Ahhh, Genoa! The name that triggers no emotion, confusion, and even anger sometimes. Why is this guy writing about Genoa now. What happened to Venice, Rome, and that Cinqua Terras place that he supposedly visited and only wrote about one dish so far. Isn’t Genoa a working town? What is there to do for three full days (said Mrs Ziggy when I first pitched the idea). Plenty, turns out. Genoa surprised me with its cultural depth, cuisine, attractions, and fashion. Yes, I said fashion. This post is not supposed to reinvent the wheel and offer you a complete Genoa guide (plenty of sources out there), but offer you some tips that may enhance your Genoa holiday.
Stay for a while – “More Than This” is the Genoa slogan you’ll see everywhere. Either Genoa has much to offer or they are just huge fans of Brian Ferry. But you can very easily fill three days in Genoa alone, and even do some day trips to Boccadasse, Anita Garibaldi Passeggiata, the stunning Camogli, Portofino, and more. A week doesnt sound too long in Genoa once you factor all day trips and all the Focaccia you can eat.
Make Pesto with a local – Pesto, like jeans, originated in Genoa. Book a Pesto making class with Enrica from A Small Kitchen in Genoa. Enrica is a publisher, food blogger, Pesto championship finalist, and just a delight to be around. This experience, that ends with lunch at the beautiful terrace of Enrica’s apartment will probably be your most memorable. You can also take a food tour and book other food experiences with Enrica. My friends are still thanking me for this.
Visit Staglieno Cemetery – My apologies to Enrica for following her with well, death. But if you havent quite made the connection between a magnificent old cemetery to local history and culture, this is a good start. Staglieno is arguably the most important or at least most beautiful cemetery in Italy. An outdoor museum like no other. But it helps to do a bit of research (you can start here), and spend at least 2-3 hours here. Reading about the monuments will bring some of the stories to life.
Do some Rolli palace homework – Its almost impossible to come to Genoa and not visit the Rolli Palaces, but its important to arrive with at least the basic understanding of the system of the “Lists” and how it got UNESCO’s attention. This is what makes Genoa so unique.
Dont overlook the Royal Palace – A most underrated stunner. The Palazzo Reale, or Palazzo Stefano Balbi is just a little out of the tourist way. And I can see how it can be skipped on a short visit. A mini Versailles in Genoa that was shockingly empty when we visited. I could practically walked the hall of mirrors naked, with only one or two people
marveling watching. This is also a good place to see the Ligurian pebble mosaic style called Risseu.
See Piazza De Ferrari at night – This is why you need to stay overnight. Its the same story as many Italian towns. The difference between a rushed day trip and an overnight stay is, well, day and night. Seeing the families come out, the lights, fountain, with the palazzos in the background including the magnificent old stock exchange, all add up to quite the atmospheric square.
See the old town, but be prepared for some ‘Grit’ – Like many such towns all over Europe, Genoa has a distinct personality. Genoa’s old town is fascinating, especially to the culinary minds. But it’s not the most attractive. Dont be surprised to see graffiti, and prostitutes in some corners. Maybe thats what they mean by “More Than This”!
Stay at So&leo Guest House – A well maintained, comfortable, quiet accommodations right between the port area, and old town. Just a few minutes from Focaccia e Dintorni and many more
Get your Focaccia at Focaccia e Dintorni – The Genoese eat Focaccia for breakfast, lunch, dinner and as a late night snack. On my morning walks, I must have tried around half a dozen different places, and Focaccia e Dintorni was the clear winner. Try the Farinata, soft chickpea flatbread a la Cecina.
Eat at Cavour 21, and Trattoria Rosmarino – These were the best meals. Cavour, old, no frills, no nonsense institution I already wrote about. Rosmarino, a dazzling Slow Fooder by Piazza De Ferrari. Who knew Lasagna’s biggest problem was tomato sauce. Get the Lasagna.