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Genoa promises tourists excitement far from the usual beaten track. It is a city of surprising contrasts, which reveal themselves bit by bit. A vibrant city by day and night, a cosmopolitan city open to the world, a city proud of its illustrious history, and the ideal destination to sit back and be inspired.
Genoa has always been at the crossroads of civilizations and peoples, the gateway between East and West, between the Mediterranean and Europe, and it offers visitors the most enchanting of scenery. An amphitheater of mountains surrounds the city, holding it in an embrace all the way down to the sea. Whether you are at the bottom gazing upward or at the top looking down on the gulf, the unrivaled views will always take your breath away.
The most important commercial and industrial port in Italy, over the centuries, Genoa has maintained power, wealth and prestige by controlling trade in the Mediterranean Sea and part of the Black Sea. Renowned throughout the world for trading, the Genoese were great navigators, and so great was the respect that this sea-faring republic and its fleet enjoyed, that foreign powers and fleets were forced to seek support and protection from the Doge, in exchange for substantial taxes.
A UNESCO World Heritage site, the city still preserves and boasts many signs of its past splendor, which are just waiting to be discovered both in the historical center and along the Riviera. Majestic palaces bear witness to this splendid past: discover private mansions and institutional headquarters, such as, the Palazzo San Giorgio. A stone's throw from the sea and the old port, this is the historic seat of the Banco di San Giorgio, the oldest bank in the world.
Walking in the historic center, you can't fail to be impressed by the contrast of light and height: the caruggi, the characteristic Genoese alleyways, seem to be even narrower if you look up, where buildings seem almost to touch.
It is wonderful to "get lost" in the maze of caruggi, step inside typical Genoese shops, breathe in the sea breeze mixed with the aromas from inns and restaurants and delight at the rainbow colors of homemade ice creams on show.
And the contrast of the city's colors and lights is reflected extraordinarily on the facades of buildings and churches, another unmistakable trait of art and architecture in Genoa.
Around every corner, you will find monuments of incomparable beauty that never fail to amaze and delight: the cathedral—a masterpiece of Gothic art with its characteristic white and black stone facade, the Doge's Palace—the historic seat of the Doges and today a dynamic center for arts and culture in the city, the Piazza de Ferrari—the symbolic center of the city with its large fountain, San Matteo church, and the famous Teatro Carlo Felice opera house.
Whatever you do, don't forget to take a walk along Via Garibaldi, where you will find the marvelous Palazzi dei Rolli, a UNESCO World Heritage site since 2006; these old palaces and mansions were made available to the Republic by the city's nobility to receive visiting royalty and dignitaries.
And nothing can quite beat a seaside stroll along the Corso Italia and a visit to the old mariners' neighborhood of Boccadasse.
Unlike most other Italian cities, Genoa has managed to modernize itself using contemporary architectural solutions and become a sort of capital for modern Italian architecture in the process.
The best-known example is the old port, which was completely renovated for the Colombiadi or Expo 92, the celebrations in honor of Christopher Columbus, and the work in large part of Renzo Piano, a Genoan born and bred.
The airy waterfront offers wide open spaces and pedestrian areas and there is something for everyone with its choice of attractions, events and entertainment. The Genoa Aquarium is definitely the main attraction and with its 2500-square meters of exhibition space, it represents the greatest variety of ecosystems in Europe.
You can visit the new Cetaceans Pavilion, the Grande Nave Blu (big blue ship), famous for its Mediterranean reefs, coral reefs and a reconstruction of a Madagascan rain forest, the Biosphere, a glass and steel structure suspended over the sea with a very delicate ecosystem of plants and animals from the rain forest, and the Isola delle Chiatte, an extraordinary floating viewpoint made from the port's barges.
Still in the old port, among other major attractions for young and old alike, we recommend the Città dei Bambini—a fun science and technology center for children, the De Amicis international children's library, the Pirates' Galleon, the Galata museum of the sea—the largest maritime museum in the Mediterranean, and the Congress Center. In the summer, there is plenty going on at the Arena del Mare, a large and evocative venue for concerts and theatrical performances.
And there is plenty to see a short distance from Genoa too. You'll be blown away by the beauty of the Cinque Terre, a perfectly preserved natural paradise just waiting to be discovered. Enjoy the delights of the Riviera of Flowers, stopping off at Portofino, the most elegant and secluded spot in Liguria and eventually reaching San Remo, the undisputed city of flowers with its overwhelming riot of color and perfume.
And finally, don't miss the Fiera di Genova exhibition center, which every year hosts the International Boat Show.
Is there anyone who hasn't heard of pesto or of walnut sauce? Genoese cuisine is a classic example of Mediterranean cooking: in Genoa, you can savor traditional authentic flavors in charming settings overlooking the sea and in the immediate hinterland, all washed down by excellent local wines.
And don't leave the area without trying farinata di ceci, a sort of pancake made from chickpea flour, and timeless focaccia bread, particularly tasty and appetizing drizzled with light Ligurian olive oil.
What are you waiting for? Book your Alitalia flight to Genoa and get ready for a dream vacation in beautiful Liguria.