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The cosmopolitan capital of the Liguria region of Italy, Genoa is a hidden gem rich with history and modern temptations. Thanks to its location on the Gulf of Genoa in the Ligurian Sea, the city has been a key port on the Mediterranean throughout history. Genoa, packed with impressive landmarks, is nicknamed "La Superba," or "The Proud One," and was named a European Capital of Culture in 2004. From exploring the UNESCO-listed old town to indulging in sumptuous food and wine, there are countless things to do and ways to discover the glory of the ancient city.
Genoa is filled with an almost overwhelming number of sites to see. Decide which of its historic landmarks to prioritize, and pepper your itinerary with breaks in fantastic parks or refreshing trips to the beautiful towns along the East Riviera.
Palazzi dei Rolli - Palazzi dei Rolli is a group of 42 splendid palaces opened in 1550 as a place to gather Genoa's most important families. Together with Le Strade Nuove (New Roads) that it stands on, Palazzi dei Rolli is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The most famous of the structures are Palazzo Rosso, Palazzo Bianco, and Dorla Tursi, which now host part of the Museums of Strada Nuova. Walk along the streets of Le Strade Nuove to admire the elegant architecture of the buildings rich with decadent details.
Old Harbor - The old harbor is the historic part of the Port of Genoa where trade and merchant ships could access the city. The area has been redeveloped in recent years, restoring historic buildings like the Cotton Storehouse. Visit the enormous Aquarium of Genoa—the second largest aquarium in Europe originally built for the Genoa Expo '92—and the Museum of the Sea, which is the largest maritime museum in the Mediterranean.
Nervi - A quatiere or subdivision of Genoa, Nervi is a seaside paradise with one of Italy's most stunning promenades, the 1.2-mile (2-km) Passeggiata Anita Garibaldi. The walkway stretches along the ocean cliffs, offering breathtaking views of the Mediterranean. Stop in Nervi to see the Galleria d'Arte Moderna, which showcases works by Italian artists from the 19th and 20th centuries, and immaculate gardens of the park Parchi di Nervi. Nervi is also close to Portofino, a quaint fishing village and popular holiday resort.
There's no shortage of sights to see in Genoa, from the incredible palaces of Palazzi dei Rolli to flourishing parks like Villetta Di Negro and the Aquarium of Genoa. Feast your eyes on the rich architecture that fills the city, including the fresco-filled Palazzo Reale, also known as Palazzo Stefano Balbi, and the Gothic-Romanesque Genoa Cathedral, also called the Cathedral of Saint Lawrence. The main square of Genoa, the Piazza de Ferrari, is surrounded by historic sites such as the Palace of the Doges, the neoclassical Theatre Carlo Felice, and the Christopher Columbus House.
Stimulate all your senses while staying in Genoa. Spend time in the parks of the city—Genoa boasts 880,000 square feet (82,000 sq m) of public parks in the city center alone—and soak in the immaculate beauty that characterizes the city. The Parks of the Forts, the largest park system in town, is one of the widest urban natural areas in Italy, and the Villa Durazzo-Pallavicini features an extensive grotto representing a Dantesque Inferno where visitors could previously venture below the manmade lake. Learn about the art history of Genoa, which birthed the Genoese School of painting and produced many Genoese Baroque and Rococo artists. The Flemish painters Rubens and Van Dyck contributed to the success of the Genoese School, and the churches of the city are filled with frescoes by artists like Giulio Romano and Barnaba da Modena. Cuisine is a must in Genoa, with restaurants and eateries offering up tempting plates of fresh seafood and Mediterranean flavors. Foodies and gourmands should indulge with historic confections, and wine lovers can savor varietals from around the country to get a taste of Genoa's culinary expertise.