Genoa Skyline


Genoa (Italian, Genova) is a historical port city in northern Italy, the capital of the Region of Liguria. Genoa today, as a tourist attraction, is often shadowed by cities such as Rome or Venice, even though it has a long history as a rich and powerful trade centre. However, with its multitude of hidden gems behind cozy alleyways, excellent cuisine (notably fish and seafood), renovated old port, beautiful sights (including one of Europe's biggest aquariums), and its position as the European Capital of Culture in 2004 have made the birthplace of explorer Christopher Columbus an enticing place which is gradually becoming more included in the touristic market. With pastel-coloured terracotta-roofed houses, artistic churches, lovely seaside villas and also several luxurious boutiques, Genoa is a must see if you want to experience the "quintessential" Italy.

Genoa is known to have Europe’s biggest historical center. This is the heart of the old city. It’s made up of an incredible amount of tiny streets and alleys called Caruggi or Vicoli. Walking through it will plump you right back in ancient times when Genoa was the most important harbor of the Mediterranean sea. The city is generally safe, but caution is to be applied, especially at night time and in the more quiet zones toward Piazza Principe and the old harbor.

Genoa's striking cityscape, with pastel buildings piled up steep hillsides above the long curving waterfront, is a sight in itself, and can be admired from a variety of viewpoints, including the roof of Palazzo Rosso and a popular terrace at Castelletto, high above the city centre and reached by a lift dating from 1909 which ascends from Piazza Portello. Taking a boat tour of the harbour will also give you a good idea of the town's geography and history.

The Cattedrale di San Lorenzo is Genoa's cathedral, set in a surprisingly small, sloping square. It's a building in a patchwork of styles from Gothic to Renaissance, reflecting renovations over the centuries. The exterior is striped and decorated with coloured marbles, and inside the main portal is a fourteenth-century Byzantine-style fresco. The ashes of St. John were worshipped in a lovely Renaissance side-chapel attended by statues (take coins for illumination). Visit the church's underground treasury to see a bowl claimed to be the Holy Grail and a platter said to have been the one used to present John the Baptist's head. Just up the street from the cathedral is Genoa's former Ducal Palace, the huge Palazzo Ducale, which now hosts a range of changing exhibitions and events.

Genoa boasts one of Italy's UNESCO World Heritage sites. This status was awarded for the early town-planning of the Strade Nuove 'new streets' district, where grand palaces were erected in the late sixteenth and early seventeenth centuries as part of a scheme where noble families, resident in the new palaces, would pay host to visiting dignitaries. Via Garibaldi, an elegant narrow street lined with grandeur, is the cultural centre of tourist Genoa. The town's best art collections can be visited here, in three palaces grouped together as the Musei di Strada Nuova: Palazzo Bianco, Palazzo Rosso and Palazzo Tursi, Garibaldi, where highlights include works by Filippino Lippi, Veronese and Rubens as well as many local artists.

Down by the rejuvenated Porto Antico (Old Port) are a number of attractions for all the family, including the Acquario, an aquarium which, along with the UNESCO listing, is Genoa's proudest attraction, and where visitors can admire sharks and dolphins up close. This is a great destination for children, but fascinating for adult visitors too. Nearby is the Bigo, a panoramic lift inspired by shipyard cranes, designed by local star architect Renzo Piano. As the lift revolves you can enjoy the views over Genoa's port and hillsides.

Genoa's old town was partly rebuilt after bombing in the Second World War, but it was reconstructed as it had been: a medieval maze of narrow lanes and tall buildings. The alleys are intriguing to explore, past shrines on the corners of buildings, tucked-away churches, palaces reaching up to the sky, take-aways selling local snacks like farinata and focaccia, and great shopping opportunities.



  • The Aquarium - The biggest in Europe
  • The Sea Museum and the Naval Museum
  • Ethnographical Museum
  • Museum of Modern Art - Wolfson
  • Museum of Modern Art - Villa Croce
  • Museums of Fine Arts - Strada Nuova - Palazzo Bianco (White Palace) and Palazzo Rosso (Red Palace)
  • Chiossone Museum of Oriental Art - The biggest European collection of oriental art.
  • Doria Museum of Natural History
  • The Cathedral Museum
  • Museum of St. Augustine - A convent displaying various medieval works of art.
  • Ligurian Archeological Museum
  • Luxoro Museum - A private collection which houses various works of art and furniture.
  • Raccolte Frugone - The Nervi's former private art collection.
  • Wolfsoniana - A museum of modern applied arts.
  • Palazzo Reale (Royal Palace) - owns a historical picture gallery.
  • National Ligurian Gallery at the Spinola Palace
  • Museum of the Ligurian Art Academy
  • Museum at the Prince's Palace - Another Genovese historical art collection.
  • Ippolito National Ligurian Museum
  • The Cathedral of San Lorenzo
  • The palazzi dei rolli present on World Heritage List of UNESCO
  • The historical centre;
  • Santa Maria di Castello, the cloister of the domenican order, the museum and the summer cathedral offer a lot of treasures and exploring them is free during the opening hours of the church


  • The natal house of Cristoforo Colombo. In piazza Dante you will find what is said to be the natal house of Columbus;
  • The impressive fortification belt built on the hills surrounding the city, originating in the 16th Century;
  • There is a funicular railway servicing Monte Righi, where one can have pleasant walks on the surrounding hills and to the fortifications (see above), or just admire the spectacular view of the city and the Mediterranean Sea.
  • Spianata Castelletto is a nice belvedere where one can have a pleasant view of the city and of the seaport. It can be reached by public lift from Piazza della Nunziata or on foot from that very same square.
  • Via Garibaldi (also known as Via Aurea and Strada Nuova, Golden Street and New Street) with very impressive baroque buildings. Some similar buildings are also found in Via Balbi.
  • The Old Harbour (Porto Antico), next to the Aquarium, is an entertainment area with museums, cinemas, cafés and also a beautiful promenade along the sea.
  • The Lanterna - the oldest European lighthouse and a prominent Genovese symbol
  • A lot of beautiful churches, some of which date back to the Romanesque time (San Giovanni di Pre', San Donato, Santa Maria del Castello)
  • Corso Italia - Genoa's promenade;
  • Boccadasse - a picturesque fishermen quarter;
  • Castello d'Albertis;
  • Palazzo Ducale Where the Dukes of Genoa used to live.
  • Il Galeone "Neptune" -- a fanciful recreation of a pirate ship.


Camogli, situated in the north-west part of Liguria, between Genoa and Portofino, is a fishing settlement rather than a beach resort. Camogli's rather ordinary shopping street a block or so inland from the coast, with the railway station, main bus stop and information office at one end, provides no clue to what is just round the corner. Step out onto the promenade and take a sharp breath. This is as much a hallucination as a view. In one direction, beyond a tottering cliff, the vast wooded cape of the promontory reaches out, crowned at the halfway point by a domed church, looking almost inaccessibly high. During poor weather the upper slopes may be lost in cloud. In the other direction Camogli's own church stands above a stony beach, backed by a ruined fortification, on a short peninsula. The more distant curve of the Ligurian coast behind it sweeps away to Genoa and far beyond, a visual summary of the Italian Riviera.

Camogli's little headland is a hill village in miniature, with a few houses as well as the church clustered around a couple of narrow lanes, steps and a vaulted passageway, with the remains of the stone fort guarding them at the back. From here, the landward view is filled by several tiers of pastel-painted tenements six or seven storeys high and very old.

West of the church is the real centre of Camogli, its harbour. There are a few pleasure craft, but fishing boats comprise by far the majority moored here, most of them small and some no larger than rowing skiffs, reflecting a concentration on inshore fishing. Along the quay, nets are hung up to dry - adorned with Valentine's Day messages when we were there - and on the road nearby there are one or two shops where the daily catch is sold.

There's not a lot to do in Camogli itself apart from enjoying the atmosphere of the town, loitering by the harbour and enjoying a drink or meal at one of several places along the front. (These aren't cheap, but the fish will certainly be fresh.) Recommended for artists, photographers and as the start or finish of a walk on the Portofino promontory.

Travel to Camogli

Camogli is on the main rail line between Genoa and La Spezia, although not all trains stop there. A frequent and cheap bus service runs from Rapallo and Santa Margherita. From Camogli's harbour passenger boat services run up or down the coast during the summer season: the ticket office stands nearby. Out of season, a smaller boat runs several times a day - if sea conditions allow - the short distance round the cape as far as San Fruttuoso.


One of the most popular resort towns on the Italian Riviera, little Portofino has just over 500 permanent residents. But that all changes on summer days when the sun is shining and the yachting set drops anchor in the harbor to wander about. Boutiques, art galleries, cafes and restaurants line the tiny streets. Diving, hiking and beach-going are popular local pastimes, and there are even some historic sights like the Church of St. Martin (Divo Martino) and the Castello Brown hilltop fortress.

Portofino tourist information

Portofino is very small; the little streets leading up from the harbour can be explored in very little time. As well as expensive boutiques, there are cheaper souvenir shops and also general stores where you could put together a picnic if you're planning on a walk. Via Roma leads upwards from the harbour, and is the busiest street, with a range of shops, the Portofino Tourist Information Office (ask for a map if you want to explore the footpaths), and the Post Office.

The pretty Piazzetta by the harbour is lined with cafe and restaurant tables; a lovely place to relax with a drink and watch the boats go in and out.

A short walk from Portofino

A very pleasant walk heads up to the right as you face the harbour. Up a series of steps, you come to the Church of St. George, a church with a cool, plain interior, dramatically situated on the narrow neck of the Portofino headland. As a lookout point, and probably as a site of religious significance, the spot goes back thousands of years. There are benches to sit on, and some great photo-opportunities looking back down over the harbour.

Continuing onwards, you'll reach Castello Brown. This imposing building dominates the harbour; after its warlike purposes were over, it was purchased in 1867 by the British Consul, one Montague Yeats Brown, who made it into the charming dwelling you can admire today. The terraced gardens have wonderful views; while the building contains interesting historical exhibits and architectural features, as well as housing art exhibitions. A lovely story is attached to the two pines on the terrace. Apparently the Consul planted them to celebrate his marriage; one for his bride and one for himself; today they are a striking feature of the Portofino skyline.

The walk heads on out to the tip of the promontory and the Faro (lighthouse). A little terrace provides a nice spot for a snack overlooking the turquoise Mediterranean, before you retrace your steps to Portofino.

The area around Portofino is a protected park and in July and August there are organised events and guided walks for those who want to see more of the area on foot.

Portofino travel information

Get to Portofino

The best way to arrive is by boat; ferries run from nearby resorts. Santa Margherita Ligure is the nearest seaside town; the town's railway station is called Santa Margherita Ligure - Portofino, and buses run from the station along the headland to Portofino.


'Cinque Terre' means 'five lands', and Italy's famous Cinque Terre are five perilously-perched villages strung along a short stretch of cliffs in the Eastern part of Liguria region.

You'll find rugged beauty and a slow pace in the Cinque Terre. Named for the five towns of Monterosso, Vernazza, Corniglia, Manarola and Riomaggiore, this portion of the Italian Riviera is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Cars aren't allowed, so take local trains or ferries to go from town to town—or walk one of the spectacular trails that connect them.

Cinque Terre Tourist Information

On arrival in the area, you should hunt out an information office (easy to do; they're right by each station and on Platform 1 at La Spezia station). If you want to set foot on the main coastal path you will need to buy a ticket. The Cinque Terre Card is valid for 1, 3 or 7 days, and entitles you to walk on the paths and use local transport (trains and buses) at no extra cost. Costs vary according to the day of the week, time of year and whether you want a card also valid on the railway from Levanto to La Spezia, so it's very useful if you are using one of these towns as a base.

The information offices will also provide you with leaflets about the National Park, a map of footpaths (rather basic) and a train timetable (invaluable).

The Cinque Terre stretch of coastline is a National Park, and a Protected Marine Area, included on UNESCO's World Heritage List. After being placed on a list of sites at risk, the Park Authority began a longterm project to revitalise the farming practices behind the characteristic hillside terraces, many of which were falling into abandonment. It also aims at a sustainable level of tourism, maintaining the character and beauty of the region. Despite the number of tourists - which is at times overpowering - the schemes appear to be succeeding admirably. There is a real sense of local identity even in the most tourist-crammed little piazze. Restaurants, bars and accommodation all have an endearingly homespun air about them, as though when the locals saw tourists coming they found a few garden chairs to stick on their terrace, handpainted a sign and began serving customers.

Monterosso al Mare

Monterosso has a certain amount of history as a seaside resort, and its name may be the most familiar. It has the most beach of all the Cinque Terre, but probably the least charm. More accessible by car than the others, the result is expanses of tarmac by the seafront. There are several beach stabilimenti, where you can pay for a sunbed, and several strips of spiagga libera, where the beach is free to all.


Vernazza is an extremely charming small fishing port, with rooftops piled higgledy-piggledy around the little harbour and up the slopes towards a fortified tower, the Castello Doria. The small piazza by the harbour is lined with good restaurants and bars, and busy with ageing residents as well as tourists; the atmosphere is laidback and jovial, especially as the sun sets behind a distant headland and the painted buildings glow warmly in response.


Corniglia is the only one of the Cinque Terre to be perched up above sea level - a steep climb if you arrive on foot. Like a pine cone, the Corniglia mound is covered in clinging roofs and painted houses. The narrow alleys are buzzing with children playing and walkers stocking up at the little alimentari, general stores. A panoramic terrace affords great views from the top of the headland, where the houses give way to giddyingly steep cultivated terraces above the sea.


Manarola is pleasant and peaceful, with more of an air of modernity than its nearest neighbours. There's a rocky cove which is popular with swimmers, and bars and restaurants overlooking the sea. There's also a tiny but pretty park at the beginning of the footpath to Corniglia, where you can sit and relax.


From Riomaggiore a pedestrian tunnel runs alongside the railway towards the harbour and heart of town. The town is pretty, with tall houses marching up the hill away from the sea; all painted pastels and green shutters. There are plenty of eateries of all kinds.