A cradle of culture and culinary classics on the romantic Italian Riviera

Once predominantly a port town with the requisite amount of grit, Genoa has come into its own as a hub for art, culture and miles of white-pebbled beaches. Colourful buildings criss-cross its hillsides, old streets reveal hidden palaces and fountain-filled courtyards, and its promenade is the perfect sunset-toasting spot. Meanwhile, the most famous sights of the Ligurian Riviera are just a train ride – or boat hop – down the coast.

Things to Do

Gateway to the Italian Riviera, with its glittering towns and revitalised fishing villages, Genoa is also the capital of the passegiata – an early evening stroll along the promenade. Take the sea air – gelato in hand – on Genoa’s own harbourfront, or head to pastel-coloured Portofino, palm-fringed Rapello or postcard-worthy Boccadasse. Genoa’s harbour is also a yachting haven; see Cinque Terre’s colourful villages from a different perspective on a day trip by boat.

With 2,000 years of history, galleries brimming with art and a fine line in breath-taking architecture, Genoa is a cultural capital – without the crowds. The city’s gems are best discovered slowly, on wanders through its atmospheric maze of caruggi – old streets – keeping your eyes open for palazzi. Make tracks to the Musei di Strada Nuova to get up close to dramatic works by Rubens and Van Dyck, and to the Royal Palace Museum for your fill of stuccowork, frescos and 18th-century grandeur. 

You’ve not tasted pesto until you’ve tried it in Genoa. Genovese basil and Ligurian extra-virgin olive oil come together for the most fragrant bowl of comfort food. Make like a Genoese and dip the region’s most loved bread – the focaccia – into your morning cappuccino. Or bakery hop in the afternoon to snack on slice after slice, laden with fresh toppings from tomatoes to prosciutto. 

Top Tip from SLH

Time your visit to Genoa with one of its twice annual Rolli weekends for exclusive access to many of its sumptuous noble palaces – closed to the public for the rest of the year.