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Holidays in Genoa take you to a place where history effortlessly melts into a modern and dynamic cityscape. Perfect for a couple’s holiday, the mid-sized Ligurian capital offers stunning sights, a maze of winding cobblestone paths and family owned hotels and restaurants where visitors are greeted with gregarious Italian hospitality. History buffs will marvel at Genoa’s Doge’s Palace and imagine life in the days of Columbus. Families will find countless fun things to do, from visiting the largest aquarium in Italy to tasting their way through dozens of superb gelaterias dotted throughout the city.
For the casual visitor, city breaks in Genoa are mainly about history and the magnificent architecture, which is so ubiquitous in its splendour that it becomes part of the scenery. But dig a little further beneath the surface and you will find hidden delights such as hole in the wall cocktail bars, forgotten sleepy churches where no tourists set foot and residential areas where you can watch the real, unpolished Genovese life roll by.
At Citalia we’re the leading specialist for holidays in Italy. We have almost 90 years of expertise and will help you to create a city break in Genoa like no other.
Find the hidden gems with Citalia, including the Bocadasse neighbourhood. An hour away from Genoa’s city centre along a coastal walk, this old fishing village is a photographer’s heaven. Most scenic is the tiny harbour, where colourful houses stacked like building blocks overlook the Mediterranean which gently laps the pebbly beach directly below them.
If the sea breeze doesn’t provide enough cooling on a hot summer day, try to make it to the Villetta Di Negro; a beautiful park with artificial caves and a gorgeous, multi stair waterfall. If you make it to the very top up the winding paths, you are well rewarded with a panoramic view of the city.
If you’re visiting Genoa in October, make sure to experience the Rolli Days. On this annual occasion, the city opens the gates to the palaces which line the Via Garibaldi, a UNESCO World Heritage site. Each year, one or two new palaces join the open door policy, delighting visitors with their Baroque and Renaissance splendour.
Starting out at the Palazzo di San Giorgio, you can marvel at its exterior frescoes and picture Marco Polo, its most famous resident, dictating his memoirs. A few minutes from there you pass through the heart of Genoa - the central Piazza De Ferrari with its giant water fountain, flanked by the opera and Doge’s Palace
From there it’s a short walk to the must see Via Garibaldi, which is the cobblestoned cultural artery of the city. You can take a break from palaces by climbing a steep hill to the Castelletto, a residential area with fabulous views over Genoa. Grab a gelato on your way back down and catch a cab to the harbour where Italy’s biggest aquarium waits for you.
Expand your horizons beyond the city and take the train to Riomaggiore, the jump off point for a tour of Cinque Terre, a portion of the Ligurian coast where you’ll find colourful villages perched precariously on steep cliffs. Hire a car or just hop from town to town using the local train. Each of the five villages has its own special charm, and it’s worth seeing them all.
Genoa is an all year-round destination, with a consistent tourist trade throughout the year thanks to the city’s cruise terminal. From late spring to early autumn, the city is at its best, with many shops and restaurants open until late, and climate idea for exploring the Ligurian coastline. Winters are wet and mild, bringing a medieval-themed Christmas market to the city in December, plus there are plenty of indoor attractions to enjoy. However, shops, restaurants and some attractions close during winter so plan accordingly.
Liguria is famous for its focaccias, which are flat breads baked with salt and olive oil. While that doesn’t sound like anything special, the Genovese have perfected this simple recipe over centuries, and developed countless styles, adding olives, onions, sage and other herbs. No bakery’s focaccias are identical. Pay special attention to the holes where the salt and olive oil have gathered for a delightful burst of flavours on your tongue. The best in town is said to be the Panificio Mario in the Via San Vincenzo. But be warned, there might be queues.
Genoa is the home of pesto, and you shouldn’t leave without having a great pasta and pesto experience. Made from fresh garlic, basil, pine nuts, parmiggiano and olive oil, it should have been made that day and by hand, using a marble mortar and wooden pestle, and finely lathered onto mandilli de saea (“silk handkerchiefs”), a local pasta variety. The simple but inviting Cavour21 in Piazza Cavour has some of the best pesto in town, and it’s worth the short wait.
For an off the beaten path experience with low chances of encountering tourists, visit the Kalyma Cafè in Corso Italia 1. This little cocktail bar close to the beach has excellent cocktails – especially the Aperol Spritz and a delicious mojito - serving them with special dishes made in appetiser format. Enjoy al fresco dining until late at night, with heaters for the cold, but beware of staying too long, as you won’t find a toilet.
Genoa has earned its nickname la Superba (‘the proud one’) for a fascinating history that left centuries’ worth of culture and landmarks. There’s evidence that traces Genoa’s past as far back as the 5th century BC, and the city saw Greek and Byzantine occupation before joining Venice as an independent city-state in the 12th century, becoming powerful in the Mediterranean for is trade and shipbuilding. Genoa attracted many artists and architects during the Renaissance, including the likes of Caravaggio and Rubens. Many of its beautiful palazzi were designed by Galeazzo Alessi, and today, the city is famed for its art, architecture and culture.