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A Cumulative Ticket  -- Admission to Genoa’s major palaces and art galleries is grouped together on the Card Musei (12€ for 1 day, 16€ for 2; 14€ and 20€ respectively also gets you unlimited use of the city’s public transport), which includes entrance to the principal palaces, the Museo Sant’Agostino, San Lorenzo, the Galleria Nazionale di Palazzo Spinola, the Museo di Palazzo Reale, and a handful of other museums around town, plus a discount on admission to the aquarium and movie theaters. Pick it up at any city museum, the airport tourist office, or in one of several bookstores downtown (www.visitgenoa.it).

 

Historic Squares & Streets

Piazza Dante -- Though most of the square is made of 1930s office buildings, one end is bounded by the twin round towers of the reconstructed Porta Soprana, a town gate built in 1155. The main draw, though, is the small house (rebuilt in the 18th c.), still standing a bit incongruously in a tidy little park below the gate, said to have belonged to Christopher Columbus’s father, who was a weaver and gatekeeper (whether young Christopher lived here is open to debate). Also in the tiny park are the reconstituted 12th-century cloisters of Sant’Andrea, a convent that was demolished nearby.

Piazza San Matteo -- This beautiful little square is the domain of the city’s most acclaimed family, the seagoing Dorias, who ruled Genoa until the end of the 18th century. The church they built on the piazza in the 12th century, San Matteo, contains the crypt of the Dorias’ most illustrious son, Andrea, and the cloisters are lined with centuries-old plaques heralding the family’s many accomplishments, which included drawing up Genoa’s constitution in 1529. The church is open Monday to Saturday 8am to noon and 4 to 5pm, and Sunday 4 to 5pm. The Doria palaces surround the church in a stunning array of loggias and black-and-white-striped marble facades denoting the homes of honored citizens—Andrea’s at no. 17, Lamda’s at no. 15, Branca’s at no. 14. To get there, take bus no. 18, 19, 20, 30, 32, 33, 35, 37, 40, 41, 100, 605, 606, or 607.

Via Garibaldi -- Many of Genoa’s museums and other sights are clustered on and around this street, one of the most beautiful in Italy, where Genoa’s wealthy families built palaces in the 16th and 17th centuries. Aside from the art collections housed in the Galleria di Palazzo Bianco and Galleria di Palazzo Rosso, the street contains a wealth of other treasures. The Palazzo Podesta, at no. 7, hides one of the city’s most beautiful fountains in its courtyard, and the Palazzo Tursi, at no. 9, now housing municipal offices, proudly displays artifacts of famous Genoans: letters written by Christopher Columbus and the violin of Nicolo Paganini (which is still played on special occasions). Visitors are allowed free entry to the buildings when the offices are open: Monday through Friday 8:30am to noon and 1 to 4pm. To get there, take bus no. 19, 20, 30, 32, 33, 35, 36, 41, 42, 100, 605, or 606.

Tours, Vistas & Whale-Watching

The Genoese for centuries have provided large boats to take passengers somewhere else. More recently, they have become proud purveyors of their own city’s sights, both by land and by sea. A host of companies will take you out on the water to see the skyline and the whales, and through the seaside streets in an open-top bus.

The Consorzio Liguria ViaMare ([tel] 010-265-712; www.liguriaviamare.it or www.whalewatchliguria.it) offers a range of cruises that depart from the Porto Antico, near the aquarium, and go to Portofino, Camogli, and Alassio, as well as nighttime harbor cruises and whale-watching expeditions. For the whale watches, led by marine biologists from the World Wildlife Fund, you must check the schedule closely, as they run only most Saturdays in July, August, and September, plus an occasional midweek cruise. 

From April 1 to October 1, open-top tour buses leave every day on the half-hour (11am–5:30pm) from in front of the aquarium, and every 90 minutes in the off season. A quicker and cheaper way to see the entire city is from one of a number of vistas. One view-affording climb is the one on the Granarolo funicular, a cog railway that leaves from Piazza del Principe, just behind the railway station of the same name, and ascends 300m (984 ft.) to Porto Granarolo, one of the gates in the city’s 17th-century walls; there’s a parklike belvedere in front.

An elevator lifts visitors to the top of Il Bigo, the modernistic, mastlike tower that is the new landmark of Genoa, built to commemorate the Columbus quincentennial celebrations in 1992. The observation platform provides an eagle’s-eye view of one of Europe’s busiest ports.

Festivals & Markets

 In June, an ancient tradition continues when Genoa takes to the sea in the Regata delle Antiche Repubbliche Marinare (not to be confused with Venice’s very own Regata Storica), competing against crews from its ancient maritime rivals, Amalfi, Pisa, and Venice, who host the event in turn. Another spectacular—though more modern—regatta takes place here every April, the Millevele, or “thousand sails,” when Genoa’s bay is carpeted with the mainsails and spinnakers of nautical enthusiasts from around the world.

Genoa adds a touch of culture to the summer season with an International Ballet Festival that attracts a stellar list of performers from around the world. Performances are held in the beautiful gardens of Villa Gropallo in outlying Nervi, a late-19th-century resort with lush parks and a lively seaside promenade. Contact the tourist office in Genoa for schedules and ticket information, as well as for the summer concerts staged at different venues, many of them outdoors, around the city.

The Mercato Orientale, Genoa’s sprawling indoor food market, evokes the days when ships brought back spices and other commodities from the ends of the earth. Still a boisterous affair and an excellent place to stock up on olives, herbs, fresh fruit, and other Ligurian products, it is held Monday through Saturday from 7am to 1pm and 3:30 to 7:30pm (closed Wed afternoons), with entrances on Via XX Settembre and Via Galata (about halfway btw. Piazza de Ferrari at the edge of the Old City and Stazione Brignole). The district just north of the market (especially Via San Vincenzo and Via Colombo) is a gourmand’s dream, with many bakeries, pasticcerie (pastry shops), and stores selling pasta and cheese, wine, olive oil, and other foodstuffs.

Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.