Genoa is a gritty, sprawling port city located in northern Italy. While Venice and Rome's charms are brazen, Genoa's are harder to find and are often down the next carrugi (alleyway) or pass the next vicoli (narrow street). Formerly one of the most important trading centres in Europe, time has now caught up with Genoa and given it a crumbling decadence. The coarse Old Town, terracotta roofs, ancient churches and renovated old port are all key features that define the look and feel of the city. Paolo Coelho once wrote: “Among the marvels of Italy, it will take some digging to find the beauties of Genoa.” Whether basing yourself in a city apartment in the atmospheric Old Town, a bed and breakfast in the northwestern neighbourhood of Rivarolo, or choosing a holiday villa in one of the neighbourhoods in the surrounding hills, Wimdu has an array of accommodation that will help you get under the surface of this historic, famously elusive city.
Where to Stay in Genoa
With good local transport links, Genoa and the surrounding towns are easily accessible. Wimdu's plethora of properties enable the visitor to plan a family-orientated escape, a romantic weekend, or a relaxed short-term break on the Liguria coast. Nervi, on the eastern side of Genoa, between the mountains and the sea, is a particularly attractive neighbourhood. In addition, Castelleto is a gentrified neighbourhood that offers fantastic views of the port city below. The city's vibrant authenticity is fabled, so take some time to live like a local and embrace the nuances that differ this port city from its more illustrious, tourist-friendly neighbours. You will not be disappointed.
Things to See and Do in Genoa
Genoa has one of Europe's largest historical centers. The best way to explore the city is to get lost in the multitude of tiny streets and Caruggi (alleyways) that define Genoa. An afternoon can quickly pass just spotting the decaying facades of palaces hidden down enticing alleyways or people-watching from the terrace of an intrinsically Italian bar on one of the many piazzas.
For those wishing to stock up their Wimdu apartment with a host of Italian delicacies, first port of call must be the food market at Mercato Orientalo, tucked under the grandiose arches of the Augustinian monastery. The market is a historic sight in itself, its origins lying in the boom town years following Italian reunification 150 years ago. The startlingly large array of tomato variants, local chard, artichokes from Sardinia, Genoese basil and fresh fish from the Golf of Genoa will quickly fill your bag. In autumn, the mushrooms and chestnuts from the hills that surround the city vye for attention amongst the other seasonal produce.
The Cattedrale de San Lorenzo, a monochrome striped marble relic from the 12th century, will undoubtedly draw your gaze. Interestingly, the cathedral had a lucky escape during the WWII, when a British battleship fired a missile into a wall that was too soft to detonate the explosive.
The Palazzo Reale is Genoa's finest example of Palaciel splendour. The terraced gardens, large collection of Italian Renaissance art, Hall of Mirrors, frescoes and stuccoes, quickly transport you back to Genoa's prestigious past. A guided tour can be arranged free of charge.
The world famous explorer, navigator and colonizer Christopher Columbus was born in the city. His home is located in the medieval Porta Sporana. Despite being heavily reconstructed in the 18th century, 'Casa di Crisofor Colombo' has now been returned to a style in keeping with Christopher Colombus's childhood years.
Follow a visit with a passeggiata (evening stroll) to the regenerated harbour, Porto Antico - its redevelopment bringing multimillion pound yachts into its berths. Genoa's aquarium was refurbished in July 2013 and is one of the largest in Europe. With over 5000 sea creatures and a reconstruction of a Madagascan rainforest on display, the aquarium is a fantastic place to take the kids. As is II Bigo - a lift sculpture designed by Renzo Piano - that hoists visitors into the air to enjoy panoramic views of the port city.
Food in Genoa
Genoa's historical contributions to Italy's mighty gastronomical imprint lie very much in the lay of the land. The fertile hills and rugged coastline of the port city are what separate and define Genoese food. Farinata (Chickpea tarts), Pandolce (Genoese Christmas cake) and pesto are Genoa's key contributions to the Italian food landscape. The fish and shellfish are famed within Italy. Many locals angle for catfish, but sardines, red mullet, bream, sea bass and red snapper are all caught off the Liguria coast.
Antica Osteria di Vico Pallahas wooden tables with a small chalkboard propped on each. Written in the local dialect, it is difficult to understand the menus for an outsider. However, the bagnun di acciughe (sardine soup) and ravioli di branzino (squid ink-laced ravioli stuffed with sea bream) are worth the confusion alone.
Antica Gelateria Guarino perches in the gentrified Castelletto neighbourhood above the city. Reached by a steep funicular, this is the place to sate your craving for traditional Italian gelato, while taking in the dazzling views before you.
Caffè Degli Specchi offers cheap, delicious cocktails accompanied by free plates appetizers. This is a great place to start an evening, the walls of mirrors lending themselves to that most Italian pursuit of people-watching.
Getting around Genoa
There are cheap flights that service Cristoforo Colombo Airport that fly directly from London Stanstead. The airport lies sixkkilometres west of the city and can be reached by bus or train. Ferries sail from Genoa's international passenger terminal to Spain, Sardinia, Sicily, Corsica and Tunisia.
Local buses service every corner of the city and run until 1am. There are also a number of cable railways that connect the centre with the surrounding hills. Trenitalia suburban and regional trains connect the various neighbourhoods along the coast.