Genoa, the Captial of Liguria, is a highly underrated Port City in Italy, known for its history in maritime trade. Genoa may not be at the top of your list of places to visit in Italy and can often be overlooked next to Venice, Rome, Florence, and Milan. Nonetheless, it is still a stunning City with some incredible history dating back to thousands of years ago. There are bounds of reasons why Genoa is a great holiday destination, and I am so excited to share them all with you. If you are looking for one of the most authentic experiences to Italy, then look no further because Genoa is where you’ll find it!
FUN FACT: Genoa is the birthplace of the great explorer Christopher Columbus, born in 1451
Who to fly with?
You will find that several airlines, including budget airlines, will fly directly to Genoa depending on where you are coming from! Genoa airport, also known as the Christopher Columbus airport, is an international airport and sits 7.2km from the city centre. If you are coming from further afield, then you may need to look into direct flights to one of Italy’s major international airports and then getting a direct flight from there to Genoa.
You can easily find a taxi or hire airport transfers before you land in Italy to take you directly to your hotel in Genoa. Other options include the Volabus. This is a shuttle bus service which takes you from the airport and to the city centre in 30 minutes. You can also get to Genoa by train if you are coming from Rome, which is a five-hour journey.
If you’re planning a road trip through Italy, Genoa can be a great place to start. And if it’s not the place where you will start, make sure to include this amazing city in your route!
When is the best time to visit Genoa?
The most popular time to visit Genoa is during the Summer. However, this comes at the price of paying extreme prices for hotels. July is the sunniest and warmest month but can also be the most expensive in terms of hotel and flight prices. I would recommend travelling to Genoa in September when the weather is warmer, around mid-70s Fahrenheit / 21 Celcius, and prices are slightly lower. Visiting Genoa in the fall is something I wouldn’t recommend as it tends to rain on average 15 days a month. So be sure to pack an umbrella!
Where to stay?
Finding somewhere to stay can be stressful when you’re looking for that perfect location spot that’s going to make your trip as enjoyable as it can be. It all comes down to your preferences and what you are looking for. If being in the centre of Genoa’s history is appealing to you, then stay in Genoa’s old town, split into two districts. Molo, known as the medieval district and then Maddalena, the baroque area. They are both ideal places to stay and in the city centre of Genoa so all the history and architecture will be on your doorstep.
If you are looking for something, a little different then head to old port or Boccadasse. Whether you decide to stay in Porto Antico or not it should still be on your list of things to see in Genoa. It is the largest old port in Italy and stretches across 22 km. One of the city’s liveliest places to visit! Boccadasse, is a charming little fishing village, to the east of the City of Genoa. A stunning picturesque spot with colourful houses overlooking the sea. Here you will find a small beach and many restaurants with terraces to enjoy the outdoor weather. Here you will be away from the hustle and bustle, the perfect place to relax!
Wherever you choose to stay, and whatever time of year, accommodation will remain generally accessible due to Genoa not being one of Italy’s most touristic cities to visit.
How to get around Genoa
Getting around Genoa can be pretty easy when you are staying in the historic town because it is fairly compact and walkable. Because of the narrow streets and alleys, cars wouldn’t be around to drive through the city anyway. However, outside of the historic areas, Genoa is relatively large. One of the most fun ways to enjoy Genoa is to hire a scoot or Vespa and ride around the streets. On the coast, scooters have become local transportation.
Otherwise, you can hop on their bus service, cable cars, water-buses, undergrounds or the main rail lines. Prices may vary depending on the means of transport so check out Genoa’s Transport prices and times before you go to avoid any disappointment. Advance tickets can also be purchased from local tobacco shops or newspaper stands. Taxis will also be available throughout the city of Genoa!
FUN FACT: Where are my Pesto lovers at? Genoa is home of the Pesto, finding its origins in 16th century Italy.
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Genoa’s Greatest Landmarks
Genoa isn’t the most popular City in Italy, but that’s the perfect reason to visit. The lack of tourists means you will get that truly authentic Italian feel. Walk around Genoa’s narrow streets, heritage and artisan shops, and try some of the tastiest food in Italy. Below are must-see sights during your time in Genoa…
- Visit one of the Meditteranean’s largest aquariums, the Aquarium of Genoa, in a ship-like building! Here you’ll see marine and freshwater species, a great place to take the kids for the day (or without the kids too!)
- The San Lorenzo Cathedral is a beautiful Roman Catholic cathedral known for its Romanesque and Gothic architecture.
- Walk around Palazzo Rosso for some fascinating history, a house museum located in the centre of Genoa.
- Piazza De Ferrari situated in the main square in the heart of Genoa and renowned for its fountain. Grab a penny, throw it in and make a wish!
- Royal Palace Museum, a major palace in Genoa.
- The lighthouse of Genoa is the main lighthouse for the city’s port and worth a visit. The tower is a landmark for the City of Genoa and is the world’s fifth tallest lighthouse.
- Embrace the maritime history in Genoa and visit the Galata Museo del Mare Appreciate the reconstructed ships & original artifacts as well as the museum’s collection of old maritime maps and illustrated globes. I highly recommend the submarine tour if you are visiting with children as this is a massive hit! Grab your camera’s and head to the rooftop for a stunning panoramic view of the Genoa city.
- Via Garibaldi, a street full of palaces and banks. A beautiful place to walk around and takes you back to all of Genoa’s history.
- Porto Antio, the old harbour which has been turned into a marina buzzing with life. Enjoy a walk around the marina and check out the museums, restaurants, bars, and cafes. A great spot to people watch! You can even hop on a whale watching tour from here too.
FUN FACT: The Aquarium of Genoa is the largest in Italy and one of the largest in Europe. Built in 1992, it inhabits approximately 15,000 animals.
Eating in Genoa
Let’s get to the most important question, where am I going to eat? Genoa being the city where pesto was originated, you know the food is going to be out of this world.
- Ostaia Da U Santu: A beautiful little Italian restaurant serving traditional foods with affordable prices. Try the Cima Alla Genovese, veal stuffed with meat, vegetables, and cheese, cooked, pressed and served warm. Or you can try out Genoa’s famous pesto with rice or ravioli!
- Ristorante Da Rina: Is a place for all those seafood lovers. This restaurant is close to Porto Antico, so it makes a lovely evening to grab dinner and then walk around the port, enjoying the light buzz of the night. Try the Mandilli de Saea, a delicate pasta rolled by hand and serve with pesto.
- The Cook, a must try! The Cook has been recognised as one of the best restaurants in the Genoa region. The restaurant is inside the Grand Hotel Arenzano and has an outdoor terrace where diners can enjoy the view. Food includes local produce, served fresh and with great presentation.
- Il Genovese – This place makes their pesto by hand in a mortar and pestle, and the owners are one of the associations behind the Pesto World Championship held in Genoa every two years!
The Sweet Stuff
We all get those cravings!
- Pasticceria Tagliafico – Head here for some delicious Italian pastries and a morning (or afternoon!) coffee.
- Torrefazione Bahia – If you are looking for good quality coffee for a little pick me up, head to this cute coffee shop. Here they roast their own coffee beans using a machine that dates back to the 1940s. If you’re not so much a coffee lover, then try one of their specialty teas or sweet treats!
- U Gelato du Caruggiu – What would a trip to Italy be without trying their famous Gelato? Here you will find an array of delicious favourites as well as vegan options!
- Cremeria Sestri – Head here for some of the best ice cream you’ll ever try and top-notch service. You’ll find that this is the spot where all the locals hang out!
Where do the locals go?
I’ve already mentioned plenty of times that Genoa is known for its Pesto. But how amazing is it that they hold a Pesto World Championship every two years? If you can plan your trip around the time when this is happening, what an experience that would be! If not, head to Cavour 21 who were the Winners of the Pesto World Championship held in Genoa back in 2012. This is a ‘hole in the wall’ type place and doesn’t have the best services, but the locals swear by it! Make sure to book in advance because this place can get pretty crowded!
Focaccia and farinata are both essential food staples to the Geonese. Farinata is a pancake made from chickpeas, and the Geonese absolutely love it. La Farinata dei Teatri is the place to try it. This is a small bakery in the new town that cooks them in giant pans.
The Geonese don’t mess around when it comes to focaccia. It’s eaten from straight in the morning, where they dunk it into their morning cappuccino. If you ask what the best focaccia has to be like, they will say golden and crispy and greasy!! Two small family run bakeries where you can buy yourself some very yummy focaccia are Panificio Claretta and Panificio Mario.
Getting the best out of your Italian experience
A couple of activities to get that Italian experience and end your trip with the satisfaction of knowing you dived into the Italian culture!
- Visit Christopher Columb’s House in Genoa. Here you will find an 18th-century reconstruction of the house in which he grew up. How many people can say they visited Christopher Columbus’ house?
- Every year in October Genoa hosts a violin festival called The Paganiniana Festival starring its most famous violinist Niccolo Paganini.
- Be sure to catch the Italian sunset at the old port before ending your trip. With many restaurants and shops along with the port, there is plenty of life around you. Take the Bigo elevator up 150 feet and experience a birds-eye view of the port.
If you are heading to Genoa, then I wish you the most AMAZING time, and I hope that you found this guide helpful for all the best recommendations. If you have any other suggestions or questions, then please comment below because I would love to hear from you about your own experience and thoughts on Genoa!