One Day In Genoa

Genoa | Liguria | Italy

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Genoa is the closest Mediterranean port city to Switzerland, Liechtenstein and Germany. 

Enchanting, beautiful Genoa. Whether you are on a historic journey visiting the home of Christopher Columbus or just in the mood to get lost in the sculpted maze that that is Genoa, this is a place that has to be experienced.

“It is a place that ‘grows upon you’ every day. There seems to be always something to find out in it. There are the most extraordinary alleys and by-ways to walk about in. You can lose your way (what a comfort that is, when you are idle!) twenty times a day, if you like; and turn up again, under the most unexpected and surprising difficulties. It abounds in the strangest contrasts; things that are picturesque, ugly, mean, magnificent, delightful, and offensive, break upon the view at every turn.”
― Charles Dickens, Pictures from Italy

We were in the streets early that Sunday morning in December, and in an attempt  to escape the cool crisp air, we happened on the beautiful Basilica della Santissima Annunziata del Vastato (circa 1520). Almost destroyed in the second world war, and later rebuilt, the renovated vaulted ceilings are “pencilled” in, to demonstrate the missing design, without pretending to be original. As the morning sun washed over Genoa, the arched windows filled the basilica ceilings with warm, comforting light. From where we stood in the dark, the gold leaf designs appeared iridescent in the morning glow.

Our footsteps echoed in the vast space as we sauntered through the almost empty basilica. It was an incredible way to start our ‘one day in Genoa’…

Basilica della Santissima Annunziata del Vastato | Genoa

In order to cement our somewhat religious experience,  we journeyed on, in search of the perfect Genoan cup of morning coffee… Our feet guided us South East towards the old town, and South into Via Cairoli. What a street to pick! A couple of blocks down Via Cairoli becomes Via Garibaldi where we stumbled on the mother lode of  Palazzi. Via Garibaldi is home to the following palatial residences: Palazzo Bianco, Palazzo Doria Tursi, Palazzo Rosso, Palazzo Cattaneo Adorno, Palazzo Pantaleo Spinola and finally Palazzo Cambaiso.

This initially unassuming street is not to be missed. The residences are exceptional. Both the White Palace and Doria Tursi are museums that can be easily accessed by tourists. There are some (very restricted) areas that are open to passersby, but for the most part you need a pass that can be purchased in the Red Palace or Palazzo Rosso. (I’m  guessing I don’t have to tell you how to recognise the “Red” Palace.)

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Palzzo Niccolò Grimaldi or Doria Tursi | Genoa

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Palzzo Niccolò Grimaldi or Doria Tursi | Genoa 

Walking in what felt like the complete opposite direction we then traveled underneath Museo D’Arte Orientale E. Chiossone, to arrive at Piazza Corvetto. Piazza Corvetto is the milestone you have to reach as a right of passage into high-end shopping heaven. I present to you: Via Roma (cue angels singing). Home to Dolce & Gabbana, Louis Vuitton, Salvatore Ferragamo and many more- Via Roma also conveniently takes you straight (literally) to Piazza de Ferrari and Palazzo Della Nuova Borsa Genova .

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 Piazza de Ferrari | Genoa

Piazza de Ferrari felt like the central hub of Genoa. From here you can walk in any direction to a multitude of attractions or activities. Travelling East, down Via XX Settembre, you can do some high street browsing. Here you’ll also find American fast food chains. Heading South East in Via Dante you’re heading towards the home of Christopher Columbus, forming what feels like the edge of a much older part of town. Around these parts you’ll learn that travelling by foot is a more versatile choice than opting for a car.

From the home of Christopher Columbus, you can head WNW on Via Di Porta Soprana towards Via San Lorenzi. From Piazza de Ferrari, you can head South past the Chiesa del Gesù e dei Santi Ambrogio e Andrea to get to the same location. A couple of blocks down, you’ll find the Genoa Cathedral, also known as  Cattedrale di San Lorenzi.

Your final option is to discover the narrow alleys NW of Piazza de Ferrari. Here you’ll find many hidden stores, restaurants and residences around Piazza San Matteo. It was here that a store owner referred us to his favourite local restaurant, Enoteca Migone for lunch. the brick, vaulted ceilings and enormous wine selection makes for a pleasant (and authentic feeling) lunch experience.

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 A view of Via XX Settembre, looking ESE towards a more modern Genoa

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Getting lost in the streets of Genoa, heading into an older part of town after passing the home of Cristoforo Colombo

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Genoa Cathedral or Cattedrale di San Lorenzi

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On our way to Enoteca Migone Restaurant we found Piazza San Matteo | Genoa

Fueled by the sights and sounds of Genoa (and a not so generous helping of vino), we headed West toward the harbour to savour the last few hours of daylight. When passing underneath the Strada Statale 1, Genoa loses all of its old-world charm.  Palazzo San Giorgio (which I assume was once a magnificent ocean front residence) now has a highway meters from; and underneath it. Level with the first and second storey windows, runs Strada Statale 1 (National Highway 1, to you and me).

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Palazzo San Giorgio when travelling from Piazza De Ferrari on Via San Lorenzo | Genoa harbour

Hawkers and street vendors gather under the raised highway and peddle their Lois Vuitton and Gorgeous Armani merchandise.  The water doesn’t smell fresh, and everything feels a bit dirtier. The tourist attractions at the harbor include the Maritime Museum, Harbour Museum and the Genoa Aquarium. If you planned a boat trip to view Genoa and Liguria from the water, this is where you’ll embark. We walked the Old Harbour (Porto Antico), viewed the replica Il Galeone Neptune (built for the 1985 film, Pirates), passed the museums and Aquarium, and wished we had spent a bit more time in the largest medieval centre in Europe.

As we looked back, we knew that this mysterious and enchanting city would see us again.



Top Left: Looking North towards Genoa from Principe subway station; Top Right: A peak into the Villa Del Principe, near  Principe station; Middle Left: The first morning rays through the Basilica della Santissima Annunziata del Vastato arched windows;  Bottom Left: Our ‘equipment-failure-picture’ at the Piazza de Ferrari illustrated perfectly how we felt after a very munchie visit to Italy =); Bottom Middle: A cool December morning in the streets of Genoa; Bottom Right: The narrow medieval Genoa alleys. 

What To Pack

The Italians are snappy dressers, and well-chosen accessories will go a long way in refining  your en sample. In winter months, opt for layering- when you plan to do a lot of walking, you may want to lose a layer or two during the heat of the day. Knits and pashmina style scarves are a staple when we  travel in cooler weather. It may be chunky to pack, but compresses really well, and makes for great bubble wrap alternatives when transporting gifts back home. The gentlemen wear woolen coats,  with warm scarves tucked into the collar. Jeans are somehow less popular and worn with leather ankle boots or shoes.

In summer months, consider packing swimwear, as the region is dotted with a number of gorgeous beaches.

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Beauty is hidden everywhere in Genoa

How To Arrive

As a mainland city, you are spoiled for choice.  Arrive by air and fly into Genoa Cristoforo Colombo Airport (Airport code GOA). You can also arrive by train from all over mainland Europe, by road or by sea (as a harbour city, Genoa is a popular stop for cruise-liners)


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 An afternoon walk at the Genoa Harbour

What  to Eat

The Liguria region’s most famous specialities include the following:

  • Focaccia
  • Pesto
  • Filled pasta
  • Vegetable minestrone alla genovese
  • Fresh made corzetti pasta in the shape of a figure 8
  • Torta Pasqualina vegetable and herb pies
  • Stuffed Vegetables and stuffed or fried courgette flowers
  • There is a great array of seafood available- including salt cod used to prepare stockfish alla genovese
  • Amaretti almond biscuits
  • Canestrelli  shortbread biscuits
  • Over the holidays also try  Genoese Christmas pandolce fruitcakes

What To Drink

Delicious wine of course. Just a hint- we learned this the hard way-  order wine by the bottle. The single glass servings are minuscule, and two glasses (or more accurately: 4 drops) cost the same as a bottle of wine.

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Chalk drawing street art in Genoa


Palazzo Della Nuova Borsa Genova | Piazza De Ferrari | Genoa

Things To See & Do

Genoa is breathtaking by foot, and you can cover a lot of ground in a day.  From the home of Cristoforo Colombo to the Piazza De Ferrari; Piazza Matteotti and Santi Ambrogio e Andrea to the iconic Cathedral of San Lorenzo; Santa Maria di Castello and Via Garibaldi Palaces (The white and red palaces or Palazzo Bianco and Palazzo Rosso); Harbour, Maritime Museum and Aquarium.

The old town is spectacular, and you can spend days getting lost in the maze of streets, discovering many of Genoa’s lost and hidden treasures. We enjoyed seeing Genoa this way, as it allowed us to spend a little more time in places we loved, and a little less time elsewhere. We had great conversations with local residents and tourists alike, and found everyone to be exceptionally helpful. It is always fun to get recommendations from someone who is familiar with the surrounds, and you are less likely to end up in a an awkward situation.

We walked approximately 10-12 km in Genoa, and I feel like we saw and experienced a lot. Would we go back? Absolutely.  Next time, will we stay longer? Without a doubt!

Top Left: Neptune Galleon replica ship in Genoa harbour; Top Right: Mid morning Guerlain treat inclusive of the best ever travel advice for Italy; Bottom Left: Strolling down Via Roma, we came accross the smallest little deli. Hans had tears in his eyes just looking through the window (I caught him looking at this picture for weeks after we had left Italy); Middle Right: Piazza di Ferrari awkward selfie; Bottom Right: inside the Palazzo Doria Tursi Courtyard.

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