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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
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.
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.
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.