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Genuinely Genoa

Genuinely Genoa

Genoa, the capital of Liguria in north-western Italy, is an Italian city that has become a tourism destination – almost by accident. Historically it was important for shipbuilding and steel works (since the 19th century), international trade, commerce and banking (since the Middle Ages), and now, because it is a treasure trove of art, history (World Heritage List /UNESCO 2006), the European Capital of Culture (2004), as well as the birthplace of Christopher Columbus and Niccolo Paganini, domestic and international visitors are “discovering” this wonderful city.
The good news is that the new celebrity status has not affected Genoa and it continues to offer a glimpse into the interesting and unique past of Italy, without bowing to the lure of commercialization. This is a city that works and has captured its important historical role without giving up its personal identity. You will not find a copy of Genoa at Disneyland – and this is the reason you must go!

Train Travel through Italy Absolutely Functions

I arrived in Genoa by train via Rail Europe.

The Genoa Principe Railway Stations is one of the oldest in Italy. It was built in the 19th century when the first railway line in Northern Italy opened. Principe is one of the two largest and most important stations in Genoa. Well connected to France via the French TGV, there are frequent connections with Turin, Milan, Rome as well as parts of southern Italy and Sicily.

One of the many wonderful realities about European train travel – is that the stations are smack in the heart of the city. No suburbs to deal with and no long bus or train connections.

Terrific Hotel

The train station is only steps away from one of the best hotels in Genoa (there are only a few 4-star hotels in the city) and the Grand Hotel Savoia (WorldHotels) is truly a unique property.

Built by Federico Fioroni in 1897, the Savoia was frequently visited by the rich and famous of Italy and Europe. Current millennial travelers as well as their parents continue to enjoy the old world elegance, and the fabulous location. The port of Genoa is but a 10-minute walk away, while restaurants and shopping streets require only a brief stroll.

Jewish Connection

Genoa captured a place in my heart when I learned that it provided sanctuary for Jews during periods of time when they were unwelcome in many parts of Europe. During WWII, Genoa had one of the largest Jewish communities in Italy. The Chief Rabbi of the Genoa Jewish Community (Comunita Israelitica di Genova), Riccardo Pacifici, lived in Genoa from 1936 until he was deported to Auschwitz (1943) and never returned. The Largo Riccardo Pacifici square (1966) is named for him. He is the grandfather of the former Rome Jewish Community President, Riccardo Pacifici.


There are so many markets and restaurants in Genoa that it tempting to look for an apartment with a kitchen.


Attending the event in 2016 were Marco Doria, Mayor of Genoa, and Roberta Pinotti, Minister of Defense (from Liguria).

Genoa has embraced PESTO and the Pesto Festival in April is an event that must be experienced.  Participants assemble at the Palazzo Ducale and, using secret family recipes and techniques, as well as their own marble mortars and wooden pestles (handed down through generations), the contestants are provided with the basic ingredients at their workstations (fresh Genoese Basil, pine nuts, Parmesan and Pecorino cheeses, coarse salt, sweet garlic and Taggiasca Extra Virgin Olive Oil from Liguria).The countdown begins and VIA! The competition begins with mortars pulverizing the garlic and basil.

Contestants are judged by the neatness of their workstations, color/appearance/consistency of the Pesto, quality of the ground basil leaves, and the overall taste. The 2016 winner was Alessandra Fasce, an assistant cook from Genoa. The prize: A golden Pestle and plaque. The next festival is scheduled for 2018.

Endless Eating Drinking Eating

Genoa is the home of focaccia (flavored with olive oil and topped with onions, olives, sage, and cheese). Filled pasta (ravioli) and the local pansotti (Swiss chard, egg and ricotta), corzetti (Polceverea Valley), savory herb pies (torta Pasqualina) and cima (slim pocket of veal stuffed with minced offal, bread crumbs soaked in broth, spring vegetables, grated cheese, diced mortadella and eggs).

Genoa is also renowned for its vegetable minestrone alla Genovese, farinta (unleavened pancake from chickpea flour, water, salt and olive backed in a wood burning oven), panissa (fried sticks of chickpea flour), tomaxelle (stuffed veal rolls) and stuffed vegetables. Fish is savored in soups and stews (ciuppin and buridda) and seafood salads (capponada).
The Genoese Christmas pandolce fruitcake was originally designed for long sea voyages. Homemade versions include raisin and candied lemon peel, while the more traditional version includes raisins from Ismir, candied orange peel from Sicily and Tabarka, candied Diamante citron and a sprinkling of fennel seeds. Apple fritters, chestnut flour cake, Lenten and shortbread biscuits, amaretti and candied fruit and flowers (rose petals and violets) are part of the local fare.


Vermentino Grape

Pigato Grapes

There are two important wine producing areas to the east and west of Genoa. Commercial production is concentrated in the west (near Riviera Ponente and French border). Liguria is known for Vermentino and Pigato grapes. Varietal whites are produced inland, near Imperia. The region also produces red wines and the Rossese di Dolceacqua appellation was the first in the Ligurian Riviera to achieve DOC designation. Pornassio, produced with Ormeasco grapes is the local version of Piedmontese Dolcetto. Near La Spezia in Riviera Levante, delicious reds and whites are produced. The Cinque Terre zone is also known for Sciacchetra, a unique wine well received by connoisseurs.

Casual Dining

• Hamburgeria. Via Canneto il Lungo, 111r

One of the first stops for food in Genoa has got to the Hamburgeria which is noted for its 100 percent tastily spiced pure beef. Industrial bread and frozen meat are not permitted. Enjoy a wide range of burgers, with everything from bacon and onions to BBQ sauce.  Try the Baciccia with beef, pesto and parmesan cheese or Renato with beef, porcini mushrooms, potatoes and rosemary. An outstanding sandwich is made with beef, Gorgonzola cream, Abate pears and chopped toasted hazelnuts.

• Bar Cavo. 165 Via Balbi

The site dates back to the 13th century when it was a confectionary and liquor shop on the street level and a laboratory on the second floor. It then morphed into a chocolate shop. Two entrepreneurs, Beniaminio Marescotti and Attilio Cable took over the space in the 19th century and it remained open until 1979. It recently reopened thanks to the interest of an Attilio relative, Alessandro Cable. It was brought to its current beautiful condition thanks to his efforts. Today this charming café warmly welcomes locals and visitors who enjoy a touch of old world elegance in their daily routine. Open from 8AM – it is the perfect stop for an expresso or an apertivo.

• Caffe Mangini. Piazza Corvetto 3R

Conveniently located on the elegant Via Roma, journalists, writers, artists as well as international tourists place this charming dining spot on their must do list. Old world ambiance is enhanced by checked marble floors, Liberty mirrors, gold ceiling, oak paneling plus a lively crowd. The coffee is excellent, the pastries and cakes exquisite…come hungry and thirsty.

• I Tre Merli. Corso Magenta 3/R

At the port and near the Aquarium, I Tre Merli is a large (150 seat) restaurant that mixes locals and visitors who are looking for delicious dining from late morning through the evening. From the aromas coming from the wood burning oven making classic Farinata and cheese Focaccia, to delicious and unusual sea food recipes, this eating opportunity should be on the to-dine list.

Slow Down for Street Life

Genoa is a walking city. The narrow, cobble stone streets, the amazing historical architecture, the small shops – create an environment that cannot be duplicated or cloned. While it is nice to plan every second of every day, Genoa begs to be taken at a slower pace.

Via Garibaldi is a good starting point for a review of Genoa’s history. The street dates back to 1550 when the prominent families called this area their neighborhood. Today 14 buildings that include the Town Hall, banks, shops and commercial space populate the street that is recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage site (also included Palzzi dei Rolli).

See Genoa with a Professional

Paola Terrile

No matter how many guide books you read, or how many websites you visit, it is impossible to truly enjoy a new city without a professional tour guide. In Genoa, I was fortunately assisted in learning about the in/outs of Genoa by charming and smart Paola Terrile

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All photos © Elinor Garely

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