Tuesday, July 26, 2011


I felt like a conqueror going into Loano. For one, I had just done a pretty long passage spanning three countries and covering a substantial chunk of the globe. But more importantly, Loano turns out to be the backyard of the Doria family.

Portrait of Andrea Doria.
How pompous an admiral do you have to be
to pose as Neptune, with a trident in hand?
Why is the Doria family so important? Well, it turns out that the biggest threat my favorite people, the Pirates of the Barbary Coast, faced was from a fellow named Andrea Doria. He's regarded as one of the best admirals and statesmen of all time. This is a fellow who, at different times, served France, Spain and allied forces of the Pope, all with distinction. We can look over the fact that in the two major battles that mattered, where he tried to put an end to the westward expansion of the Ottoman Empire, he was squarely defeated, once by Barbaros Hayreddin, and later, by Barbaros Hayreddin's protégé Dragut. So he's kind of like a weaker version of Darth Vader, who lost badly to Obi Wan Kenobe and then again to Luke, without being able to kill Obi Wan in between. But it is nevertheless a remarkable accomplishment to have served as the kind of roadbump the way he did. Sure, he lost, badly, but he was a brilliant strategist and clearly a very effective commander; he was just unlucky enough to have faced people way better than himself. He was lucky enough to survive these battles, and managed to become one of the main people behind the rise of Genoa as a city-state as well as a political and cultural center.

The Doria family has some other notable folks in it. Most importantly, Andrea Giovanni Doria (AGD), AD's nephew, inherited all of his uncle's estate and ships, and played a huge role in Lepanto, when the Pope's alliance put an end to the westward expansion of the Ottoman Navy. AGD's specific role in that battle is still up for some discussion, as apparently, he was told to hold the south end of the line, and when the fighting got rough, he took all of his ships and headed even further south and away from the battle. The rest of the admirals later admonished him for being a coward and running away from the main fight. And it was quite an uneven fight: apparently, the Ottoman fleet was so underprepared that they ran out of gunpowder and started flinging oranges at the enemy. And the guy calling AGD a coward is none other than a member of the Gonzaga family -- I've been to the Gonzaga summer palace, and based on the orgiastic frescoes and various monuments to favorite horses, I can conclusively state that that family consist of a bunch of uneducated perverts. It's not just me saying this now, but also people who lived at the same time and with the same cultural standards as the Gonzagas. Who should we believe in the infighting between the animalistic Gonzaga from the south and rich educated nephew from the north?AGD, in his defense, claimed that some of the Ottoman boats were trying to encircle the alliance's line, and that he had to head south to cut off a pincer attack. In the end, I suspect there is a bit of truth to the claims from both sides, as the southern wing of the Ottoman fleet did try to encircle the alliance, and as well, AGD was generally an ineffective and cowardly commander in other battles. But the bottom line is that the Doria family had a huge role in history. Without them, it's not clear that Italy would look like a boot today -- perhaps a shorter work shoe at best. There would certainly be no Genoa.

Loano is the Doria family's backyard. Though Andrea Doria's main mansion is in Genoa, the family had a summer palace in Loano, along with a church across the street.

The locals have added LED lights to the main piazza
How is this a historically accurate restoration?
Doria summer palace
Church across the street. Andrea Doria must have prayed here often enough to have had his life spared
in the various naval battles he lost
For a small chapel, the place looks pretty fancy, done up in a classical style, back when gold trim was very much in style. I imagine that both AD and AGD prayed really hard in here, to have faced the enemy they faced and to have come out alive.

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