Visitors either love or hate Genoa and few can remain indifferent. Most are wary at first and then begin to appreciate the city after having taken time to discover it. As Dickens wrote in 1843: I would never have thought that I would have become attached to the stones of the Genoan streets, and to think of the city with affection, as the place in which I had spent many hours of peace and happiness. Even today, Genoa provokes conflicting feelings, due to the fact that it is a place of contradictions. It is a Mediterranean port, which has always traded with nearby countries and so it has assimilated some of their habits and words, and it has always been a city of merchants and bankers, known by all as the most English city in Italy.
It is easy to be enraptured by the maze of narrow streets in the historic centre. Genoa is a vertical city, where the sky can sometimes feel very close and give one a feeling of dizziness. Refined palaces are side by side with humble houses, which in the historic centre, are all close to the beautiful churches of the city, which have austere, black and white striped, marble facades or opulent, baroque architecture. Genoa has a secret beauty that can be found in its daring architecture, traces of splendid frescoes and imposing, noble palaces. Beginning in Strada Nuova, now known as Via Garibaldi, this is a visible sign of the historic period of the seventeenth century, when the great, Genovese families were at their richest. This is a unique street because of the urban planning that it has inspired and the number of palaces here and their beauty. Visitors can enter the internal gardens and see the frescoes in the great salons. Some of these buildings are now museums and are home to works of art by Genovese artist and the great, Flemish school, such as the (
Via Balbi is also rich with palaces and now houses the university buildings of the School of the Humanities. Via Assarotti, is a sign of the nineteenth century expansion towards the hills, Via XX Settembre is a modern, elegant street full of business and commerce, and finally, Corso Italia, is the promenade leading to the sea and
The real essence of daily Genoese life, is not found in the rich palaces, but in the maze of alleyways the historic centre, such as Via di Sottoripa. This is the place where Genoese will stop for a chat, amidst the cries of street vendors and smells of coffee, fried food, perfumes and the unmistakeable smell of pesto, which is a typically Ligurian sauce. Thanks to the
The historic centre starts at Lanterna, encircled by the gradual development of the city that has spread into the surrounding areas. In front of the Stazione Marittima, is the sumptuous Palazzo Doria Pamphily del Principe, which was once the residence of the great Admiral Andrea Doria. Continuing from here, you will reach the Principe Railway Station where the route into the largest historic centre in Europe begins. The splendid Church of S.Giovanni di Pré is worth visiting, as is the annexed Commenda di Pré, which was formerly a hospital and a lodging for knights on their way to the Holy Land. This leads to the picturesque Via Pré; or visitors can choose to follow the monumental Via Balbi, where only one family lives, to visit, Galleria Nazionale di Palazzo Reale, and the Palazzo della Università. Piazza della Nunziata is nearby, whose name derives from the Chiesa della SS.Annunziata del Vastato, which is in this square. It has a neoclassical façade and rich, seventeenth century frescoes inside. From here, go down through Via delle Fontane to the medieval Porta dei Vacca (o di S.Fede), an old entry into the walled city from the west. Via del Campo near here, is famous for the song by F. De André, and leads to Piazza Fossatello, the commercial heart of the district. In the side street of Via Lomellini is the precious Oratory of S.Filippo Neri and the nextdoor Church of S.Filippo Neri, which face the house where G. Mazzini was born, now the home of the Museum of the Risorgimento and the Mazzinian Institute. Hidden in the narrow caruggi, or alleyways is the Abbazia di S.Siro, first cathedral of the city, where there is a plaque commemorating the miracle of San Siro who liberated the city from the Basilisco, a horrendous, monstrous demon. From here, go down to Via S.Luca, where there are numerous noble palaces and leads to the square with the same name, dominated by the Church of S.Luca. Take a small deviation to the National Gallery of the Palazzo Spinola, an important museum which reconstructs the atmosphere, furnishings and even, the kitchens of a period residence. At the end of the street is Piazza Banchi, an old grain market, and the home of the sixteenth century, Loggia dei Mercanti o di Banchi and the Church of S.Pietro in Banchi, built above the shops. From here, walking towards the sea, one arrives at the Palazzo S.Giorgio, the first home of Genoese power, where Marco Polo dictated the Million. Nearby, the picturesque and colourful Via di Sottoripa is an old, porticoed, street, built to protect the houses and workshops from powerful waves.
Passing under the Strada Sopraelevata, or elevated street, one enters the Area del Porto Antico (the ancient port area), a place to wander around various sights such as the Acquario di Genova, Genoa's Acquarium, the Città dei Bambini (children's city), the Sea and Navigation Pavilion and the National Museum of the Antarctic Felice Ippolito. This is also the place to take a boat trip around the port, ice skate, see a film at the new Cineplex, admire the sixteenth century Porta Siberia (or del Molo) and the nearby Church of S.Marco al Molo. Returning to the city, pass Piazza Banchi, go through Via Orefici and Piazza Campetto with a fountain and this leads to Piazza Soziglia, once the site of a vegetable and animal market, it is now home to historic shops, including Pietro Romanengo e i Fratelli and Klainguti. The nearby Church of S.M. delle Vigne in the square with the same name, was once a vineyard. Also worth a visit is the narrow, lively Via Macelli di Soziglia, a typical, Genoan alleyway where there are numerous butchers, craft workshops and second-hand shops. The end of the alley leads to the sixteenth century Via Garibaldi, formerly Strada Nuova, one of the most monumental streets in all of Italy, with two important city museums; the Galleria di Palazzo Rosso (Red Palace Gallery) and the Galleria di Palazzo Bianco (The White Palace Gallery), as well as the former Grimaldi Palace now, Palazzo della Meridiana and the town hall which is called the Palazzo Doria Tursi. In the nearby Piazza Portello, it is possible to go up in the Castelletto lift to the Belvedere L. Montaldo, which offers an extraordinary view of the city. Via Garibaldi ends in the large Piazza Fontane Marose, where the Palace of the Principe Pallavicino is found as is the Negrone Palace and the Spinola dei Marmi Palace. Through Via XXV Aprile, one reaches Piazza De Ferrari, the true heart of Genoa and the border between the historic centre and the modern city. The Genovainforma kiosk is here, near the fountain, in the centre of the square, and the Carlo Felice Theatre, the museum of the Accademia Ligustica di Belle Arti in the building with the same name, the Palazzo della Nuova Borsa and the Palazzo Ducale (the Ducal Palace), which has a lively, painted facade. The narrow S. Matteo alley leads to the Doria district, where the houses of the noble family can be found and the charming Church of S. Matteo. Walking towards Piazza Campetto, with its splendid, Imperial Palace, one reaches Via di Scurreria and the Cattedrale di S. Lorenzo, an architectural mix as a result of master builders from Pisa, France, Lombardy and Genoa. The interesting Museum of the S. Lorenzo treasure is here. Following Via S.Lorenzo, one arrives in Piazza Matteotti, where the neoclassical side of the Ducal Palace can be seen, with its powerful tower of Popolo Grimaldina and the Church of Jesus and SS. Ambrogio and Andrea. These churches hold a host of masterpieces, including two altarpieces by Rubens.
The narrow Pollaiuoli ascent leads to Piazza delle Erbe and the nearby Church of S.Donato with a lovely, octagonal tower. Climbing up Stradone S. Agostino, the School of Architecture is on the right and this leads to Piazza Sarzano, home to the Museum of Architecture and Ligurian Sculpture in S.Agostino. Art lovers should visit the Oratory S.Giacomo della Marina, which is a more than worthwhile deviation. From the square, where the remains of the city walls can be found, cross the Carignano bridge to the Church of di S.M, a masterpiece by the Perugino, Galeazzo Alessi, or go to Via Ravecca to visit the medieval Porta Soprana or di S.Andream the alleged house of Christopher Columbus and the valuable S.Andrea cloisters. Piazza Dante, nearby is the heart of skyscraper Genoa, near the old Seminary, the new home of the Civica Berio Library. Just metres away is the Via XX Settembre, a street full of busy traffic, near the Monumentale Bridge and Via S.Vincenzo. The beautiful black and white striped façade of the S.Stefano Abbey can be seen from here. At the end of the main city street, beyond the Church of N.S. della Consolazione and S.Vincenzo is the Brignole Station and the modern complex of Corte Lambruschini, the Natural History Museum and the large, Piazza della Vittoria. Walking towards the sea, passing the pavilions of the Fiera del Mare, is the Corso Italia, a lovely promenade which ends in the Boccadasse district. Visitors who are only here for a short stay and don't have time to visit all the places in this guide, which pinpoints the most important monuments and places in the city, are advised to take the Zecca-Righi funicular railway. This is a lovely mode of transport, which takes a few minutes to go up the Belvedere del Righi. From here there is a panoramic view of the whole city, including the sea and the mountains.
Genoa caters well for all forms of modern travel including weekend stays and business trips, providing high quality accommodation. In the last few years, a number of hotels have been built here which are fully prepared to deal with the needs of travelers in the twenty first century. There are many hotels in strategic positions, which can be easily reached from the airport, such as the Sheraton Genova Hotel, the Puppo, Mediterraneè and the Castello Miramare, hotels near the railway station of Piazza Principe such as Britannia, Savoia Majestic, Hotel Vittoria and the Helvetia and near Piazza Brignole, adjacent to the Fair is the Moderno Verdi, Starhotel President, the Astoria and the Hotel Brignole. Near to the new, functional ferry terminal and the Acquarium is the Columbus Sea Hotel, Novotel Genova Ovest, Hotel Galles and the Alexander.
Genoa is a city that, in the past, has made its fortune on the Mediterranean, competing with other cities along the coast for supremacy in traffic and commerce. There are precious testimonies to this glorious and superb history in the historic centre, the home of the medieval city, which is delimited by the fourteenth century walls. Nearby hotels are the City Hotel and the Metropoli. The city itself is a meeting place for businessmen and in Piazza De Ferrari, Piccapietra, Via XX Settembre and Via San Vincenzo are the Hotel Bristol Palace, Jolly Hotel Plaza and the Hotel Assarotti.
Genoa winds along the coast for 35 kilometres, leading to Nervi that boasts all the beauty of the Tigullian Gulf. Even in winter, the climate here attracts visitors from all over the world in a place that time has forgotten. Places to stay here include the Villa Pagoda, Bonera and the Residence Savoia&Savoia.
The east coast is the most wild and jagged but boasts areas that are world famous because of their liveliness and casual elegance such as Portofino and Santa Margherita. The coast is full of cliffs overooking the sea, bays and creeks. The best way to get the most out of this charming area is to stay in one of the larger towns and explore the more remote areas by boat or foot during the day. During the summer, it is almost always necessary to book in advance. Words are not adequate to describe the charm of Camogli. Its fame is due to its picturesque qualities with painted boats and its good location by the sea. Places to stay here include the Il Cenobio dei Dogi and Casmona. Portofino is a favourite with some of the most prestigious yachts in the world and is an exclusive tourist destination. It has a well looked after bay with distinctively painted and decorated houses. Good hotels here are the Splendido and the Piccolo Hotel. One of the most important tourist areas here is Santa Margherita Ligure. The coast has an array of beaches, from the rocky San Michele di Pagana, to the sandy bay of Paraggi, where visitors come to bathe, see a variety of marine life and a shipwreck. The Hotel Paraggi is found here and there is a choice of hotels for tourists and business travellers in the area such as the Imperiale, Continental, Grand Hotel Miramare, Hotel Laurin, Metropole, Regina Elena, Hotel Tigullio et de Milan and the Hotel Jolanda. Rapallo is a favourite with tourists from all over the world because of the high quality of services on offer here. It is one of the great centre on the eastern coast and looks over Tigullio, in an inlet which is protected from the winds and the currents. Places to stay to enjoy the climate and natural beauty of the area include the Excelsior Palace, Hotel Rosabianca, Hotel Tigullio Royal, Hotel Riviera, Hotel Stella and the Hotel Giulio Cesare.
Regional cuisine in Liguria has long been considered second-rate because of its use of simple ingredients such as second cuts of meat or farmyard animals, wild herbs and produce from the vegetable garden. However, this diet has been "re-evaluated" by nutritionists who are now praising the virtues of 'the Mediterranean diet'. The Mediterranean diet is one that is low in animal fat, rich in vegetables, fish, and white meat: this is exactly the type of cuisine that exists in Liguria which has always favored extra-virgin olive oil, vegetables, fresh fish and rabbit.
Vittorio G. Rossi wrote in his book Wines and food from Liguria “Nowadays, the food that our grandmothers made is being recognized as good, healthy fare. Our wine made from the stones, the sun, and the breath of the sea, bearing the perfume of the dawn in the calm of July receives the recognition due to it.” Even pesto, (itself a symbol of Genoese cooking) is an extremely simple sauce, both in terms of preparation and ingredients (basil, pine nuts, parmesan, garlic and olive oil): because of its simplicity it is imperative that the ingredients are of the highest quality (basil that doesn't grow close to the sea has a totally different flavor!)
If you want to experience the delights of pesto first-hand, then Zeffirino may be the place to try: here you can try the specialties of Liguria NB: be prepared to spend a little bit more than you had budgeted for. If you prefer something a little more simple but would still like to try la torta Pasqualina (a savory vegetable tart) as well as minestrone alla genovese a Struppa Geneose minestrone then you could try Piro and the historical Luchin in Chivari; here you can try a delicious farinata (traditional tart made with chick-pea flour) and stuffed vegetables.
The popular, tasty focaccia bread made with cheese deserves a mention, as does its birthplace of Recco (20km from Genoa), and the two popular restaurants where you can indulge in its flavor: Manuelina and Vittorio. Although fish may not be a primary ingredient in Ligurian cooking (as it tends to favor dishes from the 'vegetable garden' and the 'farmyard'), a wide range of fish recipes can be tried at Rina and Da Vittorio in the center of the city. If you want to combine gastronomical delights with a trip to the Riviera, then try Polpo Mario in Sestri Levante or Puny in Portofino, you won't regret the little bit extra you may find yourself paying. Buon appetito!