The great Jesuit preacher, originally from Nettuno, was considered in all of Italy a charismatic personality of great distinction. In fact, his sermons without rhetoric had an incredible success in those times in which Italy, half asleep, lacked stimulus and was, submitting to a period of decadence. The spiritual mission was to give a goal to human life and the throngs of the faithful venerated Segneri to such a fanatical point that they would do anything to obtain some physical memento, cutting pieces of his clothing, slicing splinters from the furniture he sat on, or from where his coat was hanging. Padre Paolo Segneri was sought by the Genoese senate and invited to Genoa “La Superba” (The Proud) in 1688. On his way from the Grand Duchy of Tuscany he stopped at Lerici, then he departed from there Saturday April 24th for Genoa. However a strong westerly wind blew in from the high point of the promontory making it impossible to continue.
Paolo Segneri was thus forced to find refuge in the little port that he defined “a very miserable place where one suffers not a little”. In fact there was no residence appropriate for someone like him and perhaps the inn where Charles Louis de Montesquieu as we shall soon see would find the red mullet so delicious fifty years later, was not there yet. It was then that two days later a representative of the patrician Eugenio Durazzo brought him to Portofino and Santa Margherita Ligure where he was welcomed in the splendid villa and where he remained as a guest for three days, enjoying the beautful panoramic view from the garden and strolling with his hosts through the magnificent park.
It is probable that he celebrated mass in the nearby church of San Giacomo di Corte, but this has not been verified. The author of “Quaresimale” then continued on to Genoa passing by land San Lorenzo della Costa and Ruta. In Genoa he enjoyed a grand festive welcome.
Padre Paolo Segneri
Portofino, a World part.