Located on the northwest coast of Italy, Genoa offers a dazzling blend of Old World charm and modern sophistication. An important maritime center that preceded the Roman Empire, this boyhood home of Christopher Columbus was one of the wealthiest cities during the Renaissance. The portside Old Town with its medieval walls, narrow lanes and numerous architectural gems provides a glimpse into the city’s glorious past. The contemporary part of the town, stretching for miles along the Italian Riviera and into the surrounding hills, features wide boulevards, peaceful parks and avant-garde buildings. Known as “La Superba,” Genoa boasts a wide range of attractions.
One of the largest historic districts in Europe, the heart of the Old City is the setting for the restored childhood home of the Great Navigator. Other highlights include the walls of the 16th century fortifications and the Lanterna, the oldest lighthouse in Europe. The nearby Via Garibaldi is lined with restored 16th century Renaissance and Baroque Rolli palaces. These spectacular residences, reflecting the wealth of Genoa’s maritime pinnacle, were designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2004. The stunning Palazzo Reale has been transformed into a museum with terraced gardens and spectacular Renaissance art, frescos and artifacts. It is also known for its gilded Hall of Mirrors. The National Gallery on the Palazzo Spinola highlights a collection of works dating from Genoa’s era of sea exploration.
Consecrated in the 12th century and completed 500 years later, the black and white marble façade of the Cathedral of San Lorenzo contains relics believed to be associated with John the Baptist. The church grounds provide a dramatic backdrop for the beloved L’Arrotino sundial. Near the Soprana City Gates, visitors find the remnants of St. Andrew’s Cloister, an ancient monastery. The Chiesa del Gesu is a 16th century church that houses two works by Rubens, one hangs over the altar and the other in a side chapel. The most famous water feature in the city, the Piazza de Ferrari Fountain is located on the main square, which is surrounded by beautiful historic architecture, such as the Palace of the Doges and the Theatre Carlo Felice as well as an equestrian statue of national hero Giuseppe Garibaldi.
The redesigned historic waterfront, with its shops, restaurants, ice rink and swimming pool, forms the backdrop for the Aquarium of Genoa, the second largest in Europe and the nearby Biosphere and the Bigo elevator. The aquarium features the aquatic life indigenous to Ligurian Sea, the North Atlantic and the Caribbean. The glass-domed Biosphere is a popular attraction that replicates a tropical environment. Reminiscent of a dockside-loading crane, the Bigo is a ride that provides an unforgettable aerial perspective of Genoa.
Visitors can also ride the funicular railway servicing Monte Righi to view historic fortifications, the city skyline and Mediterranean Sea. Genoa has several wonderful parks, such as the Villetta di Negro, that provide marvelous walks along paths adjacent to the ancient fortifications as well as panoramic views of the city and the Bisagno Valley.