Amid the general decay of Genoa, a large church stands at the end of formerly grandest via Balbo. There is an impressively large Neoclassic portico, obviously tacked in front of a Baroque façade that would otherwise look exactly like every other 16th century church in Spanish America. All in all, not very promising for the tourist. But early on a Sunday morning, this is the first open building the visitor finds after a certain walk from the train station, and so one goes inside.
And what a find! The Santissima Annunziata del Vastato basilica's spectacular decoration by the best artists of Genoa during its golden age in the 17th century was sponsored by the Lomellini family, vastly enriched by a concession granted in 1543 by King Charles of Spain: the exclusive right to mine the red coral on Tabarca Island. Used to make jewellery, coral was sold in Europe and much exported to India as well, making the Lomellini among the wealthiest of Genoese. The concession ended in 1741, when the Moors invaded Tabarca and enslaved the 69 Genoese families for 27 years; their freedom was, in the end, purchased by Charles III of Spain in 1768 who then gave the 394 former slaves the island of Nueva Tabarca in Spain.
The Lomellini used the basilica as family chapel from 1591 and in 1783 got Pope Pius VI to formally declare it as family parish (parrocchia gentilizia), but the family became extinct in 1794.