Not many tourists visit Genoa. They should. It has something to offer all the family, from quirky, to great fun or stunningly beautiful.
Genoa, like Trieste, is one of those hilly Italian cities which are a monument to 19th century engineering in terms of getting about. There are funicular railways, rack railways, and lifts, one of which will get you to the quirky Castello d’Albertis, the restored home of Capitano Albertis, an explorer and collector. From the terrace there are wonderful views over the tops of roofs and palm trees to the busy port beyond.
The Family Day Out in Genoa
The position of Genoa (Genova to Italians), in a perfect semi-circle sheltered by mountains, has made it a prosperous port since Roman times. Nowadays, thanks to architect Renzo Piano, the whole port area has become a lively focal point. There are pleasure cruises; the Bigo, a kind of crane which lifts you up in a capsule for a panoramic view; the Bollo (biosphere); and the Aquarium, the largest in Europe. This is very popular, and tickets are timed.
Art and Architecture
The city has a wealth of art collections in lovely buildings. Important works by Flemish artists are everywhere, reflecting the strong commercial links with the Netherlands in the 16th and 17th centuries.
The imposing via Garibaldi, also known as the Strada Nuova, houses three Palazzi which can be visited on one combined ticket: Palazzo Bianco, Palazzo Rosso and Palazzo Tursi. Of the three, Bianco has the most important collection, including a Filipino Lippi cheekily inscribed at the bottom as being the property of Napoleon. If you haven’t yet suffered art fatigue, The Spinola National Gallery shouldn’t be missed. (It’s worth while finding the lift: the stairs are hard work at the end of a day of culture.)
Should you fancy becoming an Argonaut for half a day, you can sail on the Argo, a recreation of the mythical ship, to the Palazzo del Principe. This was, and is, the home of the Doria-Pamphili family whose finest hour as saviours of Christendom came at the Battle of Lepanto, depicted in their many huge tapestries.
In any compilation of the world’s top ten cemeteries, the Staglieno Cemetery must be up there near, if not at, number one. The 34 bus takes you on a tour through the city until you reach what appears to be a flower market. This is the source of all the abundant plants and flowers laid on tombstones over many acres. The 19th century funerary sculpture is amazing, vernacular modernism from Rodin onwards, in long covered galleries or outside in extensive gardens. Spot the lovely bronze art nouveau nymph lost in the woods, or the life-size bride opposite a pile of masks on the tomb of a defunct thespian. Oscar Wilde’s wife is buried here in the Protestant sector.