Genoa, Italy is a port city and capital of Liguria. It was home to many skilled sailors and seafaring merchants. Dried macaroni became an important industry here in part because of the city's history as a port; macaroni is the perfect food to store on long sea journeys. In 1451, Christopher Columbus was born in Genoa, and his wealth from the Americas helped enrich the city coffers. Four cities in the United States bear the name Genoa, each for different reasons.
Genoa, New York
Situated in the rural Finger Lakes region of Cayuga County, Genoa has fewer than 2,000 residents. The settlement was originally formed into the town of Milton in 1789 but twenty-one years later, in 1808, renamed to Genoa. While nobody seems to dispute the name was changed to reflect the Italian city, there isn't much information as to why Genoa was chosen. There's no historical connection to Italy, nor were the early settlers from Italy. One possible reason for the change may be the result of several families arriving from Venice, New York. About a dozen families were considered squatters on the land known as "Indian fields," near Venice. These families were run off the land by the governor in 1791 and they settled around Milton, with the name changed to Genoa coming several few years later. Today, the closest thing to Italy in Genoa, New York is King Ferry Pizzeria, about 5 miles west on highway 90.
Ironically, this town isn't named after Genoa in Italy, but rather Genoa in New York State. Thomas Madison, who served in the Revolutionary War, named the town after the village in New York.
Genoa was first established by Mormon settlers in 1857. When the religion's founder, Joseph Smith, was murdered in 1844, the Mormons spread west. They followed a thousand mile long "Mormon Trail," locating the city 100 miles from Florence, Nebraska. The settlers had set out from Florence, a settlement that eventually would become a neighborhood in Omaha. However, this Florence was not named for the Italian city, but rather Florence Kilbourne. James C. Mitchell, a sea captain turned businessman, had set up a company town in the Indian territory that became Nebraska. He had married a widow who had children of her own. Her granddaughter Florence would become the city's namesake in an attempt to rebrand the company town into an actual place in the hope of becoming the state capital. Florence remained an independent town until 1917 when Omaha annexed it.
Genoa is the oldest permanent settlement in Nevada, operating as a trading post in 1851. Like Genoa, Nebraska, it was founded by Mormons. The church leader Brigham Young had the area surveyed with the intent on expanding Mormon settlement. Orson Hyde, sent to survey the land, named the city in honor of Christopher Columbus's place of birth, Genoa, Italy.
Ian MacAllen is America Domani's Senior Correspondent and the author of Red Sauce: How Italian Food Became American. He is a writer, editor, and graphic designer living in Brooklyn. Connect with him at IanMacAllen.com or on Twitter @IanMacAllen.