One of Italy’s major ports, Genoa is a city often overlooked by tourists. This city is steeped in history and well worth a visit. Situated on the Italian Riviera, you will find a multitude of things to do.
Genoa’s greatest claim to fame is as being the birthplace of explorer Christopher Columbus. The former Columbus family home is found in Piazza Dante and has been fully restored (in a joint project with the Union of American Treasures and a project unique outside of the US). Other items related to Columbus can be found in Genoa at the Bibioteca Berio and at the Museum of Sea and Navigation in Porto Antico (old port).
What to do in Genoa?
The Galata Museo del Mare
The Galata Museo del Mare, is a great place to visit to gain an understanding of Genoa’s seafaring history. The museum traces, from the earliest of times, through sail and steam, to modern day, seafaring history with some wonderful exhibits.
Acquario di Genova
While in Genoa a visit to Acquario di Genova, which is Italy’s biggest aquarium and the second largest in Europe, is a must. The aquarium has around 70 tanks containing approximately 5000 different species. There are also daily dolphin and seal shows and shark tank.
Basilica of Santa Maria di Castello
As Genoa is one of the best-preserved medieval towns in Europe you will find a multitude of historical buildings to look at. One of these is the Basilica of Santa Maria di Castello. This stunning cathedral was built before 900 AD and has had a number of renovations done over the years. This Romanesque style cathedral with a small museum has a myriad of artistic treasures to look at. If you can, take a guided tour so as not to miss anything.
Cattedrale di San Lorenzo
Looking a little like a giant humbug with its stripy black and white marble facade is Cattedrale di San Lorenzo. Here you will find beautiful architecture and paintings and, most unusually, an unexploded British bomb which hit the cathedral in 1941 and, luckily, failed to detonate.
Piazza Raffaele De Ferrari
Take time to stop and reflect at Piazza Raffaele De Ferrari. The beautiful fountain in the centre is a great place just to sit a spell and watch the world go by. It is surrounded by classic buildings with wonderful architectural features.
A visit to one of Genoa’s best known landmarks, La Lanterna will give the visitor views over the port and bay. The light from this lighthouse can be seen from over 50km away. It may pay to be fit though as to reach the first terrace visitors need to climb 172 steps.
Royal Palace Museum
Royal Palace Museum (Museo di Palazzo Reale) is another attraction that deserves a visit. This opulently decorated palace, filled with a multitude of fine art from paintings to sculptures, will keep you dazzled with delight. The Garden Mosaic (Mosaico giardino), in black and white, is so beautiful it feels wrong to walk on it. You can really get a sense of how life must have been.
Another of the charming architectural attractions of Genoa is Castello Mackenzie. Built in an unusual blend of styles, the castle complete with towers, trenches, wrought iron decorations and drawbridge sits above Piazza Manin and is definitely worth the trip. Originally built for a Scottish Insurance magnate, it is now owned by the Cambi Family who have invested greatly in restoration and use the castle to store their art and antique treasures.
Shopping in Genoa
As you stroll through the cobblestoned streets and narrow alleyways you will find an assortment of shops selling local cheeses and wines but that’s not all. Genoa is famous for certain specialty goods such as gold and silver filigree jewelry, handmade lace, carved marble & olive wood items. Some of the better places to shop are in the Via Soziglia where the street is lined with quaint shops or try Via Luccoli if you are looking for designer fashion wear. If you just can’t leave Italy without a pair of custom made Italian leather shoes visit one of the popular boutiques like Rocca on Via Davide Chiossone.
Food in Genoa
Take a visit to the Mercato Orientale, a food market held within the walls of and old monastery with masses of stalls selling delicious produce. Items such as cheese, meat, bread, vegetables and fruit can be bought with signs by each item explaining where in Italy it originated from.
Naturally, food is associated with any visit to Italy, and so is opera. The Genoa opera house was nearly completely destroyed in the bombing raids of World War II, but it was rebuilt and reopened in 1992. It offers a full opera and concert season.
Ferrovia Genova-Casella Trip
If you have enough time during your stay, one trip worth taking is the Ferrovia Genova-Casella. Riding a train on a historic, narrow gauge railway line that starts in Piazza Manin and winds its way through the Ligurian hills to the small but picturesque town of Casella is a delight. Passing through valley and past small towns, the views are amazing.
So next time you visit Italy don’t just visit the popular cities such as Rome and Milan; take a visit to the less visited Genoa and have the time of your life.
By Veselina Dzhingarova