Genoa

Criminally underrated and delightfully under-visited...

credit: tanukiphoto

Italy’s largest port is one of the most interesting cities in Italy, if not Europe. The narrow alleyways of the medieval old town are littered with hidden gems. Admittedly there is a gritty feel to some parts of the city, and deep in the old town the atmosphere feels more reminiscent of Tangiers than an Italian city. But Genoa is criminally underrated and delightfully (for you and I) under-visited, so here are my top reasons to visit Genoa as soon as possible.

Corso Italia and Boccadasse

This 2 mile seaside promenade is a lovely walk from the old port (see below) to the beautiful hamlet of Boccadasse. The walk takes in beaches and historic buildings, including a 13th century monastery along the way. There are plenty of bars and restaurants to stop for refreshments on hot days and a dip amongst the colourful houses at Boccadasse’s bay is the highlight of the walk.

Take a cruise

Independent travellers might scoff at the idea of cruising between cities, but short cruises that start and finish in different locations can make an interesting way of getting between destinations. MSC Cruises use Genoa as their base city so many of their Mediterranean cruises start and finish here. Since MSC have flexible embarkation and disembarkation ports it’s even possible to use them as a luxury ferry, with a few extra ports thrown in for good measure. Indeed it can sometimes work out cheaper to cruise between cities than to take a ferry. One night cruises with MSC from Genoa to Barcelona could be found in October for as little as £39pp. This includes meals, entertainment and first class facilities such as heated swimming pools. The GNV ferry that runs this route costs around £120 for the cheapest cabin, no meals and far inferior facilities.

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The Golden Hour, Genoa credit: Roberto Lo Savio

Unique public transport 

Let’s face facts, not many cities in Italy are going to win prizes for their suburban transport infrastructure. But Genoa has, without doubt, one of the most unique and picturesque city networks in Italy. First of all there are the city’s elevators, used to alleviate the strain of hiking up and down the numerous hilly streets. Sure elevators don’t sound particularly appealing, but how about an elevator that not only goes up and down but also moves backwards and forwards, as well as sideways? Sound weird? It is, but a ride aboard the Ascensore to Castello d'Albertis-Montegalletto is a truly unique experience and well worth the minuscule ticket price.

Europe’s largest aquarium 

Genoa has the largest aquarium in Europe - the one in Valencia is technically an Oceanarium - and houses dolphins, several species of sharks and manatees, which are worth the admission alone.

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credit: Paul Wojnicki

Go onboard a submarine

Okay, you’re not going to be going 20,000 leagues under the sea, but a visit to Genoa’s Maritime Museum - the largest in the Mediterranean - is a fascinating experience. Not least because you get to go onboard a real life submarine and a replica of a 17th Century Genoese galleon, among other boats.

The historic lighthouse

La Lanterna, Genoa’s 16th century lighthouse is perched high on a 40 metre rock and Genoa’s most iconic structure. There has been a working lighthouse in the same location since the 12th century, well before Christopher Columbus was born here in 1450.

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Manarola and vineyard terraces, Cinque Terre credit: miralex

Great for a twin city break

With Pisa just two hours away and Milan around an hour and a half, Genoa is perfectly situated for a twin city break. It’s also a great place for exploring the Italian coastline, with world famous destinations like Portofino and the Cinque Terre easily visited in a day trip.

Words by Paul Wojnicki

Practicalities

Ryanair and British Airways both have direct flights to Genoa, while Pisa, Milan and Nice (in France) are great alternatives for twin city breaks.

Flexible cruises can be found on www.msccruises.co.uk.