Genoa – Italy’s Hidden Gem

Genoa – Italy’s hidden gem

5 reasons you need to visit this port city


The birthplace of blue jeans, pesto sauce and Christopher Columbus – let’s face it, the world owes a debt to Genoa. But ask people to list a few famous Italian cities and it likely won’t make the cut.

Arguably as rich in fascinating history as its sisters Venice, Florence and Milan, Italy’s largest port city flies under the tourist radar. But Genoa’s okay with that, and, frankly, so are we.


Genuine Genoa

While it wasn’t exactly love at first sight, there’s no doubt that I fell for her charms during my first visit in 2012. I was looking to add more Italian kayak tour options, particularly in the Riviera area along the spectacular Ligurian coast in northwest Italy. As the capital of the Liguria, Genoa is the metropolitan hub and the best jumping off point for trips to fabulous Cinque Terre.

Compared to, say, Venice, it’s beauty doesn’t strike right away. But, believe me, it’s there. Like any working sea port, the water’s edge is bustling. There, rusty buildings crouch below pastel-hued neighborhoods on the hillside above. And beyond those still, is a swath of greenery interspersed with tops of ancient forts. A blend of lives and ways of life, past and present.

For me, and so many of our clients, it’s that sense of realism that appeals. There aren’t tons of tourists traipsing around taking selfies at every corner. That being said, it is home to 150 palaces, 42 of which are UNESCO World Heritage sites. But Genoa is, and always has been, a working city, so industrial elements are just part of the mix. (Fittingly, it’s where hard-working denim originated in the 1600s, and then, worn by Genovese sailors, it made its way around the world.)

Genoa is genuine. It offers a view into fascinating marine history and culture as well as a glimpse of real Italian life. Following are just a few of the great things about Genoa.


5 good reasons to spend some time in Genoa

#1 The biggest medieval city center in Europe

Genoa’s historical city center is very large with buildings spanning styles from over 1,000 years. Made up of almost 20 miles of meandering, narrow, mazelike streets you’ll find ancient cathedrals, medieval squares and even the house where Christopher Columbus was born. Be sure to check out the Via Garibaldi, a UNESCO World Heritage site that’s home to scores of elaborate palaces.

This is what Charles Dickens had to say about Genoa’s city center: “It is a place that ‘grows upon you’ every day. There seems to be always something to find out in it. There are the most extraordinary alleys and by-ways to walk about in. You can lose your way (what a comfort that is, when you are idle!) twenty times a day, if you like; and turn up again, under the most unexpected and surprising difficulties.”


#2 The varied and vertical setting

Head just out of the historic city center into a suburb called Nervi and you’ll find beautiful parks, villas, museums and a seaside promenade. And then from the promenades you can head up the steep hillside on “creuze” (little brick roads) for panoramic views of the harbor from almost dizzying heights.


#3 Historical arts without the lineups

Back within Nervi is the Wolfsoniana decorative arts museum. Founded by collector Mitchell Wolfson Jr., the Wolfsoniana features over 18,000 objects of glassware, ceramics, sculpture and more. The Nervi Park is also home to the Gallery of Modern Art, the Frugone Collections and the Museum Luxoro.


#4 The trains

For those not inclined to hike up steep roads, the city’s upper levels can be easily reached by three funiculars (a type of cable railway). Built in the 1890s, the Zecca-Righi line gets you to the top of the hills and ends at a high lookout in the seventeenth-century city walls.

And if you have time to explore a little farther afield, the Casella Train runs along a narrow-gauge railroad linking Genoa to Casella (in the Scrivia Valley) along a scenic 15-mile route that features fortresses, valleys, woods, aerial views of the historic Aqueduct and various old villages along the way.


#5 The food (of course)!

Well, you know, it’s Italy, after all. But you must be sure to try some pesto alla Genovese in the place that it originated. And make sure to get it with the region’s other famous specialty – focaccia bread!


Genoa is a gem. And a very worthwhile add-on experience for our Cinque Terre kayaking tours. Don’t be one of those guests that says, “If I’d known it was so great, I would have stayed a few more days!”

Viva Genova!

Please visit our website and  online catalog for further details about our Italian kayaking trips. As always, if you have any questions about this destination or any of our trips, please get in touch through our website, call (800) 677-0877 or email us at


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