Genova, the Superba

Eleonora Ruzzenenti | Live the World

November 23, 2022

Genova is the capital of the Italian region of Liguria and the sixth-largest city in Italy. Located on the Golfo di Genova in the Ligurian Sea, Genova has historically been one of the most important ports on the Mediterranean and it was one of Italy’s two largest maritime republics (together with Venice) that enjoyed enormous power and prestige as early as the Middle Ages. For this reason Genova **has been called la Superba** ("the proud one") by Petrarca due to its glorious past and impressive landmarks.

Today Genova is one of the most fascinating Italian cities but it remains wrongly off the tourist radar: it is world famous as the birth place of Cristoforo Colombo but yet relatively unknown to the millions of tourists who visit Italy every year. Part of the old town of the city was inscribed on the World Heritage List (UNESCO) in 2006 as Genova: Le Strade Nuove and the system of the Palazzi dei Rolli and its richness in culture, history, art, music and cuisine allowed it to become the 2004 European Capital of Culture.

Arriving in Genova you are in front of the port and the spectacle is amazing, the cityscape is just breathtaking, an unusual geography: a vertical city, nestled between the mountains, with the alps as backdrop, and the Mediterranean sea as center stage, between uphill neighborhoods and delightful seaside villages, with pastel buildings piled up steep hillsides above the long waterfront. The city is a succession of enchanting walks along the coast and steep creuze (small brick roads), which climb up the hills and descend vertiginously to dive into the sea while the historic center develops in an intricate maze of alleys (caruggi) that open unexpectedly in small squares. If you really want to know the real soul of the city you have to forget the time and the traveling schedules and just wander round getting lost in this labyrinth of little streets, just walk and see where you end up. You will find a succession of precious treasures, corners of peace and beauty and an incredible mix of different tastes, colors, scents and cultures.

But what is really unmissable? First of all the Cattedrale di San Lorenzo, which has preserved its beauty and fascination after over a thousand years of history. Its interiors are adorned with frescoes and ancient sculptures, and its hidden gem is no doubt the underground San Lorenzo Museum. The Porto Antico is a few steps away from here, where you will find a number of attractions for all the family, including the Ac[quario](, one of the Genova's proudest attraction, the National Antarctica Museum and the Galata Sea Museum, the Biosphere, also known as Renzo Piano’s Bubble and the Lanterna of Genova, the main lighthouse for the city's port. Nearby there is the Bigo, a panoramic lift inspired by shipyard cranes, designed by local star architect Renzo Piano. As the lift revolves you can enjoy the views over Genova's port and hillsides. Don't miss to visit the Strade Nuove where stand the magnificent “Palazzi dei Rolli,” a series of noble palaces in the Renaissance and Baroque styles, built in the late sixteenth and early seventeenth centuries as part of a scheme where noble families, resident in the new palaces, would pay host to visiting dignitaries. Typical of Genoa are also the “botteghe storiche” (historic shops) and even the names of the alleys often recall a past strongly linked to artisan activities and corporations, like Via degli Orefici or Vico del Ferro.

The last time me and my husband went to visit Genova was three weeks ago and it was the first with my son Alessandro, so we wanted to pay more attention to the child friendly part of the city (if you want to know more about this topic read my article ), leaving the car in a parking garage and spending three relaxing days moving around just by foot or bus. We had an excellent experience staying in a small B&B called Il Belvedere, perfectly located in the city center, a walking distance from all the most important attractions and harbor. The apartment is clean and has a sunny terrace with an amazing view on the rooftops of the city but what is really makes the difference is the welcome of the hosts, a lovely couple Mara and Giuseppe and their cute daughter Blu that provided us with maps, advised where to go, see and eat in a very friendly atmosphere.

Walking and exploring awakes the appetite and the genovese gastronomic tradition will surely conquer you. The cuisine of Genova is based on very simple and Mediterranean ingredients, as the Ligurian olive oil, delicately flavored and perfect for preparing sauces. The most famous of these is pesto, a sauce made of basil, pine nuts, garlic, olive oil, and Parmesan cheese. But the Queen of Genova is surely the focaccia, the most famous street food of the city. Different kinds of focaccia and torte salate (a vegetable and cheese pie) are characteristically Genovese together with different kinds of pasta, for example, trenette and taglierini flavored with Genoa’s pesto sauce, or pansotti, a huge ravioli stuffed with vegetables and herbs topped with walnut sauce.

Following the advice of Giuseppe and Mara we discovered a few very traditional and authentic places. Firstly we tried a very simple and cheap restaurant, the Cavour 21 and we really enjoyed it. Wonderful pesto (they won the world prize for the best pesto), childfriendly, uncomplicated service, warmhearted staff and excellent food. They don't accept reservations so i recommend you to arrive at least 10 minutes before opening time because it is a very popular place or you will not be able to get in. For a quick meal we went instead to the Antica Sciamadda. They make a tasty farinata, a chickpea pancake, while huge cauldrons fry the catch of the day from 11.30am daily, except Sunday.

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