Located in Italy’s northwest corner, the small city of Genoa is a fantastic under-the-radar destination. Italy Beyond the Obvious travelers frequently tell us after a visit that Genoa is an undiscovered gem! Below, our seven top recommendations for the visitor who wants to connect with local culture.
Explore the small streets and beautiful squares of the Old Town
Genoa has a beautiful Old Town that merits a wander. Explore its small streets (locally known as Caruggi) and soak up the atmosphere of its squares.
More specifically: from Piazza De Ferrari (pictured), head towards the San Lorenzo Cathedral and the port, and you’ll find lively streets with artisanal shops, little art galleries, and palaces in hidden courtyards. Seek out small squares like Piazza Lavagna and Piazza della Lepre. End the walk in Piazza delle Erbe, an ideal location to sit at an outdoor café and watch the world go by.
This typical Ligurian bread is a must-try for any visitor to Genoa, and can be eaten for breakfast or lunch (or both!).
Focaccia is easy to find, but specifically, we recommend Panificio Mario in Via S. Vincenzo and Forno di Ghia in Via Galata. If you’ve never tasted focaccia, start simple. Try one with just olive oil and rosemary, then branch out and taste a few different varieties.
Visit the market in Piazza Colombo
Allocate some time to explore the Piazza Colombo covered food market, where the Genovesi shop. Local markets are a wonderful place to people-watch, notice what foods are in season (and therefore what you should order at dinner that evening), and of course pick up snacks or a picnic lunch. Exit the market on Via Galata, and visit some of the city’s historical food shops. In addition to focaccia, visitors should taste local pesto and homemade Ligurian pasta.
Eat gelato in Boccadasse
Once a fishing village, Genoa’s Boccadasse neighborhood is full of yellow, orange, and red houses on the sea. Visit after dinner for gelato, before dinner for an aperitivo, or in the afternoon to spend a couple of hours in the sun on the white rocks or photograph the colorful buildings against the sea.
Walk along the seaside promenade in Nervi
A very short train ride takes visitors to the Nervi neighborhood, home to a lovely seaside promenade which is a short walk from the train station. With the Mediterranean Sea on one side and pretty gardens of private villas on the other side, this short and easy path is a Sunday favorite of locals. Sit on a bench with a book or relax on the rocks and bask in the sunshine.
Visit the Doge’s Palace to see an art exhibit
Genoa’s Doge’s Palace is not only a gorgeous building from the outside but is a wonderful place to experience local art and culture. Art and photography exhibits inside the palace change on a regular basis, so check the schedule before your visit.
Head up to the viewpoint
Be prepared for jaw-dropping views over the city from the panoramic viewpoint Spianata Castelletto. We recommend taking the elevator up and walking down. You’ll find the elevator, which requires a bus ticket to ride, in Piazza Portello. The views from this area of the city include the rooftops and towers of the city center and the cranes of the port. See how many hidden rooftop terraces you can spot!
Stay in the area for drinks, dinner, or to watch the sunset. Then return to the city center by walking down the elegant Via Garibaldi – but not before picking up a famous Sicilian granita at Don Paolo.
Madeline Jhawar is Owner of Italy Beyond the Obvious.