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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
More things to do in Genoa
- 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.
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!
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.
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
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.
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.
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