Superb for the story it tells,
Superb for the ancient architecture ennobling the streets,
Superb for the modern architecture that testifies to the will to explore,
Superb for the gardens and parks that decorate it,
Superb for the artwork it offers, and
Superb for the nature it fosters.
Such is Genoa (from the Latin Ianua), a portal between land and sea. A crossroads of cultures and people since ancient times, Genoa has always been a land that lives and breathes the sea air. Its history speaks grandly of this magnificent city, displaying its richness and beauty in every corner of the old town. The narrow and characteristic carruggi snake between the tall buildings along the medieval street plan, apparently inhomogeneous yet well-defined by the main streets that meander towards both the sea and inland.
Beautiful buildings, gorgeous churches, façades decorated by stuccoes and frescoes, invaluable art collections - all bring the "Century of the Genovesi" to mind, the most important moment in the city's cultural development.
A walk through the streets, squares and alleys of Genoa is a constant surprise. Behind every corner is a treasure waiting to be discovered.
The hinterland tells its story through this prodigious work of Man.
A sequence of varying landscapes rapidly transition from sheer cliffs to smooth hills that eventually rise toward the sky in the Apennine and Alpine ranges. A wild nature that only the determination and love of its people has managed to tame, finding the right balance between environmental conservation and the needs of the people. Terraced olive groves and vineyards break up the thick inland vegetation, with vast expanses of chestnuts bordering green valleys and fields.
An especially mild climate, an impervious terrain and the passion of the people of Genoa: these are the three key elements, ingredients for the excellent local products that distinguish this land (above all - the extra virgin olive oil). Steep and rocky, interspersed with graceful coves and bays, covered with pines, Holm oak, palm trees and agave, painted with a rainbow of flowers, caressed by a sea that absorbs its magic, dotted with picturesque villages to brighten up a landscape so gorgeous it seems unreal. A land of contrasts that are so harmoniously linked to one another, the coast of Genoa is a marvel with which few places in the world can compete.
Arriving from La Spezia, one meets the Gulf of Tigullio, enclosed between Moneglia to the east and the Portofino promontory to the west: embedded gems in every extremity of one of the most beautiful places that nature and man could create. Tigullio is a succession of extraordinary environmental beauties, little bays and enchanted beaches - think Sestri Levante's famous Bay of Silence, in addition to breathtaking sebeds.
Past the Portofino promontory, one enters Paradise Gulf, extending to Grand Genoa. The Riviera di Ponente is now also considered a marine holiday resort, with places like Arenzano and Cogoleto offering quality touristic reception and services.
The great Petrarch once defined it as "The Lady of the Sea," and rightly so. Considering that its history revolves around the sea, let us introduce you to Genoa beginning with its main entrance: the harbor.
Easily seen from the distance and from any direction, with its height of 76 meters stands the Lighthouse Tower, also known as the Lanterna. Originally built for military purposes, it is now the symbol of the city. 720 steps lead to the top of the tower, but the view is worth the climb. Yet for those who do not feel like taking the challenge, a small elevator that will also take them to the top.
Genoa is one of the most important international ports.
For this reason, the whole area has recently been renovated by the great architect Renzo Piano, who had already designed the Bolla (Bubble) near the famous Aquarium.
Once having accessed Genoa via its "portal," the visitor enters the heart of this city known as La Superba, which holds many of its masterpieces inside elegant buildings.
Located in the Strade Nuove district, a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 2006, The Rolli buildings are famous for their architectonic beauty and the precious materials employed. Among them are Palazzo Rosso, Palazzo Bianco and Palazzo Doria Tursi, together forming a museum complex. In fact, Caravaggio, Veronese, Guercino, Van Dyck and Canova are only some of the artists whose work is exhibited here, where the elegance and prestige of these buildings meet the beauty of their masterpieces in a unique itinerary.
Nearby is the Palazzo Reale, whose magnificence strikes visitors immediately upon entering through its gates. Frescos, sculptures, paintings and stuccoes decorate the sophisticated halls, which are outfitted with elegant furniture. The building houses the National Gallery, which displays a highly-regarded collection of paintings by Luca Giordano, Veronese, Tintoretto, Piola, Vassallo, Jan Roos, Borgognone, Grechetto, Strozzi, Carlo Bonomi, Guercino and Van Dyck through a tour of the 23 rooms.
The Cathedral of San Lorenzo, located in the homonymous square, was originally built in the 9th Century and was significantly modified through time. The façade, decorated with black and white horizontal lines, presents double-lancet and multiple-lancet windows on the upper section, and three portals with a large rose window above the central portal. The interior, divided into three naves, exhibits precious paintings and sculptures and is home to the Museo del Tesoro, interesting both because for its setting and its show of artistic and cultural heritage. The same black-and-white motif can be found on the façade of Sant'Agostino, a deconsecrated church, now location for the homonymous Museum: a rich collection narrates the historical relationship between Genoa and art, from the 10th to the 18th Centuries. An interesting multicoloured majolica also adorns the bell tower.
Leaving the historical district and going east, you will arrive at Nervi, a wealthy residential suburb favored by the aristocracy since the 19th Century. Shining with all its art and history, and set on a delightful stretch of coast, a gorgeous seafront unfolds with splendid views of the Gulf of Tigullio. Gardens and blossoming fields harmoniously intertwine with the elegant villas that serve as museums: the Galleria d’Arte Moderna in Villa Saluzzo Serra, the Raccolte Frugone in Villa Grimaldi Fassio, and the Museo Luxoro in the villa of the same name.
Westward, more precisely in Pegli, one can visit the Naval Museum housed in Villa Doria, an aristocratic residence surrounded by a vast park. On display here is Genoa's maritime history, from its foundation until the early Middle Ages.
Villa Durazzo Pallavicini holds two great attractions: the Botanical Garden, set in the park of the villa and filled with rarities, and the Museo Civico di Archeologia Ligure. In addition to finds from the Greco-Roman age, the museum displays a collection of finds from throughout Liguria that date back to pre-history. Stunning is the romantic park that surrounds the villa, known for the water effects created by ponds, caves, streams and falls, artfully placed among the lush vegetation.
The architecture of Riviera di Levante (at Genoa's east) is famous for the characteristic buildings almost clinging to the rock, and for its pastel walls.
The same style can be found along the Tigullio coast, with Portofino, Rapallo, Santa Margherita Ligure and Sestri Levante following one after another on the coast and surrounded by the green of the maquis and the sea reflecting the the beauty of the terrain. Trails, bays, coves, cliffs, the sea and its depths - here nature has painted one of many Italian masterpieces.
In Golfo del Paradiso is Camogli, another gem of the Riviera is an old town characterized by steep streets that meander through houses stacked on top of one another. However, the true heart of the town is the characteristic port, enlivened by the glee of the festive atmosphere and where the crystal-clear water reflects the colors of the boats. The hinterland of Genoa also offers interesting itineraries, featuring many nature reserves: the Beigua Park, the largest protected area of the region; the Aveto Park, one of the most beautiful areas of the Ligurian Apennines; Antola Park, a mosaic of wonderful natural environments overlooking the Ligurian Sea near Portofino, a town whose beauty is renowned worldwide.
When in Genoa, one cannot miss a visit to the Aquarium, the largest in Europe, and a fun and educational destination for the whole family.
The careful and accurate recreation of the habitats and boats of the Galata Museo del Mare, with its three travel-themed floors, is simply stunning. The museum allows visitors the possibility of boarding a real submarine, the S518 Nazario Sauro.
After the Aquarium and the Museum, it is highly recommended to book a trip in the Marine Sanctuary for Cetaceans, following the routes of the marine mammals that live and thrive in this protected area.
Along the coast are beautiful beaches tucked between palisades or under picturesque homes, making for the ideal opportunity to relax in the sun and feel the gentle sea breeze that wards off the heat. Among the most popular, Baia del Silenzio and Baia delle Favole are tiny jewels that face the "two seas" of Sestri Levante, with the old village sitting on the Punta Manara promontory.
Crystal-clear waters reflecting the green of the maquis and the colors of the lush gardens, lap the Baia di Paraggi and Baia di San Fruttuoso near Portofino. But the beauty of Tigullio is also hidden - that is, found underwater.
The seabeds surrounding the Portofino promontory are particularly suggestive. Of variable depth, rocky reefs alternate with sandy bottoms. Sea fans, sponges, madrepore and red coral are among the many species that live in this underwater world, where many scuba divers pay a visit to the famous Cristo degli Abissi or the Christ of the Depths, dedicated to those who lost their life at sea.
On dry land many trails for horseback riding, mountain biking or hiking in order to experience the remotest corners of the area. It is a chance to leave behind the noise of the quotidian, and enter that oft-forgotten world of sensations and emotins. Cinema, theatre, dance, music and poetry liven up the schedule of events.
The Genovafilmfestival, the most important festival of the area; the Festival Internazionale della Poesia with national and international artists; and the Goa Boa Festival with both up-and-coming and established singers, are among the main events held in Genoa.
The artistic soul of Genoa expresses itself through Artegenova, a fair dedicated to modern and contemporary art, photography and video art.
A classic historical reenactment is the Regata of the Old Marine Republics, which is held annually in the waters of (by turns) Amalfi, Pisa, Venice and Genoa since 1955.
The rest of the province is also rich in several cultural rendezvous. In May, Sestri Levante becomes a capital of "fables" with shows, meetings and conferences revolving around the “Hans Christian Andersen - Baia delle Favole” prize. It is the most important Italian award for children's stories.
In spring, in the suggestive Tigullio, Cartoons on the Bay is held, one of the most prestigious international events for animation, one of the youngest and most enticing forms of entertainment. Lavagna also hosts a historical reenactment of the marriage between Bianca de’ Bianchi and Opizzo Fieschi. These celebrations culminate a weel after the August 14th celebration of the “Torta dei Fieschi”: a gigantic wedding cake made for the occasion by local patisseries and distribuited to all participants.
Basil, cheese, garlic, olive oil, pine nuts and salt are carefully ground and mixed with a wooden pestle in a marble mortar. This is pesto, the symbol of Ligurian cuisine, and a simple recipe with a supremely-unique taste. As long as it is prepared with Genovese basil from Prà, it is truly excellent; recently it was awarded the DOP label. It is perfect with the handmade trofie or trenette, especially those from Recco; the texture of these pastas is ideal to soak up pesto's rich flavor.
Recco is also renown for its cheese focaccias.
Attention to detail and the gastronomic creativity of the Genovese people are also exemplified by the pansotti, a kind of ravioli filled with chard in a walnut sauce; the minestrone alla genovese made with pesto; the cima, a richly stuffed veal; the stockfish accomodato, served with Taggiasche olives; the cappon magro, a salad made with vegetables, shellfish and fish that has evolved from a frugal meal to a delicacy; the ciuppin, a long-standing fish-based soup recipe (claimed by Riva Trigoso); the fugassa, a focaccia served with local olive oil; and the torta pasqualina, made with the local vegetables.
For dessert, canestrelli are crisp almond-based pastries, while the pandolce goes served on a laurel branch.
A variety of flavors and colors are enriched by the quality of the wines, both red and white, that only the land of the Lanterna could offer. Those who want to learn more about Genoa must experience the flavors of its superb and generous cuisine (which also belies the reputation of its people as penny-pinchers)!