Genoa used to be one of the fourth maritime Republic (Venice, Pisa and Amalfi) and is renowned for being the hometown of Christopher Colombus. The city has been founded in the 4th century BC.
The main square of the city is Piazza de Ferrari where the Palazzo Ducale is located which used to be the seat of rulers, now it hosts shops, restaurants and cultural events and initiatives. In the square are also located the Carlo Felice Theatre, one of the most well-known opera houses in Italy, and the Museo dell’Accademia Ligustica di Belle Arti.
A short distance away is located the Cathedral of San Lorenzo built in 1118 but its dome and bell tower have been added in the 16th century, the facade has a Pisan Style with black and white stripes. Inside the Cathedral you can also visit the Chapel of John the Baptist and the Museo del Tesoro with reliquary and artifacts of the time of the maritime empire.
In the old Genoa you can stroll around the Caruggi, narrow twisted streets which are characteristic of Genoa and of some towns in the neighborhood.
The Royal Palace Museum (Museo di Palazzo Reale) dates back to 1650 but became a royal residence for the Savoia family around 1840. The palace is full of sculptures and paintings, although the king modified some of the rooms changing the original design, particularly worthy of attention are the Halls of Mirros and the Throne Room.
The National Gallery (Galleria Nazionale) used to be a private residence, first for the Grimaldi and then Spinola family, now hosts a great art collection but is also renowned for its internal decorations.
Nearby are located the Galleria Civica di Palazzo Rosso and the Museo Civico di Palazzo Bianco: the former, has a stunning collection of paintings of artists such as Veronese, Reni, Van Dyck and frescos of Ferrari and Piola; the latter, has a variety of paintings of Italian and European artists (Dutch, Flemish and Spanish).
The city hosts an amazing collection of museums like the Museo delle Culture del Mondo (Museum of World Culture) inside the Castello d’Albertis with a whole range of curiosities from all over the world belonged to the Captain Enrico D’albertis; the Museo d’Arte Orientale (Oriental Art Museum) which is one of the biggest Museum of Japanese art in Europe; the Museo dell’Antartide which is the only Museum in Europe entirely dedicated to Antarctica; the Galata Museo del Mare follows the step of the city from the beginning till the present day.
In the port is also located the Aquarium opened in 1992 for the 500th anniversary of the Discovery of America is one of the biggest in Europe and a major attraction of the City.
In the old port of the city you can visit the Lighthouse or La Lanterna built in 1544 is an important symbol of the city. You can also visit the Neptune Galleon, a working reproduction of a 17th century Galleon built in 1968 for Roman Polanski’s movie Pirates.
During your stay don’t forget to try Pesto a genuine and delicious sauce consisting of garlic, basil, pine nuts, olive oil, Parmesan cheese and Pecorino cheese (sheep’s cheese). It is traditionally prepared in a marble mortar with a pounder, you can use it as a condiment for Trofie, Genoese typical short and twisted pasta.
What/where to eat
In the historic center of Genoa you can taste some of the best specialties of the city and Liguria. For those who prefer a snack or a quick meal, I recommend trying the delicious focaccia prepared by all the ovens of the city or, given that we are in a seaside resort, excellent fried walking fish for sale at the various fryers in the center historian. Those who want to sit comfortably in a restaurant or a local restaurant can taste various traditional Ligurian dishes, from the unmissable pasta al pesto and pansoti with walnut sauce, to second courses based on fish and the top, a meat of stuffed veal cut into thin slices.
Here are some addresses:
Trattoria Rosmarino. One of the most popular restaurants in Genoa, with traditional dishes revisited in a modern key.
Antico Forno della Casana. An excellent stop to taste the legendary Genoese focaccia, available in many variations.
Antica Friggitoria Carega. An institution in the city, it is a small venue, but its fried fish is considered among the best.
La Taverna di Colombo. The authentic taste of the Genoese tradition in a vintage setting, where you can breathe the atmosphere of the past.
Pasta Street. The specialties of the Ligurian tradition in street food version. It boasts an indoor lounge and outdoor spaces in the summer.
Bruschetteria Buon Gusto. Excellent place for an aperitif, with delicious cocktails and beers to accompany various types of cutting boards that pay homage to local products.
Mugugno (that means “grumbling”, typical ligurian attitude). Another ideal stop for an aperitif, with a wide choice of wines and abundant platters with cold cuts, cheeses and local specialties.
If at the end of the lunch you still have space and you want to end with an ice cream or patry, stop here:
Confetteria Pietro Romanengo, a historic patisserie in Piazza Soziglia, open at the end of the 18th century. In elegant and retro environments you can enjoy sweets, chocolates, candied fruit and other delicacies. Antica Cioccolateria Romeo Viganotti, a historic company that produces chocolates and ice cream with very special tastes.
Douce Patisserie Cafe, although a little expensive, offers delicious treats
Pasticceria Tagliafico, born at the end of the 19th century, offers pastries, cakes and other local and international delicacies.
What/where to buy
Among the most popular souvenirs to buy in Genoa there are first of all delicious gastronomic products, starting with pesto, in particular Pesto di Pra. Of course, don’t forget the fresh pasta to pair with: trofie, trenette and pansoti are sold in pre-packaged shops. For greedy friends you can opt for pandolce and canestrelli, while the Ligurian tradition is rich in wines and liqueurs, with basil flavored grappas and fine varieties of wines such as Pigato. But one of the most particular drinks to give, in this case non-alcoholic, is rose syrup, produced for centuries with roses grown in the Genoese hinterland.
Among the avenues of Genoa it is not uncommon to come across workshops of ceramics and handicrafts produced in olive wood and slate, a black stone widespread in the hinterland mountains. There are also numerous fine fabric stores as in ancient times Genoa was famous for the production of silk and velvets. The main shopping avenue is via XX Settembre, the main shopping avenue in Genoa where you will find yourself strolling under elegant arcades, among small shops and cafés. Here the international brands of the most accessible fashion are concentrated, while the big names are based in via XXV Aprile, via Roma and Galleria Mazzini. Hidden in the alleys of the old town are tailors, craft shops and independent shops. Among the most particular and historical shops that I suggest you visit are:
L’Aria del Mare. Beautiful workshop and shop of majolica, fabrics and handicrafts to take home as a souvenir. Finollo, small but historic and refined tie shop near Piazza Fontane Marose
Arduino antiques. For lovers of antiques this historic 1800 store sells jewelry, costume jewelery, collectibles and much more: for a unique gift.
Pissimbono. Historical men’s tailoring of the 1800s to buy elegant and casual suits of excellent workmanship.
Armanino. An ancient grocery store near the port of Genoa, where you can jump into the past. You will find a huge choice of dried fruit, spices and herbal teas, but also an excellent selection of Genoese products.