A historic maritime republic and Italy’s largest port, Genoa offers a mix of old and new, with a warren of narrow medieval streets and majestic Renaissance architecture in the historic center and the contemporary buzz of massive ships and modern museums along the harbor. Here’s how to take in both sides of the city in one day.
Morning: Genoa Past
The heart of Genoa’s old city is its maze-like web of narrow alleys, called “carruggi.” Begin exploring with a walking tour through this neighborhood, a masterpiece of Gothic and Romanesque architecture. Gourmands can opt for a food tour to combine sightseeing with samples of the city’s classic street foods.
Afterward, take in the grandeur of some of the city’s 16th-century palaces, beginning with the Palazzi dei Rolli on Via Garibaldi, an architectural jewel rivalled only by the Doge’s Palace (Palazzo Ducale) and Royal Palace, all reminders of the immense power and wealth once wielded by this former maritime republic.
Afternoon: Genoa Present
The city’s historic port has been dramatically reworked over the past decades by star Genovese architect Renzo Piano and is now home to a number of museums, restaurants, and attractions. Dedicate the afternoon to visiting the highlights along the port, including the Genoa Aquarium; Galata Maritime Museum; Biosfera, a tropical garden biosphere; the children’s museum; the Dialogue in the Dark sensory experience, and Bigo panoramic elevator.
These are the most popular attractions in the city, and lines to enter can be long. Purchase skip-the-line tickets in advance to avoid spending time waiting outside.
Night: Food and Fun
Now that you’ve discovered Genoa’s past and present, enjoy the city’s coastal cuisine. Hands-on cooks can prepare classic dishes during a class, the cuisine-curious can opt for a pesto-making demonstration and tasting, and indulgent gourmands can sit down to dinner in a local home.
Genoa is also the gateway to the Italian Riviera, so those who want to savor timeless fishing-village charm can make the short jaunt to Portofino, a colorful, now-upscale village just an hour south. Or, stay in the city and take the Corso Italia promenade to Boccadasse, a tiny district that has retained its quaint village atmosphere.