It’s easy to see how the Italian port city of Genoa acquired its nickname ‘La Superba’, or ‘The Proud One’. Search around the sprawling old town and it's impossible to miss the manifestations of noble power, ancient wealth and artisanal know how.
Dive into the old town’s labyrinth of winding alleyways (or 'caruggi') and emerge blinking into half-forgotten squares, under the long shadows of historic institutions and sacred medieval churches. Continue further and discover splendid residences, studded with fine works of art and bristling with striking gothic details, colourful piazzas echoing with lively chatter. It's all there, you just have to know where to look. Here’s our quick guide to the best of Genoa's old town to give you the lay of the land.
STOP 1: Strada Nuova
For a fine overview of old school Genovese grandeur, start your adventure by strolling along Strada Nuova, also known as Via Garibaldi. Vying for your attention are the Palazzi dei Rolli, some 42 lavish palaces built at the very height of the Renaissance and Baroque architectural booms. Some house museums with exquisite art collections, with treasures like Paganini’s violins. No wonder UNESCO recognised this refined drag as a World Heritage Site.
STOP 2: Cathedral of San Lorenzo
There’s been a church of some description on the site of San Lorenzo Cathedral for at least 1,500 years. The present incarnation is like stepping into a time warp, every era left behind astonishing works of art inside its impressive facade of multi-coloured marble. Inside is a replica unexploded bomb, commemorating a real-life lucky escape the church enjoyed during World War II. Legend has it, if you can spot a tiny stone dog on the facade, you’ll find true love (top tip – it’s at eye level, on the right-hand side).
STOP 3: Focaccia!
Probably the most famous culinary export of Genoa and its surrounding Ligurian region is the chewy, wholesome, morish olive-oil flatbread known as focaccia. Folks around here have been devouring their beloved bake for nearly a thousand years and you shouldn’t waste a second before trying it. Make like a local and eat it ‘upside-down’, with the crispy side on your tongue, savouring the pockets where oil and salt mingle. It’s the ideal snack for strolling about the old town; find it anywhere by following your nose.
Brought to you by Comune di Genova