Genoa, the capital of the Italian Riviera is often overlooked. This industrial port city tends to get overshadowed by the small towns and villages that the Riviera is known for. Though the images of Genoa don’t appear on the covers of the top travel magazine like Cinque Terre, does not mean it should be skipped. Genoa melds together historical and modern elements. You could see almost all of Genoa in one day. To experience the ease of this city; take a couple of days to unwind, relax and enjoy the Riviera’s not so hustling capital.
Spend the afternoon wandering through the historical streets of Genoa. Start the day off in Centro Storico. Most notably, Genoa is known for being the birthplace of Christopher Columbus. You can find his childhood home located outside the historical city gates. The house is so small that you could easily walk right past it if you didn’t know it was there. There aren’t big signs or hoards of tourists surrounding the house. It sits there in its quiet, quaint glory.
Head into the city center. Meander through the narrow streets and the large piazzas. Stop by San Lorenzo Cathedral and take in its unique black and white stripped marble exterior. If you would like to enter the cathedral, your shoulders and knees must be covered. (Tip: Travel with a light sweater or scarf so you can enter churches in Italy.) I never had the chance to enter San Lorenzo. Every time I went, I either wasn’t properly dressed or church was in service. While I never had the chance to go inside, I admired this mesmerizing cathedral every time I passed it.
Grab some foccacia for lunch and eat it in the Piazza De Ferrari. Foccacia is a flat style bread which Genoa is famous for. After your relaxing lunch facing the fountain, head into the Palazzo Ducale. The Palazzo Ducale has been transformed into a venue for art exhibitions. Here you can see photography displays or have the chance to listen to live music bouncing of the high walls of the courtyard.
Take a walk through the Stade Nuove or “New streets”, a UNESCO World Heritage Site that was built in the 16th and 17th centuries when Genoa held financial power. Explore the palazzos on Via Garibaldi. Everything is so well-preserved that not a cobblestone is out-of-place. One palazzo leads to the next and they seem to loom over you in the narrow streets. The facades are understated compared to the grandeur inside the walls and courtyards. To see more of the palazzos, take a tour inside. (Tip: Palazzos are closed on Mondays.)
Start your day at the Porto Antico. This old port isn’t very old, it has undertaken renovations and is quite modern. Here you will find the Biosphere, Bigo and the Aquarium. While these new structures don’t have the old European charm, the modern elements have been incorporated with artistic flare. The modern port transitions with ease into the historical city center.
Now that you’ve seen the city center, hop on a bus to Boccadasse, a fishing village in the suburbs of Genoa. There is so much heart in this village. I might be a little bias, seeing as I have spent many afternoons in Boccadasse, eating gelato and lounging on the beach. But you won’t be disappointed. Make sure to get a gelato from Antica Gelataria and eat it by the rocks, like the locals do. You can spend your afternoon lounging on the pebble beach of Boccadasse, taking a dip in the Liguarian Sea or taking a walk along the pier.
Once you’re back from Boccadasse, it’s time to get a new perspective of Genoa. Take the Zecca Funicular to Righi. Righi is a town located in the hinterland above Genoa. The Funicular functions as any other public transportation in Genoa, it costs €2 for a ticket that last for 60 minutes. It was a unique ride up the mountain and the view from the top was spectacular. I ended up being more drawn by the view of the mountains behind me than the harbor below.
Side Trip: Cinque Terre
When you’re in the Italian Riviera, you can’t miss Cinque Terre. The five seaside fishing villages that make up this UNESCO World Herritage Site can be easily reached from Genoa. You can take a train to either La Spezia or Riomaggiore to begin your day in Cinque Terre. Once you arrive at the train station, buy the Cinque Terre Card. The Cinque Terre Card cost € 16 and includes unlimited access to the trails, trains, shuttles, bathrooms and wifi within Cinque Terre. Read the full recap of my time in Cinque Terre here!
Side Trip: Portofino Peninsula
Spend the day in the Portofino Peninsula, where you will find picturesque and affluent harbor towns. Take a train to Rapallo, where you can buy a ferry ticket that departs from Rapollo and stops in Santa Margherita, San Fruttuoso and Portofino. There’s no better way to experience the Italian Riviera than by sea. Make sure to wake up early to make the most of your time in each port. Read the full recap of my time in the Portofino Peninsula here!