Why You Must Visit Genoa

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EPIC SITES TO SEE

You must visit Genoa and once you do, you will fall in love with it, as I did. This grand historic, bustling seaside city in Northern Italy is full of wonderment everywhere you turn. I couldn’t get over how much it has to offer, and yet I’m a little amazed it doesn’t attract more international tourists as a prime holiday destination.

Genoa is currently the main port of Italy and one of the busiest and largest ports in the Mediterranean. The port has a long and and rich sea-faring history on which the city was built. Hence, there are many epic sites to see.

Here are the main reasons why you should visit Genoa.

Historic Places

When you visit Genoa, you must go to the oldest part of the city, the historic centre which is the biggest medieval town of Europe

Walking the area is really like being back in another time, with maze-like alleys and passageways. I love wandering around these caruggi (narrow alleys), to get a sense of what it was like back then.

Here in the historic part of town you have some of the ancient walls of Genoa, Porta Soprana, and ruins of a monastery from the 12th century.

Porta Soprano Genova Snazzy Trips travel blog
Porta Soprano, Genova
St Andrew Cloister ruins from 1109AD
St Andrew Cloister ruins from 1109AD
Medieval Gates of Genoa Snazzy Trips travel blog
Medieval Gates of Genova

Palazzi dei Rolli (Palaces of the Rolls)

The most famous and iconic landmarks of the city you must see when you visit Genoa are the Palaces of the Rolls. Dozens of palaces of fabulous architecture and enchanting facades used to belong to the nobility of the 16th to 18th centuries. These super wealthy families made their fortunes from trade, banking and building ships here in Genoa. 

The aristocrats were given permission to build their palatial homes together, in order to create their own exceptional district. But in return they were obliged to host important visiting international dignitaries. 

Their palaces were categorised on a list/roll according to their suitability for certain guests, hence the name, Palaces of the Rolls.

How would you like being forced to have strangers stay in your home? Not sure I’d like it.

These mansions from the Italian Renaissance period grace many of the streets, known as Le Strade Nuove (the New Streets). One street in particular, Via Garibaldi has Palaces built side by side, wall to wall, all along this narrow road. It’s simply stunning. You must take a stroll down this road. 

Visit the Palaces

Now-a-days these historic monuments are Museums and Art Galleries, or used as banks, tourism offices, council buildings etc. And of course, they are Unesco World Heritage Sites.

Three of the most prominent aristocratic buildings are Palazzo Rosso, Palazzo Bianco and Palazzo Doria Tursi. If you are a bit curious to see how the nobles lived, you can visit all three of these for about €10, to have a sticky beak inside.

One of them has a hall of mirrors, which reminds me of the Palace of Versailles in France.

Palaces of the Rolls Genova Snazzy Trips travel blog
Palaces of the Rolls Genova
Palaces of the Rolls in Genova Snazzy Trips travel blog
Palaces of the Rolls Genova
Palazzo Lomellino Snazzy Trips travel blog
Stunning facade of Palazzo Lomellino
Palazzo Rosso left Palazzo Doria Tursi right Snazzy Trips travel blog
Palazzo Rosso (left) & Palazzo Doria Tursi (right)
Palace now the Municipal offices Snazzy Trips travel blog
A palace which is now used as municipal offices

1st World Bank

Another gorgeous old palace, the Palazzo San Giorgio on Via della Mercanzia, became the World’s first bank, the Bank of Saint George in the 1400s. But prior to that it had been a prison, with a very famous prisoner by the name of Marco Polo having lodging there. Fascinating stuff!

Palazzo San Giorgio site of Worlds 1st Bank Snazzy Trips travel blog
Palazzo San Giorgio - site of World's 1st Bank

Fun facts about Genoa

  • It was the birthplace of Christopher Colombus, who many say discovered America.
  • the material for blue jeans was invented here, warn by the dock workers.
  • lottery began here in the 17th Century.
  • pesto sauce and focaccia are from here.
  • the world’s oldest insurance company dating from 1424 is located here.

Porto Antico (Old Port)

Reluctantly, I dragged myself away from the aristocratic neighbourhood and I decided to head over to the port of Genoa, which was once the main port of Italy. And what a glorious surprise it was. This is a must when you visit Genoa.

The area of the Old Port of Genoa has been reinvented into a big tourist attraction and a popular spot for locals to hangout. The hustle and bustle of activity here with museums, eateries, boating and sea life makes it a huge draw card and I enjoyed spending an afternoon exploring some of the marvellous things it has to offer.

Old Port of Genova Snazzy Trips travel blog
Old Port of Genoa

Panoramic Lift

Water views are always beautiful and Genoa is no exception, and a great way to take it all in is from the Panoramic Lift on the waterfront plaza. I hadn’t seen one of these before, but it’s the perfect vantage point for an aerial view of this glorious city’s harbour.

View from atop the panoramic lift Snazzy Trips travel blog
View from atop the panoramic lift

Biosphere

The Biosphere here is quite marvellous. It sits in the water and houses 150 tropical plant species inside. It is basically a large transparent ball and has become a symbol of Genoa. You can also go inside, but it’s not very big.

Genoa Biosphere Snazzy Trips travel blog
Biosphere of Genoa

Other tourist activities you can enjoy at the Port

  • See the Galleon Neptune Ship, a replica of a Spanish Galleon and has been in various movies, such as Captain Hook (2011).
  • Go up the Panoramic Lift (instead of a wheel/eye).
  • Visit the Aquarium.
  • Check out the Maritime Museum.
  • Visit the symbol of the city, the Lanterna lighthouse, and climb the steps.

One of my favourite features here at the port is, you guessed it, food. Right opposite the marina is a classy food franchise called ‘Eataly’ (we don’t have it in Australia, yet!). It’s a gourmet eat-in, take-away, market, kitchen wares, deli, mega foodies’ paradise of Italian food!

‘Just leave me here’, I said to my family, ‘I’ll be fine, thank you very much; you guys go play’.

Unfortunately, they wanted to stay too, wouldn’t you know it.

Galleon Neptune ship Snazzy Trips travel blog
Galleon Neptune ship
lighthouse of Genoa e1636021466497 Snazzy Trips travel blog
Lanterna lighthouse of Genova
Sculpture at the Port of Genoa Snazzy Trips travel blog
Unusual sculpture at the docks. What do you think of it? I'm still trying to figure it out.
Genoa marina Snazzy Trips travel blog
Genoa marina

More things to do in Genoa

Other epic places to visit include:

  • the House of Christopher Colombus which is an 18th century reconstruction of his medieval house.
  • the famous Piazza De Ferrari fountain, iconic landmark of Genoa.
  • Victory Arch in Piazza della Vittoria.
  • Churches aplenty, of various architectural styles – Baroque, Gothic, Romanesque.
  • Museums and art galleries galore, such as the Royal Palace Museum and the Doge’s Palace Museum.
  • Shopping – head for the Galleria Guiseppe Mazzini or Via XX Settembre.
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Historic Centre of Genoa
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Piazza De Ferrari fountain
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House of Christopher Colombus in Via di Porta Sorprana
victory arch genoa e1636026645734 Snazzy Trips travel blog
Victory Arch in Piazza della Vittoria
Cathedral of San Lorenzo Genoa Snazzy Trips travel blog
Cathedral of San Lorenzo
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Basilica di Santa Maria Immacolata
genoa buildings Snazzy Trips travel blog
Historic palaces on Via Dante

Fascinating Information about Genoa

Genoa has a 30km coastline overlooking the Ligurian Sea, which includes part of the Italian Riviera, known for its beaches, boating, promenades, and colourful seaside lifestyle of Camogli, Portofino, Santa Margherita Ligure, Rapallo and Sestri Levanti to name a few.

There is a natural reserve, Aveto Natural Regional Park, in Genoa which is part of the Apenines Mountain Range.

The international marine mammals protection zone, called the Ligurian Sea Cetacean Sanctuary, is here in Genoa which studies the habitat of various species whales and dolphins. How cool is that!

Boccadasse beach Genoa Snazzy Trips travel blog
Boccadasse beach, Genoa
camogli genoa Snazzy Trips travel blog
Camogli beach, Genoa

Where I stayed in Genoa

I was excited to spend 5 days here in a very spacious 5th floor apartment of a building which I’m told used to be a palace. Which doesn’t surprise me, because this city is full of palaces! You should see them.

This lovely apartment on Corso Solferino, which I booked online, was absolutely charming. It was extremely spacious, perfect for a family, and had beautiful old features, such as elaborate mosaic floors. And the views of the city and the sea were fantastic.

Search for accommodation here.

But can I just mention the door? It was bolted to the hilt! Just who are they trying to keep out – a rhinoceros?

Driving to Genoa

We drove here from La Spezia, near Cinqueterre, about 100 km drive, autostrade all the way. Not scary at all, nooo! 130km/h is the speed limit in Italy. Have a read of my Driving in Italy post.

Tip: Please do your research on Italian roads and autostrade before deciding to drive here (it’s not for the faint hearted) and check the tolls you have to pay on autostrade.it.

Arriving a little dishevelled but safe, we immediately set about exploring our new home city for the next few days.

Tours of Genoa

If you would like a guided tour when you visit Genoa, below are some options I recommend.

I word of advice – on my journeys through Italy, I have found it to be full of steep, hilly neighbourhoods and Genoa is definitely no different. You have to be an athletic walker; if you aren’t one already, you will become one here. So, be prepared with comfy shoes or you’ll be miserable.

The upside is that you can enjoy eating delicious Genoese food everyday – pasta, pesto, focaccia, dolci – and you will burn it off, thank goodness. Speaking of which – a delightful pasticceria/cafe called Mangini is located near the roundabout of Piazza Corvetto which I became very well acquainted with. Bellissimo.

Find accommodation in Genoa here

When you visit Genoa, I recommend staying at least a couple of days to enjoy it properly, take in some of the main sites and landmarks.

Below are accommodation options for you to consider.

Booking.com

Genoa is truly a magnificent city and you will fall in love with it too. 

I hope I have inspired you to visit Genoa.

Check this website for up to date travel advice and events in Genoa. 

Please leave a comment if you wish to do so below.

Grazie.

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14 thoughts on “Why You Must Visit Genoa

  1. Patti Reddi says:

    I love the beautiful architecture in Genoa. I’ve been to a few places in Northern Italy but next time I will make sure to add Genoa to my itinerary.

  2. Lisa says:

    We live half the year in Italy and I still haven’t visited Genoa! It’s one destination high on my list, and reading your post only makes me want to see it more. I never knew about the number of palaces there either!

  3. Besugo says:

    “Genoa was once the main port of Italy”

    fingers crossed … 🙂

    The Port of Genoa is the major Italian seaport and it’s in competition with the ports of Marseille and Barcelona to be the biggest of the Mediterranean Sea. [… ]it is the busiest port of Italy by cargo tonnage (by wikipedia)

      • Besugo says:

        Thanks for your time.
        I want to offer you some information about the “unusual looking thing” (I know … it’s really weird …). it represents a part of a set design.
        It is dedicated to the genoese artist Emanuele Luzzati (died in 2007). He was a set designer, animator and illustrator.
        He also created illustrations for children’s books, paintings, sculptures, and decor for cruise ships.
        He has received commissions among others from the Chicago Opera House, the London Festival Ballet, Scottish Opera, the Vienna Staatsoper and all the leading Italian opera houses. He received two Academy Award nominations for his animated films, made with Giulio Gianini, La gazza ladra (1965) and Pulcinella (1973).

        The Renaissance fortified door “Porta Siberia” close to the monument is the “Luzzati Museum ” with a collection of the works of Emanuele Luzzati and thematic exhibitions of some important protagonists of illustration, animated cinema, set design, and comics .

        • snazzytrips says:

          Thank you for informing me of the interesting information behind the sculpture. Always great to get some feedback. As tourists, we often miss important things. Regards Tania.

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