A Day in Genoa

Genoa was, once upon a time, one of the most important cities in the world. It still remains “La Superba” (it’s nickname, meaning the “superb”) and this regal, proud city is a great place to visit for tourists looking for an authentic slice of Liguria. It is a city of colorful contrasts – juxtapositions between the sea to the south and the Alpine hills, nobile palaces and dark caruggi (alleyways in dialect) – but has slipped off the major Italian tourist circuit, leaving it a magnificent city that you don’t have to compete for. Unlike Rome, Venice, or Florence, Genoa feels very much like a “real” city with lots of character, and a port city at that. It’s grit is part of it’s charm, and visitors time and time again are left in awe of La Superba.

You could easily spend days exploring Genoa (Genova in Italian), but in a full day, you can get a taste of what it has to offer.

Genova PortThe Porto Antico is an excellent place to start, to get an idea of Genoa’s seaside importance, both in the past and today. Still home to an important shipbuilding industry and one of the most important ports on the Mediterranean, now the porto antico is home to waterfront with lots of restaurants (Eataly is one) and activity, including the famous Aquarium of Genova (the biggest in Europe) and in the distance, they symbol of Genova, it’s famous lighthouse (one of the tallest in the world), called simply “la lanterna”. You can’t miss the intricate Palazzo San Giorgio, one time used as a prison to Marco Polo, and it’s elaborate façade. This is a great area to start your day at one of the bar’s along the waterfront with the typical Ligurian breakfast – cappuccino and a focaccia, one of Italy’s most famous food “exports” and invented right here in Genoa.

caruggiYou cannot come to Genoa without getting a little lost in it’s famous dark caruggi, or alleyways. This area isn’t for everyone – it’s not a theme park and parts of it feel very, very much like the authentic port city that it is, but these small, dark alleyways that wind through the area by the port are also full of restaurants, bars and local shops full of character and some amazing food. Some of our favorite places to taste pesto, another famous Genovese food known worldwide, are located in these caruggi, and though you might not want to get lost late at night, during the day exploring this area can be an incredible experience.

San LoLe Strade Nuove and the Palazzi dei Rolli come as a sharp contrast to the dark, characteristic “caruggi” (little streets) you’ve just climbed out of. This UNESCO world heritage site consists of the “new streets” or Strade Nuove, a group of regal streets built during the height of Genoa’s power in the late 16th century as the nobility of the city started a well thought out manner of city planning to transform and expand the medieval city into a world power. The Palazzi dei Rolli are a Genovese system of sort of an ancient airbnb – it was a list of the cities most elegant and important palaces that were suitable for visiting dignitaries, Popes, emporers and royalty to stay in on a visit to La Superba. This was important for Genovese nobility, looking to show off their newfound wealth as the mercantile republic grew, and these palaces are still magnificent and an incredible way to see the stark difference between the two “parts” of Genova.

The Cathedral of Saint Lawrence is also not far, another important symbol of the city, and a great example of typical Ligurian gothic architecture with it’s black and white marble “stripes” and intricate rosone at the forefront. The lion statues reposing outside the church are another symbol of the city.

As you pass through this area, you’ll wind up by the famous museum Palazzo Ducale (or one time Doge’s palace) if you have time for a visit, as well as Piazza de Ferrari, the “main square” of the city that filters in to the shopping are of Via XX Settembre. piazza de ferrariThis is a great place to walk through the covered, large sidewalks and window shop (or just shop!), perhaps winding your way to the birthplace of Christopher Colombus, whose house is located a short walk from the city’s main square. Staying even later? Perhaps see if there is a show at the famous Theater of Carlo Felice – Genovese, young and old, love the theater and even people from much farther away in Liguria will come in, even spending hours in the train, for an opera or ballet show.

genova lionGenoa is a city that, even after years or a lifetime of living here, never ceases to amaze. It’s full of incredible and important sites, all wrapped up in an admittedly, sometimes tough exterior shell, but a perfect day trip to explore and taste some of the best of what Liguria and the proud La Superba have to offer.

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