Not So Gritty Genoa

Getting to Genoa (Genova) from Austin was not a piece of cake. After a flight cancellation on our last leg, and 3 additional flights added to our itinerary, we finally arrived at 11pm…10 hours later than we were supposed to. And the icing on the cake? We were the only two passengers on the flight standing at baggage claim without their luggage in-hand. Lovely! For this very reason, we purposely carry on our luggage every trip. However, due to a weight restriction on a domestic flight with Lufthansa, we were required to check our bags at the gate. With the flight cancellation and the re-booking, our bags were (thankfully) not lost…just delayed. “Somewhere in Italy”, they said.

After filing the claim at the airport, we hopped in a taxi and headed to our airbnb (in the heart of the old town). Because the apartment is located in an area where cars are not permitted, we got out at Piazza San Giorgio! Only a two-minute walk, we were told. No problem, right? Let me set the scene. The streets in the old town are dark, winding, narrow, and damp. They call them caruggi. I still blame Google maps, but I took us to the wrong street – it was close (but no cigar)! As you can imagine, we were exhausted from traveling, trying to navigate a new city in the dark, walking down what felt like alleys, searching for a lockbox to gain entry to our home for the next two weeks. It definitely wasn’t butterfly and rainbows getting here but we made it.

We weren’t quite sure what to make of Genoa after the first few mornings of walking around, trying to gain our bearings. It was exactly what we had pictured based on the other blogs we had read (everyone calls it gritty) but on the other hand, it wasn’t. Sure, there was graffiti on every building and the area near the port and Centro storico (old town) definitely needs some sprucing up. But once we had the time to step outside of these two small hubs of this sprawling city, there is grandeur everywhere you look.

We didn’t have much time to explore the first week because we were both working remotely but we did have our mornings to explore, walking around at our own pace, dining at delicious restaurants for lunch (see our what to eat section of the Genoa City Guide), and then making our way back home to start work. Because we were more or less bound to the apartment in the evenings, we opted to buy groceries from the market and cook dinners in! And by market, I mean Eataly! We did purchase a lot of stuff from the local markets as well, however, Eataly had a ton to offer as far as selection and food quality, and it made for a fun shopping trip with stellar views. After dinner, we’d take a short stroll around the neighborhood to get out for a few minutes and walk off the carb overload. The walks make for really good people watching — crowded bars and restaurants with locals and tourists enjoying their evening aperitivo, street musicians playing their instruments, and many out walking their dogs. Che Bella! This is why we love Italian evenings!

The first Saturday in town, we walked to Boccadasse, the nearby fishing village that every blogger said was a must! We arrived shortly before lunchtime and there really wasn’t much going on…or much to see. We snapped a few obligatory photos and then headed back home down the long promenade by the sea. Apparently it is recommended to go there for the sunsets so maybe we didn’t plan our trip there at the right time but since we were walking, we wanted it to be light outside. The best part about the walk turned out to be exploring the beautiful neighborhood of Albaro. The streets were lined with mansions and condo buildings with intricate detailing and stunning architecture! We assume that most visitors/tourists that visit Genoa miss out on the charming neighborhoods like this one and Carignano unless they have the time and energy to explore. The main attractions may all be centrally located, but as the 6th largest city in Italy, there is quite a bit of adventuring to do.

Despite being a “coastal city”, Genoa is quite hilly! Typically, when I think of cities being on the water, I think of the beach, and I think flat. But that’s just what I am accustomed to in the U.S. The Ligurian coast is full of elevation, which I quite liked! The neighborhoods are built up on multiple layers, and if you can make your way up to the top, there are great spots everywhere for panoramic views of the water and the city below! If you get tired of walking up countless stairs or winding roads, find the free “funaculare” (trams) that take you up the hills. There are quite a few of them sprinkled around town – you just have to look for them! Google Maps definitely helps. Stepping off the tram for the first time that took us up just south of the Castelletto neighborhood, felt like stepping into a new city! Tree-lined streets, small parks, gorgeous residential buildings, busy bars and commuters making their way to work. If only the Genoa down below could take some of that greenery and implant it to the streets below. It’s amazing how green spaces can really enhance the look and feel of a place (and in my opinion, that’s what is lacking in the old town and near the port that contributes to Genoa’s reputation of being “gritty”!). It appears that the grand palaces (palazzi) that line the famous Via Garibaldi knew that as well, as most appear to have gorgeous private gardens that are only accessible from inside palace walls (which you cannot see from the street!).

I find myself loving this great city more and more each day. In fact, I think I could live here! Despite an unseasonably rainy May, the weather here is perfect. Cool days and cool nights – my favorite! And although it’s not the most convenient city to get in and out of (or to other parts of Italy for that matter), you get the water, the hills, seafood, focaccia, pesto, pasta, and the Italian Riviera. What’s not to love?!

If you are thinking about visiting Genoa, check out our Genoa City Guide for some suggestions!