I had never been to Genoa, I had always underestimated it as a small city. To my surprise, the city turned out to be a hub of tourism, large and dispersed city with a lot to offer. Around every street corner you just have to look up to see facades of sumptuous buildings and, if you have the right curiosity, you will find things everywhere that will leave you speechless, such as small churches with an anonymous facade but an immense splendor inside.
The palaces and churches to visit are so countless that, if your time in the city is short, you are forced to choose, paying attention to the fact that many points of interest are closed on Sundays.
I stayed at Hotel Britannia, part of Ostello Bello in Via Balbi, very close to Genova Piazza Principe station. I decided to organize a last minute weekend thanks to the City Pass promotion that gave me the opportunity to visit many monuments for free, I was offered a second night at the hotel and transportation was free.
So starting from Piazza Principe Station I walked along Via Balbi, where there is the Royal Palace Museum and the University of Genoa. Palazzo Reale or Palazzo Stefano Balbi is part of the 42 palaces inscribed in the Rolli of Genoa and therefore a UNESCO World Heritage Site. An architectural complex of the six-eighteenth century in the Genoese Baroque style.
What are the Rolli?
The Rolli of Genoa were the splendid residences of noble families who aspired to host the high personalities in transit through Genoa. The grand palaces hosted important travelers, actors and famous people.
Continuing on, we reach the Basilica della Santissima Annunziata del Vastato, located in Piazza della Nunziata, built in late Mannerist and early 17th century Baroque style. Enter, its magnificence will not disappoint you. From here I moved to the Porto Antico district, part of the famous Port of Genoa where the famous Aquarium is also located.
Have you ever heard of caruggi? Caruggi is the term used in the Genoese dialect to refer to “the characteristic narrow porticos and shady alleyways of many towns and villages on the Ligurian Riviera”. The old city is made up of hundreds of carruggi, from the Porto Antico (precisely from piazza Caricamento – where you can also enjoy focaccia and panissa) you enter via al Ponte Reale. Walking you arrive in the charming Piazza Banchi where you meet the famous Loggia della Mercanzia, a beautiful building erected in the Middle Ages that hosted the negotiations of merchants and bankers.
Nearby there are two places where you can stop for a delicious focaccia or farinata, an essential combination of Genoese street food. The ingredients are the same, but the process changes. Sa’ Pesta is perhaps the most famous trattoria in Genoa where to eat farinata. And the pasqualina, and the rice cake and the one with artichokes and stuffed anchovies. At Focaccia e dintorni there may be a line, but a slerfa (piece) of freshly baked focaccia will be worth it, especially if eaten with a cappuccino to try to be 100% Genoese!
If instead you prefer to stop in a restaurant I recommend Le Ombre Rosse, small but charming you can eat outdoors enjoying the unique atmosphere of the alleys.
At this point you reach the famous Cathedral of San Lorenzo, built between 1100 and the end of 1300, it is famous because during the Second World War it was bombed by the British fleet. Despite the very strong impact, the bomb broke through the ceiling of the church but did not explode, and still rests inside the beautiful cathedral. Moreover, from the tower you can admire Genoa from above.
Nearby you will find Palazzo Ducale, which is currently hosting an exhibition in honor of Michelangelo. It is one of the main historical buildings and museums of the Ligurian capital, former seat of the doge of the ancient Republic. If you leave the Palace behind you, go left and you will immediately meet Piazza De Ferrari, the central square and the beating heart of Genoa, recognizable by the large circular bronze fountain located in the center. Here you will also find the famous Carlo Felice Theater.
If you turn right you’ll walk along Via XX Settembre, the shopping street, and you’ll pass under the famous Monumental Bridge. Keep your eyes pointed upwards as you walk through the arcades, you will notice wonderful ceilings and you will see everywhere the famous colors characteristic of the ancient Genoese nobility: black and white. The street leads to Piazza della Vittoria in the center of which, surrounded by greenery, is located the imposing triumphal arch, dedicated to the Genoese fallen during the First World War. In the background of the square you can admire the Scalinata delle Caravelle, in which are represented, through floral decorations, the three Caravels of Christopher Columbus.
By walking back along Via XX Settembre and returning to Piazza De Ferrari you can reach Via Garibaldi, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Entering Via Garibaldi, you will enter the history of the city. On both sides of the street you will find elegant and sumptuous palaces that belonged to the ancient Genoese seigniory. These are the Strada Nuova Museums and include the Palazzo Bianco, Rosso, della Meridiana, and Lomellino. Nearby you will also find a beautiful artisan ice cream shop: Gelatina.
To enjoy the enchanting view of the rooftops of Genoa you have to go to Spianata Castelletto, sit on a bench and admire the view in the shade.
A few short trips from Genoa
From Genoa there are many reachable places to enjoy the sun and the sea of Liguria. With the bus you can easily reach two districts of the city: Boccadasse or Nervi.
Boccadasse is an ancient fishing village in the municipality of Genoa, which is part of the Albaro district. Nervi is a residential neighborhood of the municipality of Genoa, it has a marina, a long cliff on which was built the long promenade named after Anita Garibaldi. I ate here at the Bagni Scogliera, enjoying a breathtaking view.
Also, by train, I reached Santa Margherita Ligure, which is located on the eastern Ligurian Riviera, in an enclosed basin in the northwestern part of the Portofino promontory, on the so-called “Dolphin Coast”, which connects the city to Portofino. After a brief pitstop on the beach, I took the shuttle that, at a cost of €5 round trip, takes you to Portofino. The famous and luxurious town frequented by VIPs. To enjoy the view you just have to go up a little road towards the Church of San Giorgio!