Travelling to Genoa, Italy

Travelling to Italy: Genoa can offer beauty, history and a deeper slice of Italian life. Back: The BCBusiness Guide to World Travel

Travelling to Genoa, Italy: It’s not just boasting when Genoa residents call their 
home La Superba

Italy – so many places to go, so few 
places to hide. It seems every Italian destination worth visiting has been overcrowded since the days of steam. Poggibonsi is still unspoiled, but it was ugly to begin with.

WEATHER  Not unlike Vancouver, if a bit warmer and drier in winter; summers are not oppressively hot.

CAN’T MISS  The view from Spianata di Castelletto is stunning, and you don’t have to leave downtown to see it. 

BEST BED  Centrally located on Via XX Settembre, Hotel Bristol Palace is an elegant little Old World inn.

COOL EATS  Called Maria La Zozza by locals, the sign in the alley just says Da Maria. Nine euros gets you a drink and two courses of hearty, working-class food. On Vicolo Testadoro, off Via Aprile 25

Then there is Genoa. Always a major Italian centre, the hometown of Cristoforo Colombo has never attracted the kind of tourist hordes that clog the streets of Florence, Venice, Rome, the Amalfi Coast or the quaint towns of Tuscany. Genoa has suffered from its reputation as a gritty port city, a reputation not helped by the street battles that greeted the G8 Summit in 2001. And to be sure, it is not an artistic treasure house like Florence or a Venetian-style medieval Disneyland (with all that that implies). But Genoa possesses a historic town centre as well-preserved as any in Europe. And for those who have already had their fill of off-key gondoliers or portly guys in centurion armour, Genoa can offer beauty, history and a deeper slice of Italian life.

The capital of Liguria province is a working-class town. Milan may be a short train trip away but it’s in a different world, politically; Genoa’s Smash Capitalism graffiti might even make you nostalgic for your radical youth, if you had one. At any rate, locals have plenty of wall space to express themselves along the city’s famous caruggi, the small, twisting lanes of the central area.

Tops on the list of manufactured tourist attractions is the aquarium. They say it’s a good one, if you travelled halfway around the world to visit some other city’s aquarium. Among the attractions you won’t find back home, the cathedral of San Lorenzo offers opulence and, for the more credulous, relics ranging from the Sacro Catino (once proclaimed as the Holy Grail) to the ashes of John the Baptist (a disturbing claim for the Roman church and the Istanbul museum, which both claim to have his bones).

Via Garibaldi, sections of which have been declared UNESCO world heritage sites, features some of Europe’s most celebrated historical architecture, dating from the era when Genoa was the continent’s greatest maritime power. Among Genoa’s more lovely sights is Genoa itself as seen from the Spianata di Castelletto, a high vantage point in the centre of town, reachable on foot or by funicular railcar from Piazza Portello.

Genoa’s two main rail stations, Principe and Brignole, are important destinations as well. After less than an hour on a little milk-run train headed south, you can disembark at the lovely seaside town of Santa Margherita de Ligure. From there it’s a short bus ride or a pleasant (if occasionally sidewalk-less) one-hour walk to famous Portofino, star of countless guidebook covers. Parking will be easiest if you arrive by yacht. That’s probably the cheapest accommodation too. For the rest of us, a hotel in Genoa is the more realistic option.

A little further down the coast is one of Italy’s current superstars, the cluster of cliff-front villages known as Cinque Terre. No need for the milk run here; you can get a faster train from Genoa to La Spezia and then change trains for the brief final leg, making Genoa a reasonable base of operations from which to explore this crowded resort.

It’s also possible to visit the Italian and French Rivieras via day trip, although when heading west it might make more sense to overnight in Sanremo or Nice. Still, a base in Genoa allows the prospect of a brief journey to some of the most fabled tourist destinations in Europe, via train, bus or rental car.

No gondoliers, but you won’t miss them. 


My Secret Place

WHO: Tim Tindle, general manager, Pan Pacific Vancouver Hotel  WHERE: Currents at Otter Bay on Pender Island North  WHY: This is the perfect place to take my family for a quick weekend getaway or a special holiday. We enjoy the forced relaxation with whale watching, walks on beaches and the many trails or just sitting on the 
deck enjoying the scenery, the sea air and the peace and quiet. The highlight of any trip to Pender is pulling 
up the crab trap to see just how full we will be of fresh Dungeness crab.