Genoa, the capital of Liguria, is the sixth largest Italian city. It is also the most touristic. It is a major port city that is one of the busiest in the Mediterranean. Cruise liners often stop here to allow passengers to catch buses to other destinations on the Italian Riviera. Genoa is a city with a rich cultural heritage and a fantastic food scene. It’s not surprising that more tourists don’t venture off the Milan-Florence Rome tourist trail to see a beautiful, but less-known, place like Genoa.
The UNESCO World Heritage-listed Old Town of Genoa is a large part of the city’s Old Town. This is due to the dozens grand palaces collectively called ‘Palazzi dei Rolli’. They are located mostly on the Le Strada Nuova, Genoa’s main historical street. These palaces were built by wealthy families to accommodate other prominent and wealthy visitors during Genoa’s 16th-18th century heyday as a powerful shipping port. Although not definitively proven, Genoa is most likely the birthplace of Christopher Columbus, an explorer and coloniser. His childhood home is also open to the public.
Genoa can be proud of its history, but it can also be known for being the birthplaceof pesto, focaccia bread, and other Italian foodie delights. You won’t regret visiting this alternative Italian city.
This Genoa city guide will help you find out what Genoa is famous for and how to get there. It also explains what to expect during a visit, what to wear, where to stay in Genoa, and what to do in Genoa Italy.
HOW TO GET TO GENOA
Genoa is easy to reach and very convenient. Genoa Airport is an international airport that offers daily flights to European cities such as London, Munich, and Istanbul via Italy’s Alitalia airline or budget airlines like EasyJet. You can take a taxi to the airport in 15 minutes. Budget travellers can also catch the N.1 bus, which departs every 10 minutes from Genova Cornigliano station.
Genoa Principe Station serves as the main station. However, Genoa also has smaller stations located in various neighborhoods. Trenitalia’s train network in Italy makes it affordable and easy to travel between major cities quickly and easily. Genoa to Rome takes just five hours and 30 minutes, while Genoa to Pisa takes only two hours. It’s a busy port city so it’s often included in cruise itineraries. You can also travel to Genoa easily by car.
GENOA, ITALY – Airplane at Genoa Cristoforo Colombo Airport. Every year, 1.2 Million passengers use airport services.
WHAT TO AIM FOR IN GENOA
Genoa, located in northern Italy, is the main language spoken by its inhabitants. Italy is also a member of the EU and Schengen zones. Their currency is the Euro. English proficiency is excellent with almost all workers in the service and tourism industry being fluent in English. It would be appreciated if you could learn some Italian. Although tipping is not expected, 10% or rounding up the bill are appreciated.
Genoa is not known for being cheap, but it has more affordable food, accommodation, and attractions than other Italian cities such as Rome or Venice. Although it is generally safe, be careful where you walk, especially at night. The Old Town of Genoa is a maze filled with narrow, dark alleyways. It is also lenient towards prostitution. However, muggings can occur on these streets. As with many Italian cities, be aware of pedestrian crossings by careless motorists.
HOW TO GET AROUND GENOA
It can be overwhelming to imagine Genoa as a sprawling, large city. This is especially true if you are travelling between the airport in Genoa and Boccadasse. The problem isn’t driving around Genoa; it’s finding a spot to park. They are very difficult to find. This is why locals prefer to ride scooters.
Genoa has both a local train and an underground station. It follows the coast, but doesn’t service Genoa’s Old Town. This is a large area that’s considered to be Europe’s most important historical centre. Genoa’s bus network offers another option. However, ticket kiosks can be found near very few stops and the timetables are not always up-to-date. Walking is much easier, and most attractions can be found in Old Town.
Genoa, Italy. Slider doors for the train car. Close-up.
GENOA IS THE BEST TIME OF YEAR
Genoa is a coastal city with a Mediterranean climate. The summers are hot but not too hot and temperatures rarely exceed 30 degrees Celsius. Winters are mild. You can expect rain at any time of the year, but storms are more likely during summer.
Although June-August is the touristy peak season, Genoa doesn’t seem to be overcrowded. Even though prices for accommodation can peak at this time of the year, they don’t rise significantly. The shoulder seasons are spring and autumn, where the weather is still pleasant and not too hot and rain showers more frequent.
Genoa hosts many great festivals and events every year, including the ‘Marathon of the Sea,’ held in February. The Focaccia Festival is held every May. Genoa has its own Christmas market, where one of the city’s piazzas transforms into a snowy winter wonderland.
GENOA (GENOVA), ITALY Illuminated Christmas tree in Genoa’s old harbor (porto antico).
GENOA: THINGS YOU SHOULD DO
The Palazzi dei Rolli is Genoa’s most popular attraction. These palaces have been kept in the city and were awarded UNESCO World Heritage status. Genoa has around 40 palaces that are part this status. However, there are more than 150 other buildings scattered around Genoa which are used as office and apartment buildings. These palaces date back to the 16th century, when Genoa was a major shipping port and each wealthy family owned their own stately home/palace where they entertained wealthy guests from all over Europe.
It would be impossible for visitors to see all the palaces. Via Garibaldi is the most popular place to visit, formerly known as Strada Nuova. Palazzo Reale is perhaps the most interesting because it has been preserved exactly as you would expect it hundreds of years ago. You can also visit Palazzo Spinola, which is now the National Ligurian Gallery, for less if your ticket comes from Palazzo Reale.
Palazzo Rosso and Palazzo Doria Tursi are right next to each others. You only need one ticket to see all three, which can be purchased at Musei di Strada Nuova starting at EUR10. These palaces look more like museums that exhibit art and antiquities. However, they are still interesting to see.
GENOA, ITALY – People at Palazzo Doria Tursi via Garibaldi. Formerly Le Strade Nuove. The street that runs alongside Palazzi dei Rolli has been designated UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Genoa Old Town
The Old Town of Genoa is located in the middle of Genoa, just north of the port. It consists primarily of narrow streets lined with tall houses and broken up by a few piazzas. These streets, also known as “caruggi”, are mostly residential, but some have shops, bookstalls or kiosks.
Piazza Bianchi, which houses a church with the same name, and Piazza de Ferrari at the edge of Old Town are both worth a visit.
Genoa city at sunset in Liguria (Italy) – Cityscape of an old town
Porto Antico, which means the “old harbor”, is a large port that was once one of Europe’s busiest. It’s now a beautiful place to stroll, with many benches and palm trees. There are also plenty of activities to enjoy.
The port is lined with many restaurants and entertainment venues. There’s also the Galata Museo del Mare, a maritime museum that houses a submarine, and the Aquarium in Genoa, which is one of the largest European aquariums.
San Lorenzo Cathedral
Definitely check out San Lorenzo Cathedral, Genoa’s main church. It shares a similar façade to Florence’s Duomo, with its black-and-white striped facade and circular front window. The Cathedral was built in 12th century and has been updated several times over the years. Its architecture is beautiful, combining Romanesque and Gothic styles.
The Cathedral’s interior is equally impressive, with many 16th-century artifacts and an ornate alter. While the San Lorenzo Cathedral can be visited for free, its treasure museum costs an additional fee.
If you’re looking for another church in Genoa, the Basilica Della Santissima Annunziata del Vastato can also be visited.
Cathedral di San Lorenzo, GENOA, ITALY
Genoa is home to a number of traditional fishing villages on the Italian Riviera. You don’t have to travel to Portofino or Cinque Terre to see them. It’s a short bus or train ride from the city centre to Boccadasse, but it’s well worth it.
There are multicolored houses stacked up against the cliff. A small beach has a gelateria, and there are also a few restaurants along the coast. Although it is mainly residential, there are plenty of things to do. It’s also a great spot to relax.
Genoa, Italy – People at the beach on Boccadasse in Genoa (Liguria)
Lighthouse in Genoa
Are you looking for the best view of Genoa’s orange roofs that extend into the hills? The Lighthouse of Genoa, a symbol of Genoa, can be seen from almost any location in Genoa. It is 76m tall and can be found on the harbour’s north side. Although it offers some of the most spectacular views in the area, it is closed to the public on weekends and holidays.
View of the Lighthouse of Genoa, Italy. This landmark and symbol for Genoa was inaugurated at 1128.
Even if you are not in Genoa for a weekend, you can take the funicular up Mount Righi. It takes only 15 minutes to reach the top. You can enjoy the 360-degree views from many walks.
D’Albertis Castle, which can be reached by a short walk from the top of the mountain’s funicular stop, is also worth a visit. It’s a Gothic mansion that dates back to the 19th century. It was once owned by Enrico D’Albertis, a sea captain who collected antiquities and art from all over the globe, especially the Americas and Africa. The castle now displays his personal collection.
GENOA ITALY – Castello d Albertis gothic revival castle in Genoa Italy
WHAT TO EAT IN GENOA
Although it is impossible to determine which Italian city or region has the best food, traditional Genovese cuisine should be in the top 5. Pesto is a versatile sauce that is made of basil, garlic and parmesan. It is often served with pasta, but can also be used as a topping on pizzas and sandwiches.
While there are many great Italian breads out there, Focaccia is the best. Flatbread that is served with olive oil, herbs, and tomatoes. However, flatbreads can be made with many toppings these days. These are a great option for lunch, especially if you’re looking for a lighter alternative to pizza.
Genoa has some amazing gelaterias that produce great wines and delicious desserts. Gelateria Profumo is the best place to get homemade gelato, just off Via Garibaldi in Old Town.
Italian traditional perciatelli pasta with genovese pesto sauce, served with ingradients and on a dark green concrete table. Flat lay on a dark green surface
WHERE TO STAY GENOA
Budget Accommodation – Genoa’s accommodation is typically more affordable than other major Italian cities. This makes it easy for budget-minded travellers to find great and affordable options. There are many hostels in Genoa, but the Abbey Hostel is the best because it’s both quirky and centrally located. This convent, dating back to 15th century, is located right next to Via Garibaldi. It has a cozy common area. Manena Hostel is located opposite Via Garibaldi, Genoa Old Town. It offers free breakfast and has modern, clean dorm rooms.
If you are looking for a private place to call your own during your Genoa trip, there are many amazing Airbnb apartments available in the middle of Genoa. There are many apartments available in the city center for EUR40 per night. Many offer stunning views of the city and hills. B&B I Rivi, a local hotel located north of Via Garibaldi, is a great option. It is decorated in a traditional Italian style and offers a free breakfast.
Luxury – From EUR100-150 per person, you can find luxury hotels in Genoa. The Grand Hotel Savoia, which is located right next to the train station, is decorated in an elegant and lavish style that is in keeping this 19th-century structure. Enjoy your breakfast on the terrace, which has spectacular views of the sea. You can also book rooms with hot tubs from the balcony. You can also choose to stay in the city centre at Hotel De Ville, which has a minimalistic, monochrome interior with luxe touches.
GENOA, ITALY – Interior of a room at Best Western Premier CHC airport. This brand-new hotel was built in 2012.
TOURS IN GENOA
Hop on, Hop off Tour
Genoa is a large city so a bus tour by hop-on hop-off bus is the best way to see it all. You can take the bus anywhere you want. The ticket is valid for 48 hour so you can see all of Genoa’s best attractions. You won’t have to wait long to get on the bus to continue your journey around Genoa.
You can listen to audio commentary on all buses so you can find out more about the landmarks and sites along the route. You’ll also pass Via San Lorenzo and the Bigo.
GENOA (GENOVA), ITALY. Citysightseeing Bus Genova, Italy
This walking tour allows you to see Genoa’s other side with a friendly and knowledgeable local guide. The tour will highlight Genoa’s hidden treasures and take you along unique paths connecting the hills to the sea, which can only be found in Liguria. Hiking through the hills nearby will allow you to learn more about Genoa’s people and take in the stunning views of the port and city.
Genoa (Genova), Italy. Old street in Genoa, Italy with walking people
You can easily find delicious food in Genoa, as it is literally all around. But if you’re a true foodie and want to ensure that you’re sampling the best Genoa has to offer, then this food tour is for you. Enjoy an afternoon at local cafes and restaurants, sampling Focaccia bread, pesto pasta, and local cheeses and wines. Find out about the Genovese relationship to traditional food and how it is made.
Focaccia is a traditional Italian dish.
DAY TRIP FROM GENOA
If you are staying in Genoa, a day trip to Cinque Terre is a must. The popular and picturesque towns are less than two hours away by train. Cinque Terre, a national park, consists of five picturesque cliffside villages: Riomaggiore (Manarola), Corniglia (Corniglia), Vernazza (Monterosso Al Mare).
Although it is possible to visit all five towns in one afternoon, it is not easy to maximize your time. This day tour will help you to discover all the most important landmarks, castles, and vineyards in the region.
Cinque Terre, Riomaggiore. Cinque Terre, Riomaggiore: Fishing village
Santa Margherita and Portofino
It is possible to visit many beautiful villages along the Italian Riviera on a single day. Portofino, a small town that was popular among the wealthy and famous in the 1940s and 1950s, is still a favorite destination. The rolling hills and rainbow-coloured homes that line the port have kept people returning to Portofino time and again.
This tour will take you to Portofino as well as Santa Margherita. Both towns offer stunning views of the sea and have many amazing restaurants and shops.
Marina and breakwater at the lighthouse. Boat sailing to the harbor, Camogli, Italy, in ligurian Sea, Camogli, near Portofino. Aerial view of traditional Italian colorful homes
Italian Riviera Villages
If you are looking for smaller towns along the Italian Riviera, near Genoa, but don’t want to be pushed too far, this day trip has plenty of options. It includes lesser-known towns such as San Fruttuoso, San Rocco, and Camogli. Your guide will take you kayaking and hiking, as well as offer cultural activities such as visiting the monastery of San Fruttuoso (10th century).