24 hours in Genoa, Italy

Often overlooked by sun-seeking tourists in a rush to get to picturesque Portofino and pastel-painted Cinque Terre, Genoa is one of Italy’s most underrated and historically significant cities.

Genoa alternative ©Luca Volpi
Genoa © Luca Volpi
This former maritime power has much to boast about: birthplace of world navigator Christopher Columbus, home to the prison from which Marco Polo dictated accounts of his travels, Italy’s first football team, and inventors of pesto.

Genoa’s topography, nestled between mountains and sea, means that the city is blessed with temperate weather all year round and, with direct two hour flights from the UK, it’s the perfect escape for those in search of history, culture and hearty Italian fare, any time of the year.

Genoa port
(c) neufal54
This compact city is more than a gateway to the Italian Riviera, it’s a destination in its own right.

Must stay
Reacquaint yourself with the renaissance at Vecchia Genova, a Sixteenth Century palazzo located in the historic centre of Genoa, just 300m from San Lorenzo Cathedral.

Days begin with homemade brioche and organic jam breakfasts served on the terrace and end in blissful slumber in spacious, stucco-walled bedrooms.

For something a little more luxurious, treat yourself to the Grand Hotel Savoia, Genoa’s most opulent lodgings. This five star hotel was established in 1897 and has long been a favourite amongst old Italian aristocracy. Soothe your sightseeing-worn limbs in the hydro-pool on the terrace or at the on-site spa.

Must visit
Following a large-scale regeneration project in the early 1990s, the old port or Porto Antico is now an oasis of waterfront restaurants and bars, complete with a panoramic lift, a tropical rainforest biosphere and Europe’s largest Aquarium.

Genoa arcade street
(c) Samueles
But, to experience Genoa at its most enchanting, wander around the tangle of narrow alleyways named “Carruggi” which unfurl behind the port and lead to impressive palaces like the Palazzo di San Giorgo, formerly one of Europe’s first banks and before that a prison for Venetian captives such as Marco Polo.

One of Genoa’s most splendid streets is the 250m long UNESCO protected Via Garibaldi or “Street of Kings”, a completely pedestrianised street lined with magnificent Sixteenth Century palazzi.

Genoa Piazza de Ferrari
Piazza de Ferrari (c) Kreactiva
Two of the most illustrious palaces – Palazzo Rosso and Palazzo Bianco – are now art galleries housing works of art from old masters, including Van Dyck, Caravaggio and Veronese. Take the glass lift to the panoramic roof at Palazzo Bianco for one of the finest views in the city.