Formerly one of the 4 Maritime Republics, together with Amalfi, Pisa and Venice, the city of Genova is nowadays one of the most populous municipalities in Italy as well as its biggest commercial port on the Mediterranean sea. “Genova the Proud”! That is the nickname used in the past centuries to refer to this marvellous city whose houses climbs from the coast to the hillside and whose main street was considered, in the 16th and 17th century, the most beautiful street in the world thanks to its unique noble palaces!!! The city still preserves its original atmosphere, despite the constant growth of its size in the latest decades due to its role as main commercial gate to the Country during the industrial revolution and the present global trade. There is so much to do in Genova, most of which is well described in several guide books of the city, therefore I decided to pick for you 5 highlights that, in my opinion, you should include into your visit programme.
1) Boccadasse: how to describe this unique, fascinating and colourful fishermen village? If there is a place that will allow you to ultimately understand how a seaside town was looking like in the past and how living on the water edges of the Tirrenian sea was, and still is like, this is it! This little gem lies within the context of the city of Genova and it is easily accessible by walking along the seafront promenade of Corso Italia.
2) The historical lifts: due to the development of the city on a progressive sequence of hills and hollows, a set of historical lifts and funiculars have been constructed all around the historical city centre to allow the citizens to move easily from one city level to the next, especially for those living on the upper hills, who also were enjoying the nicest views above the city. My recommendation for you is the lift of “Castelletto”. Inaugurated in 1909 this marvellous lift made in pure art-nuveaux style will take you from ground level to a panoramic terrace 57 meters high, for a fantastic scenic view overlooking the city. Take the lift from Piazza del Portello for the price of a city bus ride, and don’t forget your camera!!!
3) The Nervi Promenade: named after Anita, wife of the hero of the Italian unification, Giuseppe Garibaldi, it’s a 2 km long seafront walkway overlooking the gulf of Genova. Even in wintertime, you’ll get fantastic glimpses over the colourful seafront houses and, in a distance, the cove of the world known village of Portofino. Allow a couple of hours to enjoy it completely.
4) The “Caruggi”: despite being one of the biggest historical city centers in Europe, Genova is characterised by an infinite maze of very small alleys, called “caruggi”, meandering through the whole old city. The area is fully pedestrians nowadays, thus a nice morning of afternoon stroll will be pretty pleasant and will give you the opportunity to understand the life of the Genoans of the past, their relation with the sea, and, especially for the women…with the sailors. Pick any of the several historical “botteghe” (shops) you’ll find along the way and buy yourself some good local delicacy such as a jar of pesto, or a walnut sauce or a savoury pie, out of an endless choice. Start your walk from Piazza de Ferrari and let yourself meander along the allies heading down towards the seafront overlooking the city renovation operated by the architect Renzo Piano, native of Genova, who signed the whole renewal project of the modern port area, including the rotating lift called “Bigo” that you’ll find within the context of the Aquarium, the largest in Europe.
5) The “Rolli”: Dind’t I wrote already that Genova was considered the most beautiful city in the world in the 16th and 17th century? The Rolli are the reason. Listed by UNESCO within the World Heritage it’s a group of approximately 40 noble palaces, each belonging to a different family, where Monarchs, ambassadors, and vip visitors where randomly hosted during their visit to the city of Genova. Have a walk along Via Garibaldi, formerly “strada nuova”, to see the astonishing facades of Palazzo, Rosso, Palazzo Bianco and Palazzo Tursi, now home of the municipality collections, and several others, whose refined shape and decoration inspired none the less than the Flemish painter Peter Paul Rubens who scketched all of the them and then, in 1622, once back in the city of Antwerp, published a book titled “Palazzi di Genova”. Take the time you need, if you have a taste for architecture, this is your chance to expand your knowledge and to discover the mastery of the baroque surprising building expertise and revolution.
The list of places I am recommending you is obviously non-exhaustive as the city will offer you a lot more to see (don’t skip a visit to the romaneque/gothic cathedral of St. Lorenzo). I just picked my selection of highligths, that in my opinion, every visitor should include, if time allows.
Don’t forget that Genova is the birthplace of “pesto”, probably the most well-known Italian sauces for pasta. Therefore, stay tuned as tomorrow I will give you some recipes from this surprisingly beautiful Italian city