As birthplace of Christopher Columbus, it's fitting that Genoa (Genova) is home to the second-largest port in Europe. A popular stop for cruise ships, the city blends old and new, with historic palazzi and churches sitting beside modern buildings. Genoa is also a jumping-off point for shore excursions to Liguria’s pretty coastal villages.
Because of the city’s size, it’s best to explore Genoa with a hop-on hop-off tour or private guide. Begin in the old town, centered around the 12th-century Romanesque Cathedral of San Lorenzo and the 13th-century Palace of Doges in nearby Piazza de Ferrari; Via XX Settembre, the city’s main shopping thoroughfare, leads off from here. The 16th-century Palazzi dei Rolli along Via Garibaldi are a UNESCO World Heritage Site and now house art museums and cultural centers. A relic of when Genoa was the Mediterranean’s most powerful maritime republic, the Old Port, restored by Renzo Piano and situated below the city’s historic center, is home to the Genoa Aquarium— the largest in Europe— and a 17th-century pirate ship, both popular attractions for kids. Genoa is used as a base for tours to nearby destinations such as Santa Margherita Ligure, Portofino, the Cinque Terre, and the inland Renaissance capital of Florence.
Things to Know Before You Go
- Genoa is the embarkation or disembarkation port for many cruise lines, so a day ashore is often not factored in. Add it to your travel itinerary yourself if you are interested in exploring the city and surrounding coastline.
- The Genoa train station is the departure point for trains to a number of cities along the Italian riviera. Keep in mind that these are local trains serving small village stations, so are very slow and crowded during the summer months.
- There are also trains that depart from the port city of Genoa for the major Italian capitals of Naples, Rome, Milan, and Venice.
How to Get to Genoa from the Genoa Cruise Port
Passenger ships dock at the marine port of Genoa, a busy industrial harbor that is full of traffic. Though it’s not far, opt to take a taxi or shuttle bus from this rather rough area to the Porto Antico or San Lorenzo in the heart of the historic center.
Despite being one of the main cruise ports in Italy, English is not widely spoken in Genoa. Many shops and businesses close in the middle of the day (between 1pm and 4pm) and all day Sunday, except in the tourist hubs. The currency is the euro.