La Superba; The Proud One
After many years since the first and only time I’ve been to this city, it was well overdue a return. And what a great difference this was! Back in the year 2001 when I came with my school on a trip through France and Italy, Genoa was a very brief and quick stop-over along the way heading towards Pisa and Florence. It was enough time to vaguely admire one of the most fascinating cities in Italy. Genoa is up to this date, one of my favourite in the country. So much to see and do, so charming and such incredible rich history it is no wonder most of its historical centre is listed an UNESCO World Heritage Site, noticeable for the system of palaces for which the city is famous for. So many of them! It is the most unique city having such an incredible architectonic patrimony in palaces.
The only downside, quite major in a way, is the elevated motorway still cutting through the waterfront along the entire length of the city. This is the main motorway linking France with Italy along the coast, with Genoa one of the major transport hubs. Nowadays many efforts have been done to improve this damaging image, specially by expanding Corso Italia towards the sea with new open spaces and the restoration of many decaying buildings. It’s been a long process and many years have passed but the city can proudly say it has lost its reputation as a dangerous and industrial ugly place, giving way to an incredible thriving and beautiful city as it always used to be.
Some few more facts about Genoa, it is one of Europe’s largest on the Mediterranean Sea and the largest seaport in Italy. Also famous, but arguably questioned and dubious, as being the birthplace of Christopher Columbus. The Bank of Saint George, founded in 1407, is among the oldest in the world. The prosperity of the city was exponential from the 15th century onwards, hence the great collection of elegant buildings and constructions everywhere in the city.
When planning a trip here, consider spending at least 2 days. There is quite a lot do see and do, and the city is large. Then we are not talking just about the city centre itself, but the astonishing coastal region with countless small fishing villages all part of the metropolitan area. It is from Genoa down towards Pisa that you will find some of the most beautiful villages and landscapes anywhere in Italy, and that is well worth it to spend the time to visit. The world famous Cinque Terre region is literally next door. Great news in here, that’s easy to do so, the public transport is really good, and buses go all the way along the coast passing through these villages, of especial mention, Boccadasse which is minutes farther beyond the main port.
Some famous food you must really try, although will be difficult not to find a place selling it, is focaccia. In fact, you are at the birthplace of it; and so the pesto. Many of the dishes include this as basic ingredient. Restaurants in the city… well, the less of a hassle at all. Plenty, every corner there is something, either great bakeries, focaccia places, trattorias or restaurants, with overall prices extremely competitive and great quality of food.
For more information about Genoa check Wikipedia and Wikitravel sites. Italy’s currency is the Euro (EUR). Please note that any price reference is true as from when this guide was created, therefore check prices in advance as with the time they change.
What to see and do in Genoa
- Piazza de Ferrari The main square in the city and largest public space between the historical centre and the modern area. Until the end of the 19th century Genoa was together with Milan the main financial centre in Italy, for what this square and surrounding streets became the headquarters of many banks and institutions.
-Stock exchange Built in 1912.
-Bank of Italy Branch founded in 1893.
-Ligurian Region building Occupying the former Palazzo Italia di Navigazione.
-Ligurian Academy of Fine Arts A palace founded in 1741.
-Doge’s Palace Also known as the Palazzo Ducale was the old seat of the government of the oligarchic republic, the Doges of Genoa. Original parts date back to 1251 although the current building is mostly from 1539, with the neoclassical style after 1777’s fire. It’s one of the principal art galleries in the city.
-Carlo Felice Theatre Is the main opera house in the city. Inaugurated with Bellini’s Bianca e Fernando performance in 1828. Unfortunately, such a grand construction suffered badly during WWII becoming literally a skeleton and few walls standing. It reopened in 1991, over 50 years after its destruction, with the recreation of the original front façade.
- City walls Genoa has the largest number of kilometres of city walls than any other city in Italy. Those are from different centuries, strengthened, enlarged or constructed from new: The 9th Century Walls, Barbarossa Walls (from the 12th century ), 14th Century Walls, 16th Century and the New Walls (17th century).
-Porta Soprana Is the best known gate and a rare survivor as one of the city’s oldest buildings.
-Porta Siberia From the New Walls era.
-Fort Sperone Also from the New Walls period, on top of one of the hills overlooking the city.
- Dante Square A nice and small square near Porta Soprana.
-House of Christopher Columbus The remains of this house, said to be (yet disputed) of his birthplace home.
- Saint Lawrence Cathedral Consecrated in 1118 with an ongoing upgrade and construction that was finalised in the 17th century. It’s interior has a wonderful mix of white and black marble columns and arches.
- Via Garibaldi Is the most important street in the city due to the vast amount of palaces. In fact, it is part of the UNESCO World Heritage Site listing “System of the Palazzi dei Rolli and Strade Nuove del Centro Storico of Genoa”.
-Palaces Too many to list here, however easy to find on a map. Among the most beautiful are Palazzo Rosso, Palazzo Bianco, Palazzo Grimaldi and Palazzo Reale.
- Via Balbi Another of the main streets in the historical centre connecting Piazza della Nunziata with Piazza Principe.
-Monument to Christopher Columbus Located on the gardens at the front of the train station.
-Piazza Principe Train Station The second largest in the city, interconnected to the main one. Every train to/from Genoa stop at both stations.
-Piazza della Nunziata With the Church of Santissima Nunziata.
- Montegalletto Is one of the hills within the city. Fully built up on the slopes it has a castle on top and the best views of the entire city and the Mediterranean.
-Albertis Castle Accessible from Via Balbi where you can take the lift to go up. It was a private residence, now the Museum of World Cultures. The views from the top are unequal to anywhere else, over the whole city, Mediterranean and beyond.
-Ascensore di Montegalletto Built in 1929 is unique in that it integrates a funicular and a lift system into one. The cabin first moves horizontally, and then lifts upwards.
- Corso Italia Is the waterfront promenade. Not the best view of the city because of the elevated motorway passing over but a nice place to walk right by the edge of the sea.
-Palace of Saint George Located in Piazza Caricamento was built in 1260. It became in the 15th century The Bank of Saint George and is currently one of the oldest banks in the world.
- Old Harbour With many museums and exhibition halls, shopping malls and nice walkways, are part of the 1992’s 500th anniversary of the discovery of America, the Columbian Celebrations. Renzo Piano, the world famous Genovese architect designed the sphere of glass and steel in the water in 2011 for the occasion of the G8 Summit, which currently hosts a wintergarden.
- Lanterna A Renaissance lighthouse built in 1543, at 117 metres high is a symbol of the city.
- Brignole Train Station The main train station in the city is an impressive architectural masterpiece.
- Ascensore di Castelletto Is one of the public lifts in the city and from where you will get great views at the top station.
- Boccadasse A little fishing village not far from Genoa typical for the colourful small houses piled one on top of the other. It is a must see for anyone visiting the city.
Cristoforo Colombo airport is located few kilometres from the city centre and the easiest way to reach downtown is to take the shuttle bus 100 (Volabus) to the centre of Genoa.
Great train connections are available across Italy and to France, being fairly quick and reliable the link with Milan with many frequencies during the day. Long distance buses do also cover the entire country and beyond, with the link to Milan being the one with the most frequencies through the day.
Within the city there is a good network of buses and a metro line, although unless you are staying outside or far from the historical city centre, you won’t need to take any public transportation as you can walk pretty much everywhere. A single ticket costs 1.5 Euros and is valid for 100 minutes, therefore enabling you to interconnect between bus and metro with the same ticket to your intended final destination.
The city also boats an unusual network of public lifts in order to save the step levels, being the most famous the Ascensore di Castelletto. There’s probably no other city in the world with that large amount of lifts for this purpose!.
There is a great selection of hotels at great prices too. Of course it all depends on the level of luxury you wish to have, but overall, 3* and 4* have very good standards though not as high as you could expect for Spanish or North American standard for example; where the same hotels would be marketed as 2* and 3* instead. A good and reasonable point to start your search is by checking some of our preferred affiliate hotel search engine such as Hotels.com, Booking.com, Expedia, Otel.com, Agoda, Opodo, LateRooms or Ebookers.
We can highly recommend the Hotel Vittoria in Via Balbi 33-45. Very central, next to Principe Train Station and already in one of the main avenues of the city heading towards the historical centre. The room was extra large, old style but nice, clean and comfortable, with nice breakfast too. Important also, it was very quiet. As a funny fact, you will need to take a lift from the street level to the hotel as the building is behind the first building and already higher in the slope of the hill. The lift to Montegalletto is right behind the hotel.
Album for the city of Genoa
Album for Boccadasse