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Genoa has long been one of Italy’s wealthiest and most influential cities. Following the Genoese defeat of Pisa, one of its main former rivals, during the 10th Century, the city became fabulously rich over the next few hundred years.
During the 16th and 17th Centuries the Genoa saw a huge amount of new construction work which included numerous marble palaces. In fact, the city was so famous for its splendid wealth that it was nicknamed ‘La Superba’, which in English means ‘the beautiful’ – which is no small achievement at the height of the Italian Renaissance!
Genoa has a history that has always been related to the sea and you can really imagine how the city must have felt at the peak of its power as you walk along the waterfront of Porto Vecchio amongst the luxury yachts in the marina. However, Genoa is not just for the jet set because it’s a destination for tourists and expats on every type of budget with plenty to do while you’re there.
How Do You Get To Genoa?
Genoa, on the Italian Riviera is situated close to the French border and has been an important port city since the mid 6th Century. It’s also a major transport hub and so in the modern world it’s super easy to get there.
The city has an international airport that has flight routes throughout Europe although if you’re traveling from the United States then you can get a transfer from Milan, Paris or Frankfurt. Flights from most other European airports only take a few hours.
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Alternatively you can travel to Genoa by train. The city has two major train stations in the center and can be accessed from anywhere in Italy as well as nearby countries including Spain and France. If you’re traveling from within Italy you can either take a high-speed train or a slower, cheaper, regional train.
As a significant coastal town you can also catch a ferry to Genoa! Ferries travel to Genoa from many ports on the Eastern Italian coast but you can also catch a cruise liner from Spain or Tunisia during the summer high season.
Best Things To Do In Genoa.
The following are some of the best things to do in Genoa.
Take A Walking City And Food Tour.
One of the nicest ways to get a general idea of the city of Genoa is to join a full day walking tour. A 6 hour guided walking tour will take you to some of the city’s most spectacular palaces as well as show you where the top restaurants, bars, secluded piazzas and hidden gems are.
Once you’ve got your bearings after your walking tour you can continue your explorations of the city on your own with more confidence. The local guide is English speaking and during the tour you’ll also get to sample Genoese Prosecco, coffee, focaccia and pesto. The guided tour also includes all the entrance fees as part of the ticket price as well as transportation during the day.
Tours leave from Genova Piazza Principe at 10am and finish in the early evening. The tour is relaxing and enjoyable but just be sure to wear some comfortable walking shoes for the day!
The Via Garibaldi Palaces.
The narrow Via Garibaldi is the location of some of Genoa’s most important palaces where the city’s wealthiest merchant families used to live. Today, you can explore the palaces and discover their fascinating exhibitions and antique collections during your trip to the city.
This stunning district is just North of the Piazza Ferrari where you can marvel at the incredible facades of the palaces and the grand buildings along the way. Not all of the palaces are open to tour around although you can visit the Palazzo Rosso, Palazzo Bianco and the Palazzo Tursi with a single ticket to see the art collections and exhibitions within these three palaces. The street was named a UNESCO World Heritage Site and is one of Turin’s must see districts for any tourists in the city.
Photography Walking Tour Of Genoa.
For visitors to the city who have a great photographic eye, this walking tour is the best way to see all the most iconic scenery, buildings and vistas without getting lost along the way! So instead of spending hours trying to find the top photo opportunities in the city, why not join a small, relaxed tour to be shown all the city’s photographic highlights!
During the tour you’ll be taken along the beautiful Via Garibaldi, the Via XX Settembre, Piazza Ferrari and the Via San Lorenzo. Tours are a maximum size of 5 people and led by a professional photographer; so it’s a really fun and informal way to take some great photos.
Typically the tours depart at 10am from the beautiful Porto Antico di Genova and includes a traditional Genoese breakfast!
Acquario Di Genova.
As the largest aquarium in Italy, the Acquario di Genova is a spectacular attraction on the coast of Genoa. To visit the aquarium complex you need to book in advance and can only buy your ticket on the aquarium’s official website.
The aquarium was built in 1992 to celebrate the 500th year anniversary of Christopher Columbus’ discovery of America in 1492. Undoubtedly one of the city’s most famous former residents, Columbus’ discovery of America changed the world forever but so will a visit to this amazing aquarium!
The aquarium showcases the wonder of marine life in a series of exhibits which houses the wildlife in their natural environments. It’s a great fun day trip for families, couples and solo travelers who have an interest in the underwater ecosystems of the world.
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The aquarium itself was designed by Renzo Piano and its unique steel and glass biosphere also houses an amazing tropical garden! The aquarium has a real focus on education and so throughout the tropical gardens and marine life exhibitions you can learn all about the fragile or endangered ecosystems on display.
Children under the age of 3 can enter for free and children under the age of 12 also get major discounts on their entrance tickets.
Cathedral Of San Lorenzo.
This stunning Romanesque basilica was first constructed in the 10th Century before undergoing major renovations in the 14th Century and is located on Piazza San Lorenzo. This means that it has an extremely interesting combination of Gothic and Romanesque features which are topped by a Renaissance style dome that was added in the mid 16th Century.
Within the cathedral you can explore the 15th Century Cappella San Giovanni Battista that is actually the oldest Renaissance structure in Genoa; a city which is usually better known for its Romanesque and Gothic architecture.
This remarkable chapel, within the cathedral, was built to house the priceless ashes of the highly revered Saint John the Baptist. The Saint’s ashes are kept in a bowl which is said to have been used to present the Saint’s head to Salome after he was killed. Another relic in this sacred chapel is said to have been the original Holy Grail although this is contested by some religious figures in the church.
As the home of some of Christianity’s most important relics the Cathedral of San Lorenzo is an absolutely unique place to visit.
Private Boat Trip To Portofino.
If you’d like to spend a day exploring the Ligurian Riviera in a traditional Genoese wooden boat then this private tour is exactly what you’ve been looking for! With plenty of sunbathing, swimming in the sea, lunch and even snorkeling, the private boat tour is a truly magical experience that is ideal for families, couples and small groups visiting Genoa.
The tour lasts around 7 hours and includes stops at Via Langano, Santa Margherita Ligure, Portofino, Camogli and San Fruttuoso. You’ll also pass through some beautiful coastal scenery including the Area Marina Protetta and Abbazia di San Fruttuoso.
This unforgettable Genoese experience is a wonderful way to discover some of the area’s most beautiful coastal scenery while relaxing in the sun on the deck of the boat; and is also perfect for people who want to avoid the big crowds!
Learn To Cook Authentic Genoese Cuisine.
For visitors to Genoa who would love to immerse themselves in the culinary traditions of the region then taking a hands on home cooking class with an expert chef is a fun way to pick up new skills and taste some of the city’s finest foods and wine!
During your cooking class you’ll learn to make an authentic four course lunch and discover the genuine Genoese secrets of making pesto, trofiette pasta, panzanella and a sweet dessert. Once you’ve made lunch you’ll sit on a lovely terrace to enjoy your creations with the other attendees of the class.
At the end of the day you’ll also be given a set of printed recipes so you won’t forget the ingredients of the dishes you’ve just learnt to cook. As well as learning to cook a 4 course lunch you’ll also be taught how to properly pair local wines with the dishes.
The class includes hands-on tuition, lunch, dinner, bottled water, tea and coffee as well as wine and other alcoholic beverages.
National Gallery, Palazzo Spinola.
Located amongst the maze of streets in the sailor’s quarters, the National Gallery in the Palazzo Spinola was donated to the city by the brothers Franco and Paolo Spinola in 1958.
The incredible palace in which the gallery is housed is a stunning example of Genoese architecture and has incredible mosaic floors, chandeliers, antique furniture and painted ceilings. Spread out over 3 floors the gallery contains amazing artwork including paintings by Rubens, exhibitions of 15th Century costumes and a series of Flemish and Renaissance era paintings.
The National Gallery in Palazzo Spinola is situated on the Piazza di Pellicceria and to get more information about current exhibits and to buy tickets you can visit the gallery’s official website.
Take A Rickshaw Tour Of Genoa.
If you don’t fancy exploring Genoa on foot then you can spend an hour seeing the sites from the comfort of a rickshaw! Tours are available in several languages including English, French, German and Spanish.
The local guides will be able to tell you all about the history of the city as well as some of the lesser known local anecdotes of Genoese traditions and happenings. You can begin your tour from Galata Museo del Mare or, alternatively, you can arrange to be picked up from a number of other locations throughout the city including outside the Grand Hotel Savoia or beside the Molo Ponte.
Visiting The Splendid City Of Genoa Is An Unforgettable Experience.
Genoa has long been a magnet for tourists and jetsetters so why not visit the city to see its splendor for yourself! As well as the city’s iconic monuments such as the Cathedral of San Lorenzo and the Garibaldi palaces you can also include more down to earth experiences such as learning to cook authentic Genoese cuisine and enjoy a city tour on a rickshaw. Of course, no visit to Genoa would be complete without including a coastal tour in a traditional boat so you can get a real feel for the way that the ocean played such a formative role in the city’s history.