By Frances Hannon
When you think of Italy, Genova might not be the first place that comes to mind. But, with its rich history of trading, and the birthplace of Christopher Columbus, this Northern Italian city is a fascinating mish-mash of old and new, rich and poor.
Down the narrow shaded streets of Genova you will find historical gems, traditional cuisines and a truly unpretentious feel. Read on to find out why Genova should be on your travel bucket list this year, and where to visit whilst you’re there.
Location is where Genova comes out on top. If you’re looking to visit the famous Cinque Terre villages whilst in the Liguria region, then there are numerous trains departing all day long from the two main train stations in Genova; Brignole and Piazza Principe. Accommodation in Cinque Terre is notoriously difficult to find, not to mention expensive. Staying in Genova can provide a much cheaper alternative to the tourist lined streets of Cinque Terre, whilst still being in easy reaching distance. It’s also just a train or bus ride away from other wonderful, less-known areas of Genova such as Boccadasse, Camogli, and Santa Margarita.
If you’re looking for a day on the beach then head to the picturesque village of Camogli. Here you will find beautifully asymmetrical houses of terracotta shades, and promenades lined with restaurants that boast stunning views of the Mediterranean. My personal favourite, Boccadasse, is a quintessentially Italian fishermen village made up of pastel coloured houses that overlook a small pebbled beach. On a Sunday evening you can catch the Aperitivo at ‘Las Strambata’ for just a small price. If you want to feel like a true local, then take your food and drink onto the beach and secure prime viewing seats to watch the sun go down.
Where to drink?
In the narrow winding streets of Genova, it can sometimes feel difficult to find the best drinking spots. But, look carefully enough, and you’ll find plenty of relaxed bars to enjoy a drink or two. Situated in the heart of the old town, ‘Taverna Zaccaria’ is a candle-lit paradise serving anything from beer to cocktails. Coloured cushions are often scattered across the steps of the church that overlook Zaccaria, making it impossible to miss. (If a drink has made you peckish then the square, ‘Piazza San Cosimo’, has many restaurants to choose from). In order to sample some Italian beer whilst in Genova then head to ‘Kamun Lab’, just a two minute walk away. Here you will find a large selection of homemade, craft beers on tap, as well as cheese and meat boards to accompany.
Where to eat?
There are so many restaurants to choose from in Genova, but if you’re looking for a more local experience, then head to ‘Cavour 21’. Located near to the port, this small and unassuming restaurant serves up some of the most authentic Italian cuisine the city has to offer; all at a remarkably cheap cost. Enjoy anything from their award winning pesto pasta, to the ravioli style dish ‘Pansoti’, with creamy walnut sauce. Highly regarded amongst locals, this place, unsurprisingly, get’s very busy. They don’t take bookings so it’s advisable to arrive upon opening to avoid disappointment.
If you’re looking for pizzerias, then there are plenty of options on Vira Veca street which is a haven of atmospheric restaurants. You can also head closer to the Porto Antiqua where you will find ‘Molo 21’, serving reasonably priced, good quality pizza. If you fancy venturing out to the town Nervi, you can find ‘Pizzeria kebab Sole Luna’- here you will find warm and friendly staff who take great pride in the food they produce. Check out the Burrata when here, it’s truly amazing.
If you’re travelling around Italy for a long time and want a break from pizza and pasta, then ‘Il Masetto’ is the place for you. This is a local fast-food hotspot, producing delicious burger combinations, all served in freshly baked ciabatta bread. The queue is almost always outside the door which is testament to the tasty food and efficient service you will find here.
Where to stay?
Working in Ostellin hostel for seven weeks may make me a little biased, but I can wholeheartedly recommend Ostellin hostel if you’re staying in Genova. Matteo, the owner, has worked hard to create an ambient, sociable and relaxed vibe here. Attracting travellers of all ages, you will often find yourself dining collectively with other guests, whilst marvelling at the impressive architecture that can be found within this national heritage building. Fresco embellished ceilings and marble floors are found within, as well as friendly staff who will go out of their way to make you feel at home. It’s no surprise that guests are frequently found to extend their stay once arriving at Ostellin! If you want to unveil the history of Genova some more, then an incredibly informative walking tour runs from the hostel each day, ran by the charismatic Genovese local, Spyros. Whilst it may be long- (2-3 hours on average)- Spyros will often invite guests to join him for a lunch or gelato break in one of his personally recommended eateries.
Where to soak up some history?
If you’re looking to learn more about Genova’s rich history then head to Via Garibaldi. This medieval street is one of the most most majestic in all of Genova, boasting one UNESCO heritage site after another. The magnificently Baroque palaces; Palazzo Rosso and Palazzo Dei Rolli, are particularly impressive. Whilst some of the palaces charge a small admission fee, most are free to visit. If you’re looking for accommodation within touching distance of Garibaldi, then consider staying at Manena Hostel- (just a five minute walk from Ostellin), and located just off Garibaldi street.
If you’re looking to experience Genova’s arts scene, then head to ‘Giardini Luzatti’ (just behind Piazza del Erbe; the hub of Genova’s night scene). During the summer period you can enjoy sipping an Aperol Spritz whilst watching performances by many local and internationally recognised artists. Exhibitions, craft fairs and markets are just some of the cultural events taking place in Luzatti. Child friendly, there is also a small play area, making this the perfect location for families and friends to come together!
By Frances Hannon