Genoa (Genova) is a vast, yet quaint, port city in northern Italy. As the capital of Liguria, the Metropolitan City of Genoa boasts a resident population of 856,000. Tucked away on the Gulf of Genoa in the Ligurian Sea, the New York Times noted that “Genoa isn’t Rome or Florence. That’s part of its charm”.
The charm of this city lies in its indifference to the changes of the surrounding world. Stretching its metropolitan limits across the Italian Riviera, Genoa is a city that seems to have existed forever, and it’s hard to imagine that it could ever cease to be the inspiring and eccentric city that it is. Wandering the medieval alleyways (caruggi) of the historic centre and emerging into the picturesque Piazza de Ferrari is an experience in itself, and is just a humble glimpse into the magic Genoa has to offer.
Arriving in Genoa
As with most travel between and within European countries, I highly encourage travel to and from Genoa by train (in our case, we were on Trenitalia). Most high-speed trains are way more comfortable than traveling by bus, plane, or car, and with a high traveler-to-trip ratio, train travel is one of the most sustainable forms of travel throughout the continent, persisting through the ages as a go-to transportation method.
Train travel in Italy, overall, is just another chance to soak in the beauty of its varying landscapes; from vineyards in their peak seas , to the rocky shores of the Ligurian Sea, any train journey is simply another part of your adventure.
If you do rather plane travel (on a budget, of course), RyanAir offers affordable journies into and out of Genoa to cities all over Europe. However, RyanAir is notoriously known for their busy terminals that may be hard to reach, along with lackluster customer service, so beware that a RyanAir trip isn’t for the light of heart. Looking for discount airline tickest from major European airlines? Skyscanner and FlightHub are great options for go-to third-party sources of cheap flights within Europe.
Staying in Genoa
Genoa not only offers picturesque scenery and incredible tastes, but truly affordable accommodations. As one of Italy’s hidden gems, booking an Airbnb in Genoa is surprisingly cheap, as compared to other major Italian cities. For as little as $26 CAD per night, you can rent a stunning private room in the medieval quarter, or spend $64 CAD per night and rent an entire home just outside of Genoa in Boccadasse (also located on the sea, by the way).
With much of Genoa being a splendor to simply walk and explore, basically any room or suite you book on Airbnb will be a bargain. Plenty of small market stands and grocers around Genoa mean that fresh, local, and beautiful food is available for you to take home and cook – but be sure you stock up for Sundays, as many of these small stands aren’t open, especially anywhere that isn’t a major tourist city.
Sustainable Travel Around Genoa
Whether you’re abroad or at home, the best way to explore a city is via active transportation whenever possible. Throw on some good walking shoes, or rent a bike if you’re in a major city. Taking time to adventure slowly opens you up to a city’s vibrant communities, helps you see the daily goings-on, habits, and hobbies of its inhabitants, and find the small treasures that make a truly great city and great trip- all of which may be missed in a car or on the bus.
However, Genoa is a VERY hilly city, and walking everywhere may be intangible for some (although we spoke with a man who explained that most locals trek up and down hill every day – a task that most Canadians aren’t conditioned to). For those of you looking for an easier way to scope out the incredible hilltop views of the city and the sea, Genoa’s funicular railways are your best bet in getting uphill both comfortably and affordably.
On top of being an adventure in and of itself, your journey on the funicular railway is just another public transportation option, ran by municipal transport operator AMT. AMT connects the entire city with 138 bus lines, 1 main underground line, 10 lifts, 1 ferry, 2 funicular railways *and* 1 rack railway (which dates back to 1901!)
Most Importantly: Where to Eat in Genoa
Italy is any food-lovers dream, and is known worldwide for its high-carb, delicate, and delicious specialties for good reason. Italians believe that real food is made by real people from real ingredients, as it has been for centuries.
As you venture further into Genoa’s center, you’ll find these real, home-grown recipes and specialties all over. From the most bubbly and chewy Foccacia you’ve ever eaten (every Genoan forno, or bakery thinks that their Foccacia is the best), to fresh vegetable and fish stalls scattering the streets, you can rest assured that you will have no difficulty finding a mouth-watering meal around every corner of the city.
“Okay Carlene, Genoa has some carby goodness like every other Italian city – we get it. Where’s the fish?”
Calm down, fish-loving friends. As a seaside metropolis, Genoa – more specifically, Boccadesse – has a variety of restaurants serving fish-based dishes straight out of the Ligurian Sea. Our lovely and charming Airbnb host recommended Ittiturismo Boccadasse, a fish cooperative that offers a menu of fresh, local seafood. Most of the daily menu is caught the same morning and served to you on a beautiful platter. It doesn’t matter if you can’t understand exactly what the server is telling you as he explains the menu (we didn’t) – it’s ALL amazing. With the friendliest service, the tastiest seafood, and an unparalleled seaside atmosphere (this place was tiny, with no more than 8 tables both inside and out), I recommend everyone visiting Genoa take the 30-minute bus ride from Genoa’s center to reach this gem of a village. Before going, make sure you ask your hotel or AirBnB host to help you make a reservation, as this place is at capacity during their hours of operation.
No matter what you choose for breakfast, lunch, or dinner, finish up with some creamy gelato – Hazlenut (nocciola) was the go-to choice throughout our trip.
Bonus for the Manitobans reading this: we stumbled across Manitoba Pizzeria a couple of steps from our Airbnb in the city center, serving up delicious Neapolitan-style pizza made with MANITOBA FLOUR. So good, you guys. If you’re looking for a similar pizza a little closer to home, both Vera and Super Deluxe have mind-blowing pizza that is as close to the authentic stuff you find in Italy.
I’ve been searching for new ways in which we can live more sustainable lifestyles – not only in the day-to-day, but as an overarching theme that runs through everything we do as humans. Travel is a big part of who I am – as it is for many – and as such, it’s vital that we recognize the immense privilege that we have to travel freely, and the far-reaching effects and consequences of global travel.
In Europe alone, a 43% rise in NOx (nitrogen oxides – linked to lung damage) is predicted within the next two decades due to the sheer increase in air traffic alone. “Sustainable tourism” isn’t just a buzzword or hashtag that is floating around the internet for its brief moments of importance – it is a powerful force in combating the negative environmental and cultural impact of traveling worldwide. Epicure&Culture compiled a great list of 8 reasons you should care about sustainable tourism, and I’ve got another blog post on the topic coming up.
As an ethical traveler, whether in our own or one across the globe, we have a responsibility to interact in a healthy way with our surroundings – doing our best to be curious without being disruptive; to be adventurous while being respectful of the existing environment, economy, and cultures.
We owe it to humanity to be responsible for our actions and to explore ethically.