Ending up in Genoa had never been part of my original plan when I was travelling through Italy last November. It came about more through necessity – a stop off to break the journey from the Cinque Terre to Lake Como – than actual curiosity to see the city…but if I was going to be there for 24 hours, I was determined to make the most of it.
It didn’t get off to a particularly great start. After being based in Riomaggiore for five days on a Workaway, living like a local and meeting some truly unforgettable people, I was sad to be leaving and part of me wished I could have stayed for longer. It had been nice to spend more than just a day with new travelling friends, to actually get to know people – and there was even an, albeit short-lived, romance. At the same time, I was looking forward to getting back on the road…and to being alone again.
Feeling mixed about leaving meant that by the time I’d done a couple of trains with my backpack to reach Genoa from Riomaggiore, I was already tired and little low. I’d picked a hotel really close to the train station for convenience but when I arrived and checked in, the snooty receptionist didn’t exactly help my mood. Despite it being on the higher end of my accommodation budget, she informed me that breakfast was not, as stated on Booking.com, included in the rate. I didn’t even have the energy to argue and literally dumped my stuff in my room before heading out into the maze of streets that make up Genoa’s historic centre.
I desperately needed to do laundry (because I’m an idiot who was having way too much fun in Riomaggiore to do anything sensible like washing!) and ended up wandering around in circles until I found a self-service launderette. Feeling tired and missing my recent travelling company was starting to make me think coming to Genoa might not have been the best idea in the world. It was already getting dark and the backstreets were more than a little intimidating. The city was busy, loud and I’d somehow ended up being tailed by a man who, despite following me into the launderette twice, clearly did not have washing to do. It was one of those nights where I wished I could just invisibly move through the crowds rather than stick out as an obvious tourist.
After happily ditching my tail on the way back to the hotel, I messaged an old friend for a moan (who promptly told me to stop whining), made myself look vaguely presentable and managed to get as far as a restaurant just along the road at Piazza Durazo…for the two things that were absolutely guaranteed to cheer me up – massive amounts of pizza and local beer!
It was the first time in six days that I’d eaten solo, and it felt a little weird to be without someone to chat to, but by the time my huge pizza arrived, I’d stopped caring. Bar Reale, just up from the Palazzo Reale on Via Balbi, was a cheap and friendly little cafe/bar with amazingly kind and attentive staff. I stayed for another beer once I’d finished my food and then sleepily walked back across the road to the hotel, where I instantly crashed out…only to be rudely awoken at 6 am by the sound of construction work, seemingly coming from inside the building.
I decided to give up on sleep, get up, packed and head out to do some sightseeing before my check out time at 11 am. The streets were much friendlier in the daylight and after coffee and a croissant at the little cafe downstairs, I was in a good enough mood to really enjoy the morning. I walked in the general direction of the port, where you’ll find the huge Aquario di Genova (it’s one of the biggest Aquariums in Europe), Galata Museo del Mare (Museum of the Sea) and Il Galeone Neptune – the full-sized replica pirate ship built for Roman Polanski movie ‘Pirates’.
I wandered up from the port to Via Garibaldi and spent a while exploring the surrounding streets and palaces before heading towards the beautiful Piazza De Ferrari – the city’s main square with its incredible bronze fountain and stunning architectural buildings. I didn’t end up having as much time as I would have liked in the old town – I wanted to see both the Cattedrale di San Lorenzo and the Palazzo Reale before I needed to get the train to Milan – but I was totally charmed by the city’s historic centre.
The Palazzo Reale turned out to be the highlight of the trip. I didn’t have a huge amount of time to explore all of the interior but the gardens and terrace were incredible. It was also a pretty cheap place to visit in sightseeing terms – only costing €4 to get in.
After I’d wandered around and taken in the view from the terrace (there’s a pretty epic vantage point of the city and the sea beyond from here) I made my way back to the hotel, grabbed my backpack and headed for the train station. I had booked into a hotel in Como for the next couple of nights but as there were no direct trains, my next stop was Milan…which is where (despite being in the city for only a matter of hours) I managed to get robbed…
But that, travellers, is a tale for another time…!
genoa need to know
GETTING THERE & AWAY
I travelled both to and from Genoa by train. The train from Riomaggiore took roughly an hour and a half, with a quick change in Monterosso, and cost around €10 (ticket prices vary hugely at different times during the day, so always try to check ahead on the Trenitalia website before you leave for the station.)
I stayed at the Hotel Nuovo Nord on Via Balbi which, despite not being the quietest (or friendliest) accommodation in the world, was ridiculously close to the train station, most of the main sights – like the Palazzo Reale – were nearby and generally it was clean, spacious and fairly high-end. I booked through Booking.com and paid €59 for the night (plus the €1 City Tax)
genoa top 5 bucket list:
- Via Garibaldi – Explore the city’s historic streets and discover dozens of stunning palaces
- Cattedrale di San Lorenzo – Don’t miss Genoa’s medieval masterpiece of a Cathedral
- Piazza De Ferrari – The huge bronze fountain in this square is one of the city’s most famous sights
- Palazzo Reale – Take a tour of the magnificent 17th-18th-century palace and take a stroll around the beautiful garden and terrace
- Aquario di Genova – Visit one of the largest aquariums in Europe, located in Italy’s largest port