With Genoa’s impressive landmarks, American born writer Henry James also described this port city as ‘The most winding and incoherent of cities’.
One of Europe’s largest cities on the Mediterranean Sea, walk around Genoa for any length of time and you start to understand why…turning cobbled corners you’re thrown into labyrinthine and disjointed lanes.
Check Part 1 for travelling to Genoa from Barcelona on a sleepless overnight ferry.
Where is Genoa?
Kissing the Ligurian Sea and cosily snuggled in the Gulf of Genoa, this city is one of the most important and largest seaports in Italy.
Genoa’s port is also rumoured to be the twelfth-busiest in Europe, the busiest in Italy and in the Mediterranean Sea.
A little on Genoa
Stroll around the port area for just five minutes and you will be absorbed by the multi-cultural essence that makes up this area of the city.
Genoa has been a trading port for centuries and this shows in shops, people’s faces, buildings, and the general feel of this area – a lively, a little seedy, a little grungy in some areas, but quite intriguing.
I love the feel of this unpretentious port, which is quite raw. There’s a part of the port that seems to be home and a melting pot to many different nationalities and religions, all going about their business and minding no one else’s business – a peaceful acceptance of one another.
What to see
Genoa holds many secrets and wonderful sights to discover but a shame our stay is not long enough to explore everything, so sharing just a few with you…
The gorgeous port area of Genoa especially with a profusion of Christmas lights this time of year is lovely in the evenings. This area of the port is more upmarket as it has experienced a revamp in recent times.
Stop by the Palazzo S. Georgio, which has a reproduction of St George slaying the dragon.
The marina along here is home to plenty of multi-million-dollar craft of all types and varieties, but you are not allowed to enter the heavily watched marina – and rightly so, I guess.
As expected, you can only catch a bus around some important streets or squares when in the historic centre. The incredible amount of intertwining caruggi (alleys) is so narrow that vehicles can’t traverse but wonderful on foot.
If you can, walk everywhere as apart from seeing more, you can still eat Italy’s evil 3 P’s (pizza, pastries, pasta) without feeling too guilty.
The sheer number of piazzas, palazzos (homes), and ancient architecture is worth having sore feet and blisters for – do this several times and you still won’t see everything.
A grand example of Italy’s Renaissance era, the old city is rimmed by its medieval gates – Porta dei Vacca and Porta Soprana – and is one of the largest historical districts in Europe.
Famous for its overflow of impressive Baroque architecture, this street is home to most of the grand palazzos – the majority of which have been renovated and are very swish. Bring a wide-angle lens for your camera.
Piazza de Ferrari
An expansive piazza graced with the large and impressive Gothic-style Fontaine Ferrari is picture-perfect. But beware, most bus drivers seem to swerve around the piazza like they are actually driving a Ferrari.
A plethora of chic upmarket shops and cafes surround the Piazza, which is a popular shopping venue.
Art Nouveau and Neo-Baroque architectural designs form 19th-century buildings, which also encompass the piazza.
Where to eat
Genoa offers an abundance of excellent food.
Only mentioning a few as mostly cook our meals in Reg’s (motorhome) kitchen. Remember, that many places charge coperto – a fixed per person charge – but this is not uncommon in Italy.
On via de Amicis 36, this cafe serves good coffee (€1.10) and is not far from the Brignole Metro – busy with locals so you know it’s good.
Fossatello’s Border Café
Meaner along Piazza Fossatello 8 R to this cafe and order a delicious large Focaccia (€3.50) with an excellent coffee (€1.20) in this tiny place offering great service. Sit outside in the Piazza – another grand piazza.
Visit Palazzo Reale in the Old Town via Balbi 8 for great service, coffee (€1.40), and onion Paninis. More is on offer including alcohol, as most of the smaller cafes in Genoa offer.
Although tiny inside with minimal seating, there are small tables and chairs outside in the Piazza so you can watch the Genovese go about their daily errands.
Antica Vetreria del Molo
Wandered around for about 10 minutes with my cousin down dark centuries’ old alleyways trying to find this rustic gorgeous but very hidden restaurant on Vico Chiuso Gelsa, 8R – he hasn’t been here for 10 years.
Finally finding it, you have to ring the buzzer to enter.
This is a family-run restaurant with very warming homemade genuine local dishes. Deliciously scrumptious spinach filled ricotta in a walnut cream sauce, Gnoccichinni, reasonably priced wine (bottles €10-14) – many beers and also cider are available.
Primi Piatti €7-8; Secondi Piatti €14-16, but no dessert for me as everything is very filling. Meals are accompanied by free bread, of course.
The building is amazing. A heavy timber staircase reaches us to the next floor and exposed wooden ancient frames. Such a rustic feel and wonderful ambience.
If you find yourself in the massive Centro Commerciale shopping mall via Romairone 10, then this is a great little place for an excellent cheap Cappuccino (€1.17) – one of the cheapest so far.
Like most bars in Italy, it’s common to stand whilst having an espresso shot (€1).
During your visit to Genoa, you must try the traditional and famous Pesto a la Genovese.
After all, this is where Pesto was born and it is lusciously excellent.
Pecorino Sardo cheese, garlic, aged Parmesan cheese, Genoese basil, olive oil, pine nuts, and coarse salt are blended together to produce the wonderfully fragrant Pesto. Buy a jar or two to take home. This signature staple is sold throughout Genoa and is available in most restaurants.
Shops of interest
A few more shops from someone that doesn’t enjoy shopping…
G.M.DI Razzore Marco
For excellent Italian leather trekking boots (€95 – other cheaper Chinese options on sale) stop at via Soziglia 78/80R. This shop is overflowing with all types of shoes.
Along Genova Via P E Bensa 36/38, this shop offers great shoes for men and women. The shop is bustling with locals. Picked up Italian made leather boots for around €67 but cheaper Chinese-made boots are available if required.
On Piazza Banchi 15R, you’ll find this small rammed full hardware shop with barely an isle big enough for a mouse to scurry through. This hardware shop sells most things and is so packed with locals that you need to take a paper number ticket to be served.
On via XX Settembre 143 for all-natural products from France, this is your store.
Using Yves Rocher products in Australia for a very long time, but no longer available, whenever I see a store I go crazy. Poland is very cheap but this store in Genoa is the cheapest so far around the world.
The Centrol Commerciale L’Aquilone on via Romairone 10 is massive. Shame we only have half an hour to get our motorhome bits as we’re off to dinner, otherwise, would spend a lot more money.
Even bought snow chains for Reg, together with a snow shovel are compulsory during winter months in Italy.
Along Via Canneto Il Curto N. 76, Rosso is this small supermarket, which stocks most of what you need and right in the city centre. And, great for a few last-minute things before leaving the city to return to the campsite in Pegli close by.