48 hours in: Genoa

view gallery VIEW GALLERY

The birthplace of Columbus was once the centre of a medieval empire – and right now its glories are bathed in the early glow of spring

Travel essentials

Why go now?

Spring is the best time to explore Genoa. The Italian Riviera has a micro-climate thanks to the mountains that rise up along the Mediterranean and protect it from northerly winds, so you can stroll in the sun and enjoy the outdoors.

Easter is also the best time to try the signature dish torta pasqualina, a savoury pie made with 33 layers of pastry – one for each year Jesus lived. On Maundy Thursday there is an evocative procession through the streets that dates from the 15th century.

Touch down

British Airways (0844 493 0787; ba.com) flies from Gatwick and Ryanair (0871 246 0000; ryanair.com) from Stansted. Cristoforo Colombo airport is 6km west in the suburb of Sestri Ponente. The Vola shuttle bus runs every 30 minutes and costs €4 to Principe station (1) in the west of the city, Piazza de Ferrari (2) in the centre and Brignole Station (3) in the east. The journey takes 20-30 minutes depending on traffic. Buy a ticket on the bus, which includes a connecting bus or metro ticket. Validate it on boarding.

A taxi should cost €21 to most city-centre destinations. This is the best option late at night because the area around Principe station is a little unsavoury after dark.

Get your bearings Genoa is a remarkably thin city that runs for 40km along the coast. Its wonderful natural harbour is surrounded by an amphitheatre of towering hills. Piazza de Ferrari (2) is the city's heart. From here the medieval old town, a tangle of untouristy ancient alleyways, runs down to the old port (4) and is bursting with museums and restaurants.

To the east, the arcaded shopping street Via XX Settembre leads to Brignole Station (3). There is a tourist office (5) at Via Garibaldi 6 (00 39 010 5572 2903; genova-turismo.it; 9am-6pm), and an information kiosk by the aquarium in the old port (4). A Genoa Museum Card covers the main sites (€16 for 48 hours).

Check in

Melia Genova (6) at Via Corsica 4 (00 39 010 531 5111; melia-genova.com) is a smart hotel with interesting architectural features and doubles from €130, breakfast included.

In the old town, Locanda di Palazzo Cicala (7) at Piazza San Lorenzo 16 (00 39 010 251 8824; palazzocicala.it) is an atmospheric boutique hotel in an 18th-century palazzo, with apartments dotted around nearby. Doubles start at €99, excluding breakfast.

Quartopiano (8) at Piazza di Pellicceria 2-4 (00 39 010 928 9738; quarto-piano.it) is an ultra-modern old-town B&B with a roof terrace and hot tub. Doubles start at €90, with breakfast.

 

Day One

Take a hike

Start in the old port (4), renovated by local architect Renzo Piano. The Palazzo San Giorgio (9) (closed to the public) was originally home to one of Europe's first banks which financed royalty and issued the first cheque. It was also where Marco Polo recounted his traveller's tales while held prisoner. Take Via al Ponte Reale to Piazza Banchi (10), which gave its name to banking; money-changer's tables, banchi, once filled the square.

Walk up Via degli Orefici for a coffee at Klainguti (11), one of Genoa's oldest coffee houses. Take a left on Vico Dietro Il Coro Delle Vigne through the Maddalena: a network of narrow medieval alleys that lead to the city's unmissable Via Garibaldi, dubbed "the street of kings".

Two of its palaces are now art galleries: Palazzo Rosso (12) and Palazzo Bianco (13), each stuffed to the brim with old masters (€8 joint ticket; museidigenova.it; 10am-7pm weekends, 9am-7pm Tues to Fri).

Take a view

There is a wonderful panorama of the city and the port that paid for this luxurious lifestyle from the roof terrace of the Palazzo Bianco (13).

Lunch on the run

The Genoese have a reputation for working hard and eating on the hoof from hole-in-the-wall restaurants such as Antica Sciamadda (14) at Via San Giorgio 14. Sciamadda, which means "flamed" in local dialect, has ovens baking tasty farinata, a chickpea pancake, while huge cauldrons fry the catch of the day from 11.30am daily, except Sunday.

Also unmissable is the local flatbread, focaccia. The rule is: the tattier the shop, the better it is. One of the finest bakers in the old town is Antico Forno della Casana (15) at Vico delle Casana 17.

Cultural afternoon

Don't miss the glittering Hall of Mirrors in the 17th-century Palazzo Reale (16), at Via Balbi 10 (00 39 010 271 0286; www.palazzorealegenova.it; 9am-1.30pm Tues and Wed, 9am-7pm Thurs-Sun; €4). Next, visit the restored Palazzo del Principe (17) at Piazza del Principe 4 (00 39 010 255 509; www.palazzodelprincipe.it; 10am-5pm daily; €9), which was once the home of admiral Andrea Doria, one of the most powerful men in Europe, who liked to impress visitors by having his silver dinner service tossed into the harbour after meals (into craftily placed fishermen's nets).

Window shopping

Genoa's trading empire in the Near East gave locals a taste for candied fruit and flowers, as seen at the sumptuous Pietro Romanengo (18) at Via Roma 51. Past customers include Verdi and King Umberto II. It also sells specialities such as rose syrup and orange flower water, an array of Easter eggs and quaresimali biscuits (9am-1pm and 3.30-7.30pm daily except Sun and Mon mornings; 00 39 010 580 257; romanengo.it).

An aperitif

Mescite! (19) at Via di Sant'Agnese 25r, is a trendy watering hole not far from the university. "Mescite" means "hurry up and pour" in Genoese dialect. Wine is served from seven huge vats. Try the white wine from Luni, a favourite of the Romans.

Dining with the locals

For classic authentic dishes that change with the season try Antica Osteria di Vico Palla (20) at Vico Palla 15 (00 39 010 246 6575; anticaosteriavicopalla.com) in the old port, or Il Genovese (21) at Via Galata 35r (00 39 010 869 2937; ilgenovese.com). A must is traditional pesto sauce once served on thin pieces of pasta to bid farewell to departing sailors.

 

Day Two

Sunday morning: go to church

The Cattedrale di San Lorenzo (22) reveals the power of this once great city. Typical of Liguria is its black- and white-striped façade. It was built to hold what were said to be the relics of John the Baptist which the Genoese brought back from the Holy Land during the Crusades and is supposed to be haunted by the workmen who built it. Look out for the Royal Navy shell that crashed through the roof during the Second World War but luckily did not explode. Walk along Via San Lorenzo to Sant'Ambrogio (23) to see two paintings by Rubens, who spent some years working in Liguria.

Out to brunch

Stop for a coffee and a cake at Caffe degli Specchi (24) at Salita Pollaiuoli 43, one of Genoa's classic coffee houses. Then walk up to the tiny house where Christopher Columbus (25) is supposed to have been born at Via di Ravecca 47 (00 39 010 246 5346; 10am-6pm on weekends; €4).

It is next to the city gate, the Porta Soprana, with its two majestic towers. It dates from 1155 when a new ring of walls was built to protect the city from attack by Barbarossa and is a symbol of the city.

A walk in the park

Take the funicular from Largo Zecca (26) to Righi (27), near the gates of the 17th-century outer city walls for a stunning view across Genoa and along the coast. It's a 10-minute walk to the top of the hills that encircle the city and which are dotted with old military forts.

Take a ride

The aquarium (28), one Europe's largest, is in the old port (00 39 010 23451; acquariodi genova.it; 9.30am-7.30pm weekdays, weekends to 8.30pm; €19). Then take a boat tour of the port from outside (€6; liguriaviamare.it). For millions of emigrants, this was their last sight of Italy. Find out more in the interactive harbourside Galata Museum (29) (00 39 010 234 5655; galatamuseodelmare.it; 10am-6pm, 7pm Mar-Oct and weekends, closed Mon; €12) that charts the history of Genoa's port.

Icing on the cake

Spend an afternoon on the Riviera. Take a train from Principe station (1) to Camogli, a beautiful old fishing port half an hour from Genoa (€15 return). From April to October, ferries run to Portofino, the millionaires' playground. Boats leave from the old port (€20 return; liguriaviamare.it) stopping at the monastery of San Fruttuoso, that is accessible only on foot or by boat.

Life and Style
Fans line up at the AVNs, straining to capture a photo of their favourite star
life Tim Walker asks how much longer it can flesh out an existence
Life and Style
Every minute of every day, Twitter is awash with anger as we seek to let these organisations know precisely what we think of them
techWhen it comes to vitriol, no one on attracts our ire more than big businesses offering bad service
News
Professor David Nutt wants to change the way gravely ill patients are treated in Britain
people Why does a former Government tsar believe that mind-altering drugs have a place on prescription?
News
Norway’s ‘The Nordland Line – Minute by Minute, Season by Season’ continues the trend of slow TV
television
Arts and Entertainment
art
Sport
Jonny Evans has pleaded not guilty to an FA charge for spitting at Papiss Cisse
football
Life and Style
Kate Moss will make a cameo appearance in David Walliams' The Boy in the Dress
fashion
News
The image released by the Salvation Army, using 'The Dress'
news
Sport
Liverpool defender Kolo Toure
football Defender could make history in the FA Cup, but African Cup of Nations win means he's already content
Travel
ebookHow to enjoy the perfect short break in 20 great cities
Independent Travel Videos
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Amsterdam
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Giverny
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in St John's
Independent Travel Videos
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Travel

    Recruitment Genius: Automotive Service Advisor - Franchised Main Dealer

    £18000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This successful, family owned m...

    Recruitment Genius: Product Advisor - Automotive

    £17000 - £23000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Due to the consistent growth of...

    Recruitment Genius: Sales Administrator - Automotive

    £18000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An opportunity exists for an ex...

    Recruitment Genius: Renewals Sales Executive - Automotive

    £20000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An opportunity exists for an ou...

    Day In a Page

    Homeless Veterans campaign: Donations hit record-breaking £1m target after £300,000 gift from Lloyds Bank

    Homeless Veterans campaign

    Donations hit record-breaking £1m target after huge gift from Lloyds Bank
    Flight MH370 a year on: Lost without a trace – but the search goes on

    Lost without a trace

    But, a year on, the search continues for Flight MH370
    Germany's spymasters left red-faced after thieves break into brand new secret service HQ and steal taps

    Germany's spy HQ springs a leak

    Thieves break into new €1.5bn complex... to steal taps
    International Women's Day 2015: Celebrating the whirlwind wit of Simone de Beauvoir

    Whirlwind wit of Simone de Beauvoir

    Simone de Beauvoir's seminal feminist polemic, 'The Second Sex', has been published in short-form for International Women's Day
    Mark Zuckerberg’s hiring policy might suit him – but it wouldn’t work for me

    Mark Zuckerberg’s hiring policy might suit him – but it wouldn’t work for me

    Why would I want to employ someone I’d be happy to have as my boss, asks Simon Kelner
    Confessions of a planespotter: With three Britons under arrest in the UAE, the perils have never been more apparent

    Confessions of a planespotter

    With three Britons under arrest in the UAE, the perils have never been more apparent. Sam Masters explains the appeal
    Russia's gulag museum 'makes no mention' of Stalin's atrocities

    Russia's gulag museum

    Ministry of Culture-run site 'makes no mention' of Stalin's atrocities
    The big fresh food con: Alarming truth behind the chocolate muffin that won't decay

    The big fresh food con

    Joanna Blythman reveals the alarming truth behind the chocolate muffin that won't decay
    Virginia Ironside was my landlady: What is it like to live with an agony aunt on call 24/7?

    Virginia Ironside was my landlady

    Tim Willis reveals what it's like to live with an agony aunt on call 24/7
    Paris Fashion Week 2015: The wit and wisdom of Manish Arora's exercise in high camp

    Paris Fashion Week 2015

    The wit and wisdom of Manish Arora's exercise in high camp
    8 best workout DVDs

    8 best workout DVDs

    If your 'New Year new you' regime hasn’t lasted beyond February, why not try working out from home?
    Paul Scholes column: I don't believe Jonny Evans was spitting at Papiss Cissé. It was a reflex. But what the Newcastle striker did next was horrible

    Paul Scholes column

    I don't believe Evans was spitting at Cissé. It was a reflex. But what the Newcastle striker did next was horrible
    Miguel Layun interview: From the Azteca to Vicarage Road with a million followers

    From the Azteca to Vicarage Road with a million followers

    Miguel Layun is a star in Mexico where he was criticised for leaving to join Watford. But he says he sees the bigger picture
    Frank Warren column: Amir Khan ready to meet winner of Floyd Mayweather v Manny Pacquiao

    Khan ready to meet winner of Mayweather v Pacquiao

    The Bolton fighter is unlikely to take on Kell Brook with two superstar opponents on the horizon, says Frank Warren
    War with Isis: Iraq's government fights to win back Tikrit from militants - but then what?

    Baghdad fights to win back Tikrit from Isis – but then what?

    Patrick Cockburn reports from Kirkuk on a conflict which sectarianism has made intractable