Italy is one of the most popular tourist destinations in the world, and as a result, many Italian cities have become completely gentrified and overcrowded. And while I understand the urge to visit Venice and Florence (they’re undeniably gorgeous places), I love it even more when I go somewhere that’s still authentically Italian.
Genova is one of those places. Tourism in Genova only really took off about 5 years ago, and it is still an underrated destination. There are hardly any “tourist traps” in Genova. Instead, prices are fair, food is great, and everything is enjoyed by the locals as much as the visitors.
My favorite thing about Genova is how it is such a melting pot. People from all walks of life live side by side. There are no “bad” or “good” parts of the city center as everything is simply mixed together. Palaces suddenly appear around the corner from dodgy alleys, and prostitutes hold office hours (no really, literal office hours) one street down from the fanciest museums.
Here is what you have to see and do to experience all the best things in Genova:
Walk around the city
As a result of Genova’s colourful mix of people, walking around the city is a treat. You never know what you’ll find around the next corner. The city centre is small enough to traverse on foot, and there are so many narrow little streets to get lost in.
The Genova Free Walking Tour is one of the best I’ve ever done. It is perfect if you want to know about the cities fascinating history and see all the hidden gems. Spyros is a great guide who knows all the best spots in Genova.
The Free Walking Tour is organized by several hostels in the city, including mine. Ostellin Genova is one of the best hostels I’ve stayed at in terms of atmosphere and vibe. It’s a small hostel in the center of Genova. The beds and facilities might not be fancy (like at all!), but the friendly and fun staff completely make up for that.
Go up to a viewpoint
Genova is build in a small valley and has spread upon the hills. As a result, you’ll find a lot of steep climbs on your walk through the city. But, some of them lead to great viewpoints, such as Castelleto Belverdere, right in the city centre.
You can also take a funicular up to Spianata Castelletto for an even better view that doesn’t break your legs. You can use a regular public transportation ticket for the funicular.
Visit a Museum
There are several great museums in Genova. I personally loved the Galleria Spinola. It’s located inside a palazzo, with original furnishing and art. Genova is home to a staggering 163 palazzi.
These city palaces are basically mansions that used to belong to the rich and powerful. They are all part of the UNESCO World Heritage list, and many of them have been repurposed as offices and museums. One of my favorites is the Palazzo del Governo which now houses the municipal police. The second-floor gallery has some beautiful frescos of famous ports of the world and cities in Italy. The Museo di Palazzo Reale is also great. Both of these museums are free every first Sunday of the month.
The maritime museum Museo del Mare is new and very popular. It is dedicated to the naval history of Genova and has a lot of fun, interactive features for kids.
Go to the seaside
There is no beach in Genova, and with the giant port, you really shouldn’t be swimming the water there anyway. When the weather gets too hot to bear, the locals take a train down to the fisherman’s villages by the coast.
Camogli lies in the most beautiful part of the bay, but for reasonably clean water, you only have to go as far as Nervi. Nervi is a charming little town with a beautiful boardwalk. There are no real beaches, but you are welcome to lay your towel down on the rocks.
Both of these villages are easily reached by public transportation. The train ride along the Ligurian coast is lovely all on its own.
Eat delicious Ligurian food
Like all of Italy, Genova has amazing food. It is particularly known for Pesto Genovese, the delicious basil and pine nut sauce that simply makes everything better. Other must tries are the simple, but delicious focaccia Genovese and the fresh seafood.
So, there you have it: my tips on things you absolutely can’t miss in Genova. Do yourself a favour and book a trip to this amazing city, it is one of my favourite places in Italy!
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