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Sandwiched between the mountains and the sea, Genoa is a concertina of a city, and full of surprises. Expect ridge-top forts, cable cars at dizzying heights, and tunnels burrowing under Unesco-listed palaces. Porto Antico, the redesigned waterfront, is centre stage, framed by bars built into ancient arcades and the superb Aquarium. The city centre is mostly pedestrianised, and made up of a maze of medieval streets called carrugi. Look upwards to discover secret friezes and frescoes. Sample the local fish grill, pasta and pesto, accompanied by Ligurian white wine. Let the city wash over you; Genoa is more a city of more senses than just sight.
Main City Rome
Surface 243.60 km²
The Passeggiata Anita Garibaldi is Genoa’s most seductive seaside promenade and perfect for a relaxing day out, with a stroll that takes in dramatic grand villas, gardens and galleries, and all just a 20-minute train ride from the centre. Nervi is Genoa’s prettiest suburb and is magical in all seasons, especially from spring to autumn. The easy, well-kept two-kilometre trail hugs the cliffs but is also a stepping-stone to three art museums set in villas along the promenade. If the art doesn’t appeal, stop for ice-cream, drinks and snacks en route or simply admire the wild views towards the Portofino promontory.
Architect Renzo Piano sees his home town, Boccadasse, as a “secret, inward-looking kasbah city”. But the one-time secluded fishing village is now part of Genoa, and comes alive on summer evenings. For locals, pastel-coloured Boccadasse encapsulates the romance of the city – a ragged charm that’s scuffed round the edges. The nightlife is low-key, with a cluster of popular bars and ice-cream parlours well-positioned along the tiny pebbled beach, and the sea lapping against the rocks. Come for cocktails and street food such as focaccia, and stay for a seafood feast or late-night drinks. But for more privacy, avoid summer weekends.
Set in the Old Dockyards, Galata Museo del Mare is an underrated maritime museum, a great introduction to Genoa as a cosmopolitan seafaring nation where you can learn all about local boy Christopher Columbus and his voyages of discovery. Get to grips with Roman galleys and 17th century galleons, as well as the wave of emigration to the United States. Moored alongside the main museum is the largest submarine on display in Italy, viewed from a glass platform. The maritime museum’s waterfront setting is also impressive, part of the city’s revival, which includes the exciting Porto Antico, revamped by local architect Renzo Piano.