The maritime city of Genoa (spelt Genova in Italian) is the capital of Liguria, and the largest seaport in Italy. The city has a population of over 1.5 million and is also one of Europe’s largest cities on the Mediterranean Sea.
Being the birthplace of Niccolo Paganini and Christopher Columbus, together with its illustrious marine history, architecture, music, art and, of course, gastronomic delights, make Genoa a city worth a visit. Genoa was, in fact, awarded the nickname la Superba (the Proud One), and part of the old town was inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage List in 2006.
Genoa began its days as a port in the 6th century B.C. and, by the Middle Ages, was a formidable maritime power together with its three rivals Venice, Pisa, and Amalfi. To this day, in fact, the Italian Navy’s flag includes the coats of arms of the four erstwhile maritime powers. Times have changed, however, and, though the city has retained a small naval presence, its harbour is now used mostly for commercial shipping interests.
You can easily see the old and the new living side by side in this city. Walk through the city’s narrow, twisty lanes (caruggi) and shaded alleyways on the portside Old Town to absorb the mixture of rich and poor, from splendid marbled churches and banks – including the Bank of Saint George, founded in 1407 and one of the oldest banks in the world – to its brothels and slums, the children playing noisily in the streets, their mothers casually gossiping while hanging out their washing to dry in the ever present sun.
You can also see how Genoa has been renovated; since hosting the Expo 1992 and being the 2004 European City of Culture, the city was motivated to clean itself up. Parts of the city are now resplendent with attractive parks, modern business outlets, and it now also has one of the finest maritime museums ever, as well as Europe’s largest aquarium. Oh, and is that an IKEA flag I can see flying in the near distance?
But there is also one area that has seemingly remained untouched throughout Genoa’s colourful history, and that is the old mariner village of Boccadasse.
This neighbourhood sits at the eastern side of Corso Italia, at the feet of the narrow street of Via Aurora.
You would be forgiven if you felt you had perhaps stepped back in time, as the village’s collection of pastel coloured houses nestled together, cosy coves, narrow pebbled streets and fishing boats resting on the pebbled shore look as if nothing has disturbed its equilibrium for centuries.
Walk along the lively promenade and discover the good selection of restaurants and local bars in which to enjoy a customary aperitivo, and some of the best ice cream Genoa has to offer. The local markets are also there to tempt you with their local produce.
If you are visiting in the warm months, it’s also a nice area to sunbathe and swim, and perhaps have a picnic.
It will take you about an hour to walk to the village from the centre of Genoa, or you have the option of catching the 42 bus from Via Dante, which will deposit you straight at the village.