With all the attention on the Grand Tour cities, there are a number of areas of Italy that are overlooked. Turin manages to hang on to the edge, but Genova, the capital of Liguria is so often overlooked. Genova, is often considered a port city, but within its historic alleys you’ll find a beautiful old town. It’s true that it has its own personality, and that it is not for everyone. Yet it’s steeped in history, and culture, and is one of the most important ports in the Mediterranean. So let’s have a look at a few reasons why you should visit Genova:
The Fascinating History of Genova
Sure we all know about La Serenissima, the Republic of Venice, but we often forget their “nemesis” Genova! Both were major sea republics that expanded and grew thanks to their profitable trade networks. Plus, as you probably knew, but may have forgotten: some of the most famous explorers, such as Christopher Columbus, were born in Genova.
Genova’s rich and fascinating history spans centuries. The city was founded in the 4th century BC by pre-Roman tribes and has since then witnessed many significant events.
During the Middle Ages and Renaissance, Genova was one of the most powerful cities in Italy. A center of trade and finance, Genova’s ports were among the busiest in Europe. Genova’s strategic location on the Mediterranean coast made it an essential stop for explorers and merchants.
Today, you can still experience much of genova’s history through remnants of the city’s old architecture, its museums and landmarks. You should visit Genova to explore a very different history of Italy than you might be used to.
What to See when you Visit Genova
If you are looking to experience the history and culture of Genova there are a few sites that you should add to your itinerary.
One of the most iconic landmarks in Genova is the Lanterna di Genova. A lighthouse that was built in the 12th century and is still in use today. While the lighthouse itself is impressive, a visit will also offer stunning views of the city and the Ligurian Sea. You can climb to the top of the lighthouse to enjoy the views or take a tour to learn more about its history.
Palazzo Ducale should be next on your list. This historic palace was built in 1248 and was the residence of the heads of Genova. The palace is now a museum and houses a vast collection of art and artifacts from the city’s history. Apart from the stunning architecture and peek into history, you can also catch many intriguing temporary exhibitions hosted here.
For those of you in search of beautiful architecture, make sure you take a walk down Via Garibaldi. THis street is lined with beautiful 16th-century palaces and is even considered a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Some of the most famous palaces on the street include Palazzo Rosso, Palazzo Bianco, and Palazzo Tursi. You can visit these palaces to admire their beautiful architecture and to see the art collections that they house.
Now for one of Genova’s most famous attractions: Acquario di Genova is one of the largest aquariums in Europe. The aquarium is home to a wide variety of marine life, including sharks, dolphins, and penguins. You can watch feeding sessions, attend educational talks, and even go on a boat tour to see the aquarium from a different perspective.
These are just a few of the many beautiful sites to see in Genova. The city is a treasure trove of history, culture, and beauty, and there is something for everyone here. Discover more in my Explore Genova guide.
The Food of Genova
Genova’s cuisine is perfect for those of you looking to expand your Italian food palate and try a new regional style.
Genova has a rich culinary history that is reflected in its many traditional dishes. Of course, one tradition we all know and love is the pesto alla Genovese, made with fresh basil, pine nuts, and Parmigiano Reggiano cheese.
And let’s not forget about the famous focaccia, a staple food in Genova. So beloved locally it is even served at breakfast and dipped in the morning cappuccino! This delicious bread is baked fresh daily and is infused with fragrant olive oil. Often enjoyed in the classic plain style, you can also find it with delectable toppings.
Now of course, being along the sea, this beautiful city is renowned for its mouth-watering seafood, which is freshly caught and prepared in a variety of ways.
Want to be inspired by Genova’s cuisine? Check out my Welcome to Genova guide to discover all my favorite restaurants and eateries.
And the wine?
While there is not wine production right around Genova, Liguria does offer some excellent local wines that offer something new for your palate. Two particularly popular wines are Pigato – the Ligurian Vermentino and Rossese di Dolceacqua. Rossese is a historically famous red wine of the area. A lighter bodied red with floral notes and herby brush-like undertones.
Keep your eye out for wines from Cinque Terre and the Ormeasco wine as well!
Let’s not forget – The Beautiful Scenery
Genova is a city that is surrounded by beautiful scenery, it’s nestled right up underneath the towering hills, which lead straight into the Ligurian Appenines. It’s easy to drive up into nature, and enjoy a meal at nearby agritourisms. Then while the main city center has the port right up along the water, a quick bus ride down to the nearby Nervi or other nearby towns offers you stunning seaside walks.
Visiting Genova – My highlights
I’ve designed a full city guide to Genova available on the Thatch App, but I wanted to share just my top highlights with you here:
Stay: NH Collection Genova Marina – an excellent option in a beautiful location, you’ll get all the modern amenities of the NH Collection, with a view of Genova’s historic port.
Eat: Antica Sciamadda – A historical corner of Genova, an open vintage kitchen that serves simple food “al banco” at a bar.
Focaccia: Locanda Tortuga, where you can get the cheesy Focaccia di Recco!
Drink: Anciôa – Eataly’s rooftop bar overlooking the old port. Here you can enjoy a delicious fresh aperitivo with a selection of wines selected by Eataly or special craft cocktails from the bartenders of a local secret speakeasy.
Explore: MOG Mercato Orientale – This historic market opened in 1899, as a fruit, flower and vegetable market. There are 42 shops here and if you plan on cooking at home this is a great spot to grab local fresh goods! While exploring the market you can stop for an Aperitivo at their covered bar and enjoy the lively atmosphere.
Save my Welcome to Genova guide for even more recommendations, ready to make your next trip to Genova unforgettable.