable and nowadays well known for tourism are the coastal villages and cities such as Portofino, Santa Margherita, Rapallo, Zoagli, Chiavari, Lavagna and Sestri Levante, but there are many other highly populated municipalities in the hinterland of this gulf. Strategically positioned in the center of the Gulf of Tigullio, Chiavari is the most expanded and commercially developed city along this Genoese coast, as well as an important point of reference for the three valleys behind it, the middle and lower Val Fontanabuona, the Valle Sturla and Aveto and the Val Graveglia , which, all together, form the so-called "Chiavari hinterland". This area, from the coast to the highest mountains of the region, was, more than other Ligurian areas, subject to a strong phenomenon of emigration which pushed numerous families to Latin America and the United States during the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, forming real Ligurian communities over there, who contributed to the development of those continents and still today bear surnames typically from these municipalities. We remember famous names such as Andrea Vaccarezza di Chiavari, who emigrated to Argentina in 1870 and made a thriving city out of a plot of land bought outside Buenos Aires, Antonio Devoto, emigrated from Lavagna to Buenos Aires, who made his fortune in real estate and left an entire district of the Argentine capital still dedicated to his name,  Josè Maria Sanguinetti, whose family was originally from Chiavari, Uruguayan president with two terms at the end of the last century, Salvatore Gardella, originally from Sori, who founded the Gardella roasting company in Guayaquil, Ecuador, giving rise to the famous coffee with his name,  Domenico Ghirardelli, from Rapallo, founder of the chocolate confectionery of the same name in San Francisco in the second half of the19th century.

Fontanabuona Valley

with its municipalites of:

Carasco, Cicagna,

Cogorno, Coreglia Ligure,

Favale di Malvaro,

Leivi, Lorsica,

Lumarzo, Moconesi,

Neirone, Orero,

San Colombano Certenoli,


The Fontanabuona valley is one of the main valleys of the province of Genoa, in Liguria, and it is located north of the Paradiso gulf, the Portofino promontory, and the Tigullio gulf. It is crossed by the SS road n. 225 (called Val Fontanabuona),  where the valley begins in the village of Carasco at the back of the coastal town of Chiavari. By motorway it can be reached from the Recco, Busalla, Genova-Est, Chiavari and Lavagna exits.

The big village of Cicagna is considered the capital of the valley.

Known above all for its numerous fine slate quarries, which have allowed the people of the valley an economic livelihood in the last two centuries,  Fontanabuona valley is completely crossed by the Lavagna river, along with it enjoys a wide valley floor, cultivable since ancient times, allowing a considerable flowering of agricultural and handicraft activities. A large production of vegetables and cereals are in fact counted in the records of the last two centuries, while between the 17th the 20th centuries an important production of damask and velvet from the valley  is also documented, waved initially on hand-looms, followed then by mechanic ones.

Since the nineteenth century, Fontanabuona was crossed by large emigrations abroad which left a tangible sign in the censuses: municipalities such as Lumarzo and San Colombano Certenoli saw their population halved, while in Neirone it remained, since the beginning of the migratory flows , one in four inhabitants.

There are three main foreign migratory currents:

     towards Germany (Hamburg area);

     to the United States of America (either east and west coast);

     towards Latin America (especially Cile).

The valley is the birthplace of Franks Sinatra’s mother, Natalina Garaventa from Lumarzo, the family of origin of Christopher Columbus, Amedeo Giannini, from Favale di Malvaro, founder of the Bank of Italy then become Bank of America, Julio Maria Sanguinetti ex President of Uruguai, whose family was from  just to name a few. The emigrants are often remembered in the main villages of the valley with inscriptions and monuments, which testify admiration and regret, thankfulness and melancholy. In 1959 the descendants of Leopoldo Saturno, native of San Marco d'Urri in Val Fontanabuona and emigrated with his wife to Reno Nevada in the United States in 1878, decided to thank the village of origin of their ancestors who had made a fortune in agriculture, giving vouchers worth 800,000 liras to each inhabitant of the village, an important amount of money for the time. Many of them managed to raise their economic state by building houses or starting small local businesses.

The most remembered names belonging to the families emigrated from Fontanabuona are: Torre, Cuneo, Ratti, Lagomarsino, Cademartori, Boitano, Bacigalupo, Schenone, Laverone, Queirolo, Solari, Oneto and many other.

Sturla & Aveto Valley with its municipalities of:




Santo Stefano d’Aveto

The Sturla and Aveto valleys, connected through the Apennine pass called Passo della Forcella and located between the municipalities of Borzonasca and Rezzoaglio ,  form a single mountain area located between the regions of Liguria and Emilia-Romagna, inserted between the provinces of Genoa and Piacenza. From the town of Carasco, at the back of Chiavari town, starts the Sturla Valley formed by the river of the same name, an ancient valley, known at the time of the Roman Empire, which includes the two mountain municipalities of Borzonasca and Mezzanego, in turn included in the Aveto Regional Natural Park. The valley is geographically bordered to the north by the Aveto valley, to the west by the Fontanabuona valley, to the east by the Vara valley (province of La Spezia) and the Taro valley (province of Parma) and to the south by the Graveglia valley. Its woods are mostly made up of hazelnut and chestnut trees but in the most exposed areas of the valley there are also vineyards and olive groves. Rising in altitude there are also large beech woods or areas used for grazing cattle and goats, once the main activity of the inhabitants of the valley. In the municipality of Borzonasca, at about 1000 m a.s.l., two artificial reservoirs were created in the 1920s - Lake Giacopiane and Lake Pian Sapeio - useful still today to meet the growing demand for electricity and the role of water reserve for the area of the Gulf of Tigullio and, sometimes, even the capital of Genoa.

Passing through the Aveto Valley there are the municipalities of Rezzoaglio and Santo Stefano d'Aveto instead, densely populated areas in characteristic hamlets still present as historical settlements with their ancient names. The Genoese territory of the valley includes the mountains Ramaceto and Aiona of the Apennines, with their peaks exceed 1000 msl. The valley is characterized by high mountain landscapes and there are often pastures immersed in vast beech woods. Human activities related to cattle breeding have had a great impact on the conformation of the territory. Meat and local dairy products are in fact a flagship of artisanal production among the entire territory of Tigullio area.

The valley also boasts a protected regional natural park, called Parco dell'Aveto , which covers one of the most important natural areas of the entire Ligurian Apennines. It was established to protect a wide variety of geological, fauna and flora, but also to preserve the anthropic footprint of the place. The park includes, in part or totally, the municipalities of Borzonasca, Mezzanego, Rezzoaglio, headquarters of the park management body, and Santo Stefano d'Aveto.

There were many families in these two valleys who abandoned their homeland as emigrants in search of a job and better prospects for their children, but, apart from some sporadic cases, those who "made their fortune" remained in the places where they had obtained citizenship and benefits, while those who returned to their lands of origin told more about hardship and suffering than wealth. Surnames originating in the Sturla and d'Aveto Valleys that most are found abroad as emigrated families are: Rossi/o, Monteverde/i, Fugazza/i, Cella/e,  Raggi/Raggio. Marco Fontana, founder of the cannery industry  "Del Monte" in California comes from the village of Cerisola in Aveto Valley, born in 1849 he emigrates to California with his family at the age of 6 years.

Graveglia Valley with its

municipalities of:

Arzeno, Botasi, Caminata,

Castagnola, Chiesanuova, Conscienti, Frisolino, Graveglia, Nascio, Ne, Piandifieno, Pontori, Reppia,

Sambuceto, Santa Lucia, Statale,

Gaggia, Zerli

Val Graveglia is a valley in the eastern part of the province of Genoa, crossed almost entirely by the stream of the same name. Its geographical area partly follows the territory of the municipality of Ne, created by the union of the various hamlets and villages scattered throughout the valley. The territory is surrounded by various mountain peaks including Mount Zatta, located on the border between the neighboring provinces of Parma, La Spezia. The morphology of the land is characterized by steep slopes and cavities are frequently found in the rock, which has now become a destination for geologists and speleologists to delve into a more detailed study of the territory and therefore of its primitive history. In the area there is one of the largest manganese mines in Europe - the Gambatesa mine. The flora of the valley is mostly dominated by chestnut trees and in the lower part there are olive groves and vineyards, cultivated by local producers to obtain fine olive oils and white wines. From the beginning of the 19th century until after the Second World War, the Val Graveglia saw a massive emigration of its population towards the Americas, due to the poverty and underdevelopment of that area of Italy, but which, with their great fortitude and resourcefulness, left a precious legacy of culture and tradition to their descendants who still live especially in the United States, and in many states of South America, such as Uruguay, Argentina, Chile and Peru. There are names like Garibaldi, Prato, Rossi, Raffo,  which are connected to the families of the same name in the valley and which recall important characters such as that of the Italian patriot General Giuseppe Garibaldi, settled in Uruguay on the first half of the 19th cent. and fighting for the rights of the locals, or Emilia Prato one of the textile workers who died in the fire of the cotton factory in New York in 1911, the mayor of San Francisco Angelo Rossi jr. who, on the 27th May 1937, cut the ribbon at the inauguration of the Golden Gate Bridge . . . and many others.

bottom of page