After I got a cheap ticket to Italy, well-meaning Italians tried to dissuade me from visiting Genoa. I thought for a moment that I should listen to them. I knew Italy had a lot to offer tourists, but I wasn’t really interested in doing anything close to the Rick Steve’s itinerary for my first visit. Aside from my slight obsession with the Count of Montecristo, I was betting that Genoa, also the sister city to Columbus, Ohio, would be delicious, historical and not filled with tourists.
When I arrived in Genoa mid-April, it was sunny and tourist groups were non-existent. Surprisingly, even my hostel, the Abbey Hostel (that used to be a nunnery), did not offer excursions. Thus, I booked a day tour on Viator which was a bit pricey at $160 for what it was. The guide, Karl, was not Genovese, but the bright side was that we did go to interesting places like the elegant but humble CambiCafe, the majestic Palazzo Reale and had a drink beachside in Bocadasse.
With history starting at 4 BC, there’s a lot more than a day tour could include. Three hundred years before Airbnb, Genoa developed a system of public lodging in private residences called the Palazzi dei Rolli . Now these 42 palaces are UNESCO world heritage sites and some are open to the public. By walking through the Centro Storico (historic old town), these former palaces, Madonna statues, and frescos appear in unexpected places which offer serendipitous surprises and superb photo opportunities.
Rounding out my visit, was a great deal of eating regional specialties including focaccia, farinata, pesto and minestrone. The unsuspecting Pizzeria Er Gringo was my go-to spot for farinata, the delicious, addictive chickpea flatbread. Tasting the warm focaccia at Focacceria Mario was close to a transformational experience as the bread with olive oil melted in my over-salivated mouth. Handmade trofie al pesto at Trattoria da Mario’s and flavorful minestrone from Maria’s educated my tastes buds on how amazing authentic Italian food really does taste.
Even though Genoa is not a popular tourist destination, my trip was a very satisfying, sensorial adventure. A few days or weeks visiting palaces, studying the history and eating in this port town could introduce you to a new facet of the wonders of Italy, that is not so crowded.
Have you gone to Genoa? Have questions or tips to share? Find me on Twitter to join the conversation!
Short story by L.B. Lewis for December 12, 2016. Copyrighted. All rights reserved.