When a city is so full of art, history, architecture and culture like Genoa, it is hard to talk about it. Emphasizing one aspect means, in fact, wrong to another equally important. So it is, for example, for history: Certainly the glorious' 500 with the Republic that dominated sea and markets, but woe to forget that Genoa was also fundamental in the development of post-unification Italy. Even the recent past, however, was not stingy with satisfaction: in 2004 the city was the European capital of culture and two years later, in 2006, the palaces of the center, where at the time of the Maritime Republic the nobles lived, they entered be part of the UNESCO Heritage. In short, Genoa really has it all: it is at the same time a city of art and industry, continuing, moreover, to maintain a strategic role in the commercial trades of the Mediterranean thanks to its port. Even if travelers from all over the world are all about Cinque Terre and more famous destinations, Genoa has so much to offer to its visitors! This is the reason why, in this guide, we are going to share with you some info and tips to explore this beautiful and often overrated Italian city. Let’s begin!
The historic center of Genoa and its carrugi
Those who really want to get to know Genoa before letting themselves be enchanted by the beauty of its buildings will do well to 'get lost' in the gut of the alleys of the old city. 'Carrugi' are called in dialect and eye not to confuse them with the 'Creuze' that instead are steep paved slopes that reach the sea. A dense maze of alleys born to defend themselves from pirates and that however in the Middle Ages became the beating heart of the economic and civil life of the Genoese. Ancient artisan workshops that in most cases ended up giving the name to the street where they stood. Nowadays the artisans are not (almost) anymore the toponomastic sui generis and the tourist charm of these streets full of typical shops, bazaars and historic bars where an important part of the city's nightlife is concentrated.
Visiting the Cathedral of San Lorenzo in Genoa
The Cathedral of San Lorenzo is the most important place of worship in the city. Throughout the Middle Ages it was also of civil and political life, since Genoa, for centuries, had no squares and other places where to exercise secular power. Funded with the proceeds of the Crusades, it is a Romanesque-style church, although the three entrance portals deviate from the prevailing imprint, the only remaining traces of an attempt to transform the church into Gothic style begun in the 1200s - so, about a century after the first edification - and yet never completed. Among the many works, the Chapel of San Giovanni Battista, built between the 14th and 15th centuries and housed in the left aisle of the building, certainly deserves a special mention. The relics of the saint are kept here, also in the city following the Crusades. Very nice to see also the Museodel Tesoro which is located in the basement of the Cathedral. In these places are exposed numerous masterpieces of gold and sacred art for a time span of almost a thousand years, from the eleventh to the nineteenth century.
Exploring Palazzi dei Rolli in Genoa
Palazzi dei Rolli are none other than the beautiful residences of the Genoese nobility that at the turn of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries offered hospitality to the famous people passing through the city.
The dwellings (over a hundred) that the Republic of Genoa had allocated for this purpose were included in special lists (Rolli of public housing) that were updated periodically. On the basis of their architectural value and their sumptuousness, the Palaces were divided into three categories (compasses), each of which was associated with a certain category of guest: first compass for cardinals, princes and viceroys; second compass for feudal lords and governors; third for princes and ambassadors. Since 2006 forty-two of these prestigious buildings 'divided in sequence atrium - courtyard - staircase - garden and rich in interior decorations', have been recognized by UNESCO 'World Heritage' as 'expression of a unique social and economic identity that inaugurates the urban architecture of modern age in Europe '. A walk through the streets of Balbi, Garibaldi, Lomellini and San Luca will take you to discover these historic homes and a rich past that has made hospitality a cultural model.
Marveling at the Lantern
The love of the Genoese for the 'Lantern' cannot be explained by referring only to its public utility. The lighthouse of Genoa, in fact, is rather a totem that sums up the thousand-year history of the city. According to some sources, in fact, the first construction dates back to 1128 even if there is no certainty on the date. What is certain, in ancient times, on the top of the tower were burned large bundles of heather and broom to signal the presence of the port to ships in transit in the city waters. Naturally, the structure also had a sighting function to avert the lightning-fast attacks of piracy that for centuries has infested the waters of the Mediterranean. The current form dates back to 1543 and since then has survived almost unscathed wars and natural calamities. 76 meters long, the lighthouse of Genoa is the highest in the Mediterranean, as well as one of the oldest in Europe among those still in operation.
A taste of the good life in Corso Italia and Boccadasse
Bars, restaurants, bathing establishments, palaces and the typical atmosphere of a seaside town.Corso Italia is the Genoa promenade. Over two kilometers of coastline linking the Foce district and the seaside village of Boccadasse. The latter certainly deserves a visit because it is one of the most significant evidence of that ancient way of building sui generis that is Mediterranean architecture. Two aspects should be emphasized: the first is that Boccadasse has preserved almost intact the original urban structure despite the surrounding building expansion; the other is that the fishermen are still present, even if, clearly, in a smaller number than in the past. As is obvious, here too there are bars, ice cream parlors and typical restaurants based on fish. Finally a curiosity. According to some, 'La Boca', the historic district of Buenos Aires inhabited mostly by Genoese immigrants, owes its name precisely to the origin of many of these from the Boccadasse neighborhood. This would explain - to follow this hypothesis - the similarity of the names between the two neighborhoods.
Visiting the iconic aquarium
This is the Genoa’s icons and main highlight. This structure by size second only to the Valencia aquarium. A virtual room has recently been inaugurated and more and more the story is told, or 'storytelling' as it is fashionable to say today, to make the experience more active and engaging. An experience really suitable for everyone, adults and children, with the further possibility of choosing the path that best suits your needs. In short, a truly unavoidable stop for anyone coming to Genoa.
Galata Museum to get to know the local history
The largest Maritime Museum of the Mediterranean with a route that follows four ages of the navy: the age of the oar, with the galleys and the ancient arsenal; the age of sailing, that of the vessels and the subsequent clippers; the steam age, which marks the rise of the steamers and with it the great Italian migrations in the transatlantic; finally, today's migrations from North Africa are heading for Italy and Greece on board rafts and other makeshift boats. A visit in which you participate actively, since you can get on board the galley and explore the interior; even experience life on board the submarineNazarioSauroor, better yet, enter the Hall of the Tempest in 4D, to relive virtually the experience of the stormy sea!
A great starting point for a wider itinerary
Genoa has a strategic position making it the perfect spot to explore the Riviera Ligure in a stress-free and exciting way. Rent a car and start exploring the two amazing sides of the riviera with the Ponente Riviera and the Levante Riviera made up of beautiful boroughs and villages both on the countryside and the seaside.
Strolling at Porto Antico and its attractions
At the beginning we referred to the recent acknowledgments of the city: European Capital of Culture in 2004; Unesco protection of the 'StradeNuove' Palaces in 2006. However, woe to forget Expo '92 without which, probably, we would not have witnessed the rebirth of the 'Porto Antico', an important piece of Genoa. An area of 230,000 square meters which, thanks also to the contribution of the city archistar Renzo Piano, has become an important center of cultural and social aggregation. Apart from the Aquarium, which we have already talked about, shops, galleries, restaurants, bars and cinemas have sprung up in the area, not to mention the skating rink in winter and the outdoor swimming pool in the summer months. In short, Porto Antico is one of the unmissable stops of a visit to Genoa. The ideal place to spend a couple of hours in absolute relaxation between an aperitif and a visit to some typical shop.
Nervi’s Parks to relax and enjoy the views
The largest urban park on the sea of the whole Mediterranean. A botanical complex of over 90,000 square meters consisting of a group of villas (Gropalio, Salluzzo Serra, GrimaldiFassio, Luxoro) previously owned by private individuals and now home to museums and other praiseworthy cultural and historical initiatives. A beautiful park, especially in spring, when many of the hundred and more botanical species present are in the period of maximum flowering. The walk, about two kilometers long, besides so much green (pines, cypresses, palm trees, etc.) also offers a wonderful sea view over the Gulf of Genoa.
What to eat in Genoa
When we talk about cooking and good food, even things taken for granted have their value, so for Genoa we cannot help but recommend, first of all, a good plate of pasta with pesto, and then, a good piece of focaccia.
That's right, the specialties of Genoa are these two. The focaccia is prepared in many ways: olives, onion, cheese, sage and so on. Also the stuffed pasta is a typical product of the city like ravioli and traditional pansotti, stuffed with eggs, chard and ricotta. Among the first courses also very popular is the Pasqualina cake, a puff pastry filled with artichokes, courgettes, cheese and eggs. The Genovese vegetable soup and the farinata, a thin focaccia made with chickpea flour mixed with water, oil and salt and then cooked in a wood oven, are really delicious. In a seaside town such as Genoa, certainly, fish cannot be missing, the Genoese cod prepared with cod, calamari, anchovies and sardines. Among the most particular dishes there is the cappon magro, a rich and elaborate salad that has a bottom of biscuits flavored with garlic, vinegar and salt, with fish with firm meat, hard-boiled eggs, boiled vegetables, artichokes, prawns and tuna. To finish the lunch in beauty you must taste the Genoese Christmas pandolce, a sort of crushed panettone filled with raisins and bits of lemon peel, apple fritters, castagnaccio and canestrelli.
Where to sleep in Genoa
Genoa has an excellent tourist accommodation with more than 500 hotels, guesthouses, B & Bs and apartments. Excluding the busiest periods, such as the Spring breaks, it is not difficult to find a suitable accommodation for your pocket.
Prices are not low and start at a minimum of € 70 per night in a double room. Obviously prices rise for hotels in the center and close to the most important attractions, especially the Aquarium. To take into account the particular shape of the city with a lower part (the more touristy) and the higher one where there is not much to see. A hotel in this area costs less but also requires 1 hour to move. So even if there are a few things to consider you have many options to find a smart convenient and practical accommodation to explore Genoa and its surrounding the best possible way!