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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
Known as Klainguti to locals, this pasticceria is one of the best pastry shops in Genoa. Founded in 1826 by two Swiss brothers who missed the boat to America, Klainguti became their sweet consolation. Designed in retro style, mixing Art Nouveau and Art Deco, the pastry shop lies in the prettiest part of the Old Town, spilling out onto a piazza just made for tucking into pastries - from marzipan concoctions to pear tarts, crystallised violets and the signature zabaglione sweet. In summer, linger over a homemade ice-cream on the terrace, or in autumn, opt for a hazelnut brioche inside.
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.
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.