Escape Europe’s Crowds At This Charming Italian Port City
The heartbeat of Italy’s northwest, the port city of Genoa is ideal for those looking to escape the big cities and immerse themselves in the local lifestyle. The birthplace of Christopher Columbus is a culturally rich cosmopolitan known for its classic art, ancient architecture and incredible food experiences.
Old town is a maze of caruggi (narrow streets) where you can visit the city’s many museums and take in its beautifully designed buildings, while down by the rejuvenated port, you can feast on fresh seafood while watching the sunset over the Ligurian sea.
What to do
The best way to explore Genoa is on foot. Via Giuseppe Garibaldi is a UNESCO World Heritage-listed site in old town made up of former palaces converted into museums and galleries, with the nearby San Lorenzo Cathedral revered by history buffs for its colourful striped marble and stone front and incredible ceiling artwork.
Piazza De Ferrari is the city’s main square sporting an impressive water fountain, great for people watching, while a short stroll south brings you to Porta Soprana, the ancient gatehouse once part of the original city wall that surrounded Genoa.
By the port is the Aquarium di Genova, Europe’s largest aquarium containing over 15,000 different sea creatures, and the four-floor Genoa Maritime Museum featuring an Italian submarine open to explore.
If shopping is more your thing, Via XX Settembre is a long boulevard dominated by designer stores and high end Italian fashion. It’s also worth checking out fresh food market Mercato Orientale and Maddalena, a network of small shops and cafes in old town.
No trip to Genoa is complete without visiting the nearby Cinque Terra. Hike the picturesque trail connecting the five colourful fishing villages where you can stop and feast on fresh seafood, swim in idyllic beaches and enjoy spectacular seaside views.
Where to eat
Genoa is a foodie’s paradise and no trip to the capital of the Liguria region is complete without trying the area’s signature dish, pesto. The Genoese like to keep it simple, serving the vibrant green basil infused sauce with pasta, and that’s exactly what you get at Le Rune, a multi-level eatery with a well-priced menu featuring classic dishes. Another local delicacy is focaccia, with family run bakery Panificio Claretta serving up a wide selection of the crispy Italian bread.
Fine dining options are aplenty, with Le Cantine Squarciafico a charming spot specialising in traditional Ligurian dishes where you can devour the delicious capon magro, a seafood salad arranged in an elaborate fashion. Michelin star eatery The Cook is headed up by chef Ivano Ricchebono and uses all local produce to create exciting dishes with a modern twist.
Those with a sweet tooth will be rewarded by a trip to Romeo Viganotti, a small chocolate shop tucked away in the backstreets where a huge selection of tasty treats are still made with 200-year-old machinery. If you don’t mind a queue, the ice cream at Cremeria Buonafede is to die for while Bar Don Paolo serves up classic Sicilian cannolis.
For other Italian favourites, ride the cable car up to Ristorante Montallegro and chow down on one-metre pizzas, visit the 58-year-old Sardinian restaurant Pintori for pasta with cavolo nero (black kale) or try sophisticated seafood dishes at Indarsena Oyster Bar.
Where to drink
Littered throughout the maze of cobbled streets are a host of lively bars and cafes. Cantine Matteotti may have a small wine list but this offset by the friendly staff, while you can sample over 350 assorted wines from 20 different countries at the busy Urban Vineyard Area.
La Bottega del Cont is a former grocery store turned watering hole spinning jazz tunes into the early hours of the morning that always attracts an interesting crowd.
Piazza delle Erbe is a rowdy area of cafes, bars and clubs dominated by the youth of Genoa. Here you can enjoy an alfresco tipple at one of the many tables outside Bar Berto, or head inside the cosy 28 Erbe for a cocktail or three.
Where to stay
Located in the city’s centre, the elegant Hotel Bristol Palace is close to most major attractions and houses a contemporary art gallery with ever-changing exhibitions.
Down by the port is Palazzo Grillo, a modern hotel inside a breathtaking 15th Century building with a stylish billiards room, while the NH Collection Genova Marina is close to the Galata Maritime Museum and some of the best restaurants in the city.
For those wanting somewhere away from the hustle and bustle of Genoa’s centre, Melia Genova is a 5-star boutique hotel with a sophisticated charm. Frequently visited by royals and celebrities, The Grand Hotel Savoia is another opulent option with a rooftop spa and terrace providing panoramic views of the city.
Published 14 August, 2019