Genoa can be reached by budget airline as well as scheduled and I would recommend going before too many people discover it. The city had a bit of a bad reputation as a run down port city, not a bit of it. The port area has been re-generated with the second biggest aquarium in Europe, and the old part has some of the most fabulous palazzos, forty-two in total, and also Europe’s largest medieval centre. Add in that the Italian Riviera is on the doorstep and the outstanding eating and you have a winner.
Buses run regularly from the airport to the city, the ticket include an hours travel on the city’s public transport. Once there you can use buses, metro, funiculars and lifts to explore the city. Tickets for either 90 minutes or 24 hours can be bought from bookstalls.
Most street have two sets of numbers, red are businesses, black or blue private houses, it can be very confusing hence the numbers below that say “r”.
Check out the web sites www.booking.com and www.venere.com but one worth mentioning is the Hotel Cairoli, Via Cairoli 14/4, www.hotelcairoligenova.com. It is in a great location. five minutes walk from the port and five minutes from Via Garibali which has been declared a world heritage site. The hotel has wonderfully helpful staff and the rooms all have themes relating to artists. Their web site helps with directions to the hotel and if you happen to arrive on a Sunday when a lot of restaurants are shut, they will point you in the direction of some good places.
Da Gaia, Vico dell Argento, is minutes from the Cairoli Hotel and is very popular with locals. Good value and pleasant service and like most places very reasonably priced house wine.
Da Maria, Vico Testadoro 14r, is a Genoa institution now run by the original Maria’s daughters, two courses and wine for currently €10 a head. The waiting staff are very helpful so give it a try. Packed at lunchtimes but also open some evenings.We returned this visit and it is still good value for money with decent food.
Maxela, Vico Inferiore del Ferro 9-11r, is a restaurant with a butchers counter so obviously they specialise in meat, the steaks are fabulous, the house wine very reasonable and the service excellent.
I Tre Merli, Coros Magenta 3-5 r, is at the top of the Sant Anna funicular from Portello. This was a real gem, a beautiful traditional old osteria full of regular customers and serving really good food and amazing prices. Sadly only had time to visit once, a must on a return visit.
Locanda degli Adorno, Vico degli Adorno 50r, I found this while searching the web for places to try and boy was it worth it. Not far from the port it is in a slightly dodgy area but this does not stop the regulars from packing out the place. The food was excellent, a lot of fish surprisingly not that common in the city, the staff and owner were super friendly as were the customers. Everyone seemed delighted to see a couple of visitors sampling the local food and wine.
Taggiou, Vico Superiore del Ferro 8, this is a small place specialising in meat and cheese platters but offering other dishes as well. Excellent quality and incredible value for money, the staff were very friendly.
Soho, Via al Ponte Calvi 20r, is very close to the old port and very different as it is a modern stylish restaurant and bar. The food, nearly all fish and seafood, was very good but would have been better had it been served on hot plates. This is expensive by many places in the city and there were small things in the service that made me unsure whether or not I would return. If you are looking for fish in a modern setting check it out.
Eataly, Via Calata Cattaneo 15, is at the old port just opposite the Bigo Lift. This is one of several in Italy and abroad, part restaurant part food shop, first founded in Turin in 2003. There are various restaurants in the building, the food and wine shopping is fabulous, and the views of the port are excellent.
Kowalski, Via del Giustiniani 3r, is a recently opened Eastern European restaurant and bar. The owners are a local guy from Genoa and his Polish wife, we did not try the food but judging by the popularity and the dishes we saw it is a winner. It is very popular as a bar later in the evening with a a wide selection of drinks.
Bars & Cafes
Mescite, Via S Agnese 25r, this is a wine shop and bar with great owners and smart design. During the day people come here to buy wine by the bottle from the seven large stainless steel vats offering a selection of red and white wines. In the evening the bar is busy with people drinking the wines from the vats around €2 a glass or wines from the small range of bottles, slightly more expensive but still great value. They also do small and large plates of meat & cheeses, incredible value, and crostinis. A wonderful gem of a place.
Bar Berto and 28 Erbe are both in the Piazza delle Erbe, they used to be very popular at apperitivi time but on our last visit seemed far quieter. 28 Erbe still offers a good selection of food with your early evening drinks and was reasonably priced.
Cantine Matteotti, Archivolto Baliano, is a very smart wine bar in a lane between Via San Lorenzo and Via di Canneto di Lungho, one of the most interesting streets in the old part of the city. Excellent range of reasonably priced wines and cold meat and cheese platters. It is very popular but only open in the evenings.
Pasticceria Marescotti di Cavo, Via di Fossatello 35-37r, one of the most beautiful bar interiors I have ever seen. Pop in for a coffe and cake or a glass of wine or cocktail, with a lovely small selection of snacks and step back in time. Excellent service and for the quality reasonably priced.
There are a number of bars down at the port, which is a very lively area, but they are best for their setting as opposed to the atmosphere. There are also a number of old fashioned bars with decent wines at incredibly cheap prices around Via di Canneto di Lungho and Via Quatro San Francesco & Via della Madalena, these all shut by 9pm.
Genoa also has the most generous free apperitivo snacks of any Italian city I have visited, not just at the usual 7 till 9 in the evening but at lunchtime, at tea time and after dinner.
Although Liguria produces wines, it does not have any of the outstanding wines that the neighbouring regions of Lombardy and Piedmont produce. There is wine produced from the cliff side vineyards of the Cinque Terre if you want a really local wine.
Looking at the Palazzos, particularly Bianco and Rosso for which you buy a joint ticket, and walking along Via Garibaldi you realise how important and wealthy Genoa was. Exploring the warren of streets of the old town is part of the charm of the city andalso making time to visit the produce market off Via XX Septembre.
The Port is of course worth a visit, including the aquarium and take the chance to go up in the Bigo Lift for amazing views of the city.
Use your day ticket and go up on the Funicular from Largo de Zecca to Righi,1500 metres and five stops and take the lift from beside Stazione Principe to Castello d’Alebrtis, a wonderful building and museum and more great views. Also take the funicular to Sant Anna then walk round, enjoying the views, to the Castelletto Lift back down to Piazza Portello.
The fishing port of Boccadasse can easily be reached by bus and has some great places to eat.
Sestri Levante is an ideal base to explore the Italian Riviera coast and the Cinque Terre, it is very popular as a destination for Italian visitors so hotels can be expensive.
Polpo Mario, Via XXV Aprile 163, excellent fish restaurant, they have their own fishing boat. Very popular so booking is advised.
Osteria Nazionale, Via Nazionale 101, worth seeking out, recently opened when we were there, and very modern with great cooking and a vast selection of wines which you choose from the shelves, they are all priced.
L’Osteria Mattana, Via XXV Aprile 34, a typical osteria with long shared tables and the menu on the blackboard, very reasonable and the staff are very helpful and will assist with translating the menu, they have very good house wine.
La Mainolla, Via XXV Aprile 187, does excellent pasta dishes with a very pleasant outside terrace.
Millelire. Via XXv Aprile 149. is a great bar with large variety of drinks , good free apperitivo snacks and also does meals, the outside tables are very prized.
Asia Café, Via XXV Aprile 133, is another good place to sit outside with a post dinner drink, it also does food
MamaLuna Café, Via della Chuisa 3, off Via XXV Aprile, a little gem with lovely tables in the little street, again with excellent free apperitivo snacks
On the Bay of Silence just below the Hotel Helvetia is a lovely terrace bar with fabulous views just the place to sit out after dinner.
Visit Portofino and San Fruittoso by boat, there are trips that leave at around 2 pm returning at 6.30. It is a great way to see the coast and to visit Portofino which is stunning, treat yourself to a drink overlooking the port and the designer shops.
The Cinque Terre towns are a must, although incredibly busy, your best plan is to get a day card which cover all trains between Levanto & La Spezia. You will need to get a return to Levanto as well, the ticket also gives you access to the various walks that can be done.
Recommended is to go to the last one Riomaggiore and make your way back, the walk from there to Manarola is an easy stroll and there is a lovely bar café just before you reach Manarolla with great views.
Il Porticciolo ,Via Renato Birolli 92, the main street in Manarola is a great place to stop for lunch very popular so get there early so that you can eat on the terrace
Corniglia is the only one of the five not easily accessible from the station 365 steps to the town although there may be buses, again your day card gives you access to these.