24 Hours Exploring Italy's Vibrant Port City, Genoa
Genoa facades | © Pia Staigmueller
Genoa is a maritime city with a glorious past as a naval power. Its small alleyways are filled with the spirit of arrivals and departures, mixed with the salty smell blowing from the Mediterranean Sea and a fusion of people from East and West. Get inspired by the mood of adventure that surrounds this unique and fascinating Italian port city.
Genoa is the hometown of some of the most famous seafarers like Andrea Doria and Christopher Columbus. The latter is said to have been born in a small house close to the ancient city wall and just below the impressive city gate with its two majestic towers, Porta Soprana. The remains of the building can still be seen today.
Walking down the busy Via San Lorenzo from the central Piazza de Ferrari, it is impossible to overlook the stunning cathedral with its ornamented black and white facade. The best way to experience the soul of the city is to get lost in the tangle of the narrow and dark caruggi (alleyways) situated right next to it.
Genoa old town | ©Pia Staigmueller
Genoa would not be Genoa without the port, the main reason for its wealth. From where sailors set sail to explore and discover new parts of the world centuries ago, cruise ships and ferry boats now take tourists to destinations in the Mediterranean and large tankers load their cargo. The Lanterna, the main lighthouse dating back to 1543, still overlooks the port and has become the landmark of the city. From here, the city reveals its beautiful pastel-colored buildings perched on a hillside above the sea. In recent years, the port has been transformed into a recreation area by Genoa-born star architect Renzo Piano and hosts the largest aquarium in Europe. The area is a top choice for a stroll on a Sunday afternoon.
The port of Genoa | © Pia Staigmueller
In strong contrast to some of the dark, narrow and slightly shabby alleys are the impressive buildings along the elegant Via Garibaldi. This urban complex is part of the UNESCO World Heritage Site with the Palazzi dei Rolli, a system of public lodgings established in the late 16th and early 17th century when rich families hosted important personalities and politicians in their magnificent homes. Palazzo Bianco and Palazzo Rosso, named after the colors of their facades, nowadays host art collections and are open to the public. From the open gallery on the first floor of Palazzo Doria Tursi, visitors overlook a spacious courtyard.
Via Garibaldi | © Pia Staigmueller
Taste One Of Italy’s Most Famous Dishes At Its Birthplace
Eating well in Italy is not difficult but Genoa is home to one of the most famous Italian dishes: pesto sauce. Eating this delicious combination of fresh basil, pine nuts, pecorino, Parmigiano cheese and olive oil in its hometown is simply the best. In the trattoria Cavour 21, close to the port, visitors can choose between two types of pasta, and it is served the traditional way with fagiolini (green beans) and potatoes.
Two other amazing dishes for an on-the-go snack are the Ligurian focaccia, a flat bread seasoned with olive oil and salt but also available with all kinds of toppings; and the farinata, a thin, oven-baked pancake made from chickpea flour.
Trattoria Cavour 21, Piazza Cavour 21, Genova, Italy, +39 393 851 1140
Pasta with basil pesto | © Pia Staigmueller
A night in Genoa can be best spent with a nice aperitivo, enjoying a glass of wine or Martini in one of the tiny bars or on one of the various piazze in the old town. The atmospheric bar Bistrot GloGlo, with its friendly staff and owners, will make you feel comfy and at home, whether just for a drink or for dinner too. Piazza delle Erbe has a more frenetic vibe and is packed with young Genoese enjoying their night out, especially during the warmer months.
Ligurian specialties at Bistrot GloGlo | © Pia Staigmueller