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The Monumental Cemetery of Staglieno

There are a million reasons to visit Italy, from eating pizza during the sunset, to joining the support group for the Leaning Tower. But the experience I will describe, for me was one of a kind, and the place, to my surprise, is not so well known, even amongst Italians. One photo which I came across when I was 17 was my only guide. A photo of a sculpture of an angel lying in agony, with his wings wide-spread on a tomb, whose despair would touch hearts of many, as it has done with mine. It was like watching pure personification of pain, pain that can be felt after the loss of the loved one. I quickly found the location, and after almost 4 years I was sitting on the bus to Genova, which destination was the Monumental Cemetery of Staglieno. Over 150 years old, occupying the space of over 30 hectares, including the hill, Staglieno is one of the biggest monumental cemeteries in Europe, with over 2 million burials. By describing this place, I’m not advertising a tourist trip in the atmosphere of the Adams family - just the opposite.

What makes this place so unique are hundreds of sculptures - monuments, thus creating one of the most beautiful galleries of sculptures in the open air. Tombstones in Staglineo are full of emotions, pain, and the highest form of aesthetics. Each sculpture tells the story of people who have already passed away. And so walking around Staglieno is like paging through the catalogue of human emotions; some families beg incorruptible angels to let them say the last goodbye for already gone beloved ones, there are also those who beg for permission to join them in the last journey. There are those who look as if they only fell asleep in a long-awaited dream- relief. There are stone statues of angels whispering into ears the words of hope and encouragement, or angels that instead of words, are just leading sufferers gently by the hand. Mothers that after losing a child are shouting in agony to the heavens, begging for justice. Lovers who are putting the last kiss on their lips before parting. There are soldiers who in victory greet death as an old friend. Some of them want to win the duel with death with swords made of stone, others put stone flowers next to their close frozen relatives. There are those who warmly wait and knock on the door, in the hope that these will finally open. Some of the sculptures will set their eyes on you, saying noiselessly, "The same fate is waiting for you." There are so many subtlety and human emotions put into these sculptures, that it is impossible to feel lonely. Despite the heat in Italy, it is obligatory to climb the hill leading to the Pantheon and the Jewish part of the cemetery. You can try to cool yourself down by fanning with all these maps that you got at the entrance (so as not to get lost haha) but Staglieno will absorb you and overwhelm you with the first step.

Despite the lack of tourists, you will never be there alone – mosquitoes are making sure that you never feel omitted. The only hope is the information point, in which wonderful employees, not only will save the day with spray against these creatures, but they will kindly share their amazing knowledge. With joy and passion, they will devote their time to tell you the history of this place. Staglieno can be a way to spend the day in a light reverie, or just simply to cheer up your eyes with the outstanding aesthetic of sculptures. For me, however, it was one of the most moving, and so little known, places that I had ever visited.

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