With an international airport just 6km away and with two major railway stations, Genoa is easy to reach and fascinating to explore, with its rich and varied fabric. Take the lift to Spianata Castelletto for a bird’s eye view over the city to the sea; join the locals on the seafront promenade to pretty Boccadasse; head to Mercato Orientale for a colourful celebration of typical flavours; and for a real taste of authentic Genoa, explore the wine bars and restaurants among the atmospheric alleys of the old town.
Genoa: How to get there
Fly into Cristoforo Colombo, located in Sestri Ponente just 6km from the city centre, and enjoy landing on a runway surrounded by water on three sides. There are regular buses into Genoa from the airport.
Cruise ship and ferry terminals connect Genoa to other major ports including Palermo, Barcelona and Tunis, and are just a few minutes’ walk from the Porto Antico in the old town, the focus of the city’s tourism.
Genoa’s two railway stations, Genova Piazza Principe and Genova Brignole, connect the city to the north and west, and south and east respectively. Trains also connect Genoa with cities in the south of France, including Monte Carlo, Nice, Antibes, Cannes and Marseille.
There are also excellent road links, including access to the A7, A10, A12 and A26.
Like much of Liguria, Genoa slopes steeply down to the sea. It’s built in layers, connected by steps and slopes as well as a dozen lifts and funiculars, with residential areas at the top enjoying stunning panoramas. The new town is the central layer, with a startling concentration of Renaissance palaces, an incredible 42 of which form the collective Unesco World Heritage site, Palazzi dei Rolli (open days 13-15 May 2022; visitgenoa.it). The tangle of alleys below makes up the old town, Europe’s largest historical centre. The Porto Antico waterfront development with its famous aquarium and other attractions is at the bottom, while Val Polcèvera, the region’s smallest DOC wine area (just one hectare in 2019), stretches above and around the city.
One Val Polcèvera winemaker bringing the area’s wines into the city through Janua, his shop and museum, is Andrea Bruzzone (see below). He’s also planning initiatives to take wine lovers to the Val Polcèvera vineyards with a ride on the historic Casella narrow-gauge railway from Genoa. Bruzzone’s ‘La Superba’, named with the city’s centuries-old nickname, is a harmonious tapestry of local white varieties including Bianchetta Genovese and Vermentino, from the Coronata subzone of Valpolcevera.
White wines make up around two-thirds of regional production and while there are some very interesting reds too, especially from western Liguria – notably Rossese and Dolcetto and some excellent Granaccia (Grenache) – the whites, especially Vermentino and Pigato, continue to dominate the scene. Several intriguing lesser-known native white varieties are coming to the fore, such as the bright, herby Lumassina, Genoa’s own Bianchetta Genovese (known elsewhere as Albarola), and the rarer Cimixâ (various spellings) that’s cultivated by a handful of producers including Bisson (bissonvini.it) east of the city.
These whites are ideal with seafood and Genoa’s many vegetable-based specialities such as torte (vegetable pies), often made with chard. The city’s celebrated Pesto alla Geovese is taken seriously, made with local DOP basil and olive oil; there’s even a world championship for the best (4 June 2022; pestochampionship.it). The many street food outlets dotting the city specialise in farinata (chickpea pancake) and focaccia which, dense with olive oil, is enjoyed at any time of day from breakfast (dipped in cappuccino) through to evening aperitivi.
Genoa city guide: Where to wine and dine
Antica Trattoria Sa’ Pesta
A real local institution, this historic corner specialises in farinata (chickpea pancake) and vegetable pies (torte) with chard, onion or artichoke, cooked in a wood-burning oven. Take away a few slices or better still, proceed to the simple green and white dining rooms where other traditional dishes on the menu range from cod fritters to tripe, minestrone and Ligurian-style rabbit with olives and herbs.
sapesta.it +39 010 2468336
With its fresh, contemporary style, driftwood decor and young team, this place is a firm favourite with the locals. The menu of imaginative dishes consists mainly of seasonal seafood combined with Ligurian herbs and veg but also braised veal cheek or trofie pasta with homemade pesto, and there’s an enticing range of wines from small producers. The interior is tiny but there are more tables outside on the piazza.
acciughetta.it +39 010 8693918
Best known for its delicious pesto (co-owner Roberto Panizza actually conceived the Pesto World Championships) this delightful trattoria serves some of the city’s best pesto with homemade gnocchi and trofie or trenette pasta, alongside a menu of other genoese specialities. Try the fried starters or the beef meatballs and cheese from the rare Cabannina cattle – and don’t miss the cheesecake made with tangy prescinsêua cheese and Ligurian sour orange.
www.ilgenovese.com +39 010 8692937
Cantina Storica Culturale Janua
Andrea Bruzzone, who is largely to thank for the Val Polcèvera DOC, renovated this 16th century cellar in Genoa’s old town both as a place to sell his wines and for the pupitres holding his traditional-method Janua (Bianchetta Genovese and Vermentino). Along with his wines, you can find Bruzzone’s inviting range of liqueurs cold-macerated with Ligurian flavours including basil, hazelnuts, roses and citrus fruits.
andreabruzzonevini.it +39 010 3757025
The spacious courtyard garden, unusual in Genoa’s old town, would be reason enough to come here – add to that a cosy interior, friendly service and a traditional menu with numerous vegetarian and vegan dishes with produce from small suppliers, plus an excellent array of Ligurian wines including rarities like the white Cimixà, and it’s a must.
facebook.com/OmbreRosse.Ge +39 010 2757608
Bar degli Asinelli
Join the locals at this simple, old-fashioned wine bar for an evening aperitivo of Corochinato, Genova’s historical aromatised wine, served with fragrant and plentiful focaccia. Made to a secret recipe involving an infusion of 18 herbs and white wine originally from the Coronata subzone of Valpolcevera, it’s refreshing and tasty with a slice of lemon or as a spritz.
[No website] Via Canneto il Lungo 78R +39 010 2468703
An excellent contemporary seafood restaurant attached to the Best Western Plus City hotel, though under separate management. Chef Mirco specialises in fresh takes on typical seafood for a menu that might include octopus in a curry bun or prawn-filled pasta with a creamy smoked almond sauce. Focaccia, pasta, bread and desserts are homemade and the extensive wine list has a good choice of Ligurian labels.
locandapesciolino.it +39 010 5532131
Host Danilo Cavo has created the perfect balance between relaxation and refinement at his wine bar in Genova’s historic centre with wooden floors, a marble bar and velvet stools. The impressive, mostly Italian wine list is complemented by a small but appealing menu of dishes such as pesto lasagne, leek pie and crostini with burrata and anchovies.
facebook.com/Cantine-Matteotti-288391021291750 +39 010 8687000
MOG – Mercato Orientale Genova
Coming as quite a surprise among the high-street stores of Via XX Settembre, this historic food market gathers all the best of genoese gastronomy under one roof. Browse the stalls then make for the MOG food hall at the heart of the market and settle at the wine bar corner for a DIY dispenser tasting of local wines. Events include producer-led wine evenings every first and third Thursday of the month.
moggenova.it +39 010 8973000
A tiny shop dating from 1855 specialising in corks and other wine, olive oil and beer-making paraphernalia. Though the Luico family now only handcraft corks for unusual formats, they once made them all themselves from Ligurian cork oak. You can still see some of the old equipment and the various stages involved.
luicoenologia.com +39 010 588445