I’d never actually heard of this city until I decided that I wanted to get from Venice to Barcelona – without flying. That’s what I love about slow travel, sure it took me way longer than just hoping on a flight would have done, but I saw so much more because of this.
I caught a bus for 1€ (this was pure luck but I’ll be writing a post soon about getting the best deals on bus fare) from Venice to Genoa, spent a night there, and then carried onwards to Nice the next day.
Genoa (or Genova in Italian) is the sixth largest city in Italy and the largest sea port in the country. Perhaps because of this it feels so far removed from the likes of Rome, Venice, and Florence – so much so that you’d be forgiven for thinking it was in another country all together.
Genoa is slightly untouched by the masses of tourists because of its reputation for being rundown. This is certainly changing though, and the city has undergone a lot of changes since the early 2000s.
So if you do decide to stop off in this city, and see a different side of Italy, here’s my list of things to keep you occupied for twenty hours.
- Stay in OStellin Genova Hostel
This hostel was tricky to find at first, and I spent a long time stood on the main street looking lost
panicking and sweating, until luckily I used my backpacker senses! I followed two people with backpacks on down a dark alley, and thankfully to the door. Then I entered the creepiest stairwell I’ve ever seen, I’m talking horror movie creepy luckily the rest of the hostel was great once I’d walked up the stairs and made it through the main door. And the lovely guy working behind the desk with a friendly smiling face to welcome me was an added bonus.
Aside from the vintage feeling kitchen
I’m a hipster at heart, another reason this hostel was great was because I was reunited with two people I’d previously met in Rome. This was completely by coincidence, and I got to spend a lovely evening with them! This is why I love staying in hostels and backpacking, the phrase ‘it’s a small world’ takes on a whole other meaning when you bump into people again in another city or country.
- Wander the small streets of the Old Town
First port of call would be to ditch the map and wander through the small narrow lanes located in the Old Town. Or you know, keep the map in your pocket in case of emergency, but ditch it in the metaphorical sense. These tiny streets and alley ways are called Caruggi, and walking through them you’ll feel like you’ve been transported back to another time.
Just be careful walking through here at night because it is so easy to get lost. We met an Italian guy in the hostel who was looking to move to Genoa for university, and he was our guide for the night. Without him I’d probably still be wandering these streets, lost, confused and distinctly foreign…
- Walk down Via Garibaldi
Located in the New Town this street is drastically different from the Old Town. Bright and clean with impressive architecture, it’s also home to the Red Palace and the White Palace which are both worth stopping by.
- Stop by the Cattedrale di San Lorenzo
Does this remind anyone of another famous landmark in Italy? No just me?
It reminds me of the Cattedrale di Santa Maria del Fiore – or the Duomo in Florence, just on a much smaller scale and way less crowded too. It’s worth stopping by to marvel at the gothic architecture.
- Visit the old harbour
You can’t really miss the old harbour, which in the summer seems to be where a lot of people gather and becomes a hub of activity. When I was here there was some kind of food and drink festival going on in the evening. We were kind of clueless but ended up figuring out that you needed to queue to buy tokens, to then use to purchase food and drink. We bought some really nice and cheap red wine to start the night!
Perfect to stroll around during the day and take a rest on some of the many benches scattered around. It’s also home to a large aquarium, which seems very popular with tourists, but isn’t really my kind of thing so I skipped it.
- Visit the main plaza
You’ll find the main square close to the OStellin Genova Hostel and it is architecturally stunning.
If you use the metro to get around this city there’s a station here, and if you get the bus into the city it’s likely you’ll get the metro from the bus stop to this square.
Side note: the metro is really simple to use in Genoa and generally not very busy. It’s just a single line which will seem very odd if you’re coming from a city with many lines like Rome!
In the summer people will be sat all around this fountain soaking up the sun. There’s also a supermarket nearby if you need to stock up on snacks for a long journey ahead, or keep your hunger at bay so that you can remain a social creature and not scare your new hostel roommates.
- Eat proper Italian food and sample pesto
Pesto sauce originates from this city, so how can you not try some when you’re here?!
I got really lucky and as I mentioned earlier met up with two people I’d hung out with in Rome. They’d met an Italian guy in their room who recommended this restaurant to us, and we all went together. I never would have found this place on my own. It’s very traditional and infamously hard to get a table in, lucky for us we had the Italian dude with us.
They originally told us to come back in 45 minutes, we wandered off to go and get wine from the festival, and to be fair we were a little late returning so we were told our table had gone. But the moment our Italian friend spoke up – in Italian obvs – suddenly we had a table again!
Unassuming from the outside – apart from the groups of locals waiting outside and sipping wine – this place was an amazing surprise.
The food was delicious and affordable, we split the bill and each paid 10 euros for a bottle of wine, a main and a dessert too. I had a simple pasta and pesto which is not normally my kind of thing, but I figured when in Genoa, and it was by far the best meal I’d had in a long time.
I’m not entirely sure of the name, but from my research
how pretentious does that sound I think it’s called ‘Cavour 21, Trattoria Genovese’, and it’s located up some steps – not far from the harbour. Just ask at your hostel though as it seems to be well-known amongst locals. Myself and the two girls I’d met were the only non-Italians in this place.
So maybe brush up on your Italian if you do decide to visit, or bring an Italian friend with you who can translate!
I hope I’ve convinced you to visit Genoa,
don’t tell anyone but I actually preferred this city to Venice and could have stayed longer! I have very fond memories of the 24 hours I spent here, which I will treasure forever.