Difference between revisions of "Genoa"
Revision as of 06:04, 18 March 2013
Genoa (Italian, Genova) is a historical port city in northern Italy, the capital of the Region of Liguria. Genoa today, as a tourist attraction, is often shadowed by cities such as Rome or Venice, even though it has a long history as a rich and powerful trade centre. However, with its multitude of hidden gems behind cozy alleways, excellent cuisine (notably fish and seafood), rennovated old port, beautiful sights (including one of Europe's biggest aquariums), and its position as the European Capital of Culture in 2004 have made the birthplace of explorer Christopher Columbus an enticing place which is gradually becoming more included in the touristic market. With pastel-coloured terracotta-roofed houses, artistic churches, lovely seaside villas, and also several luxurious boutiques, Genoa is a must see if you want to experience the "quintessential" Italy.
Venice, Rome, Milan, and Florence are of course the most known and admired towns in Italy. When moving to north-western Italy (Milan, Turin) it is nevertheless absolutely worth staying for a couple of days or a weekend in Genoa. The city is a good base to explore the Italian Riviera and world famous places like Portofino and the Cinque Terre.
Paolo Coelho wrote: "Among the marvels of Italy, it will take some digging to find the beauties of Genova, but it is worth visiting it. I remember walking there with a friend, when she suddenly said: “Let’s stop for a bit. I can’t stand this orange color!”". The fact is the more you stay the more you will enjoy and appreciate the town. A place where you discover daily new surprises, even if you stay for years.
The city may be less known by major tourist operators, but its splendor is often hidden inside the narrow streets of the historical center, called "vicoli".
Genoa is a sort of decayed glorious port town, whose decay, however, is what makes it so interesting and pretty. The facades of grand palaces are hidden in scruffy, yet enticing alleways, and there are really curious treats for anyone in virtually every alley. The city is your "typical" Italian one - quite sunny (during summer), with Mediterranean-looking houses topped by red terracotta roofs, filled to the brim with outdoor cafes and bars, with lots of tiny and quirky alleways, elegant designer shops, and restaurants. Today, also, the old port has been rennovated, and currently contains some funky avant-garde modern architecture, a delightful marina, and several seaside bars and shops.
The Aeroporto di Genova - Cristoforo Colombo  provides several daily flights from other major European cities such as Rome, London, Munich, Paris and Madrid. From the airport it is fairly easy to rent a car or take a shuttle (bus no. 100, also called Volabus) to the city center.
Genoa can be easy travelled to by train from Milan, Turin, Rome, Tuscany (Pisa, Livorno and Florence (changing train in Pisa or Viareggio)) and France (There is a direct train connecting with Nice). There are two main train stations in Genoa, Brignole and Principe. Brignole serves most local routes and provides access to many bus lines. Principe serves local as well as long distance trains and many trains from Milan and beyond will only stop at this station.
Coming from Milan you can reach Genoa via the A7-E62 (approx. 145 km). Mind though that the last part, from Serravalle to Genoa, is incredibly twisty, making you wonder if you’re still on the highway or accidentally have taken a wrong turn into a motordrome. It’s therefore advisable to take an alternative route, turning off the A7 at the deviation near Tortona and heading on the A26/A7, following Genova, Ventimiglia, Savona, Voltri; making it a longer (+20 km), but certainly safer and more comfortable trip, unless you want to spice up you journey and observe how (some) Italians drive. The same highway is less twisty northbound.
Coming from Turin you can either take the A6/E717 to Savona (137 km) and then go to Genoa following the beautiful, but twisty A10 coast highway (an other 45 km) or follow the Genova Piacenza indications you'll find on the ringroad heading south. This latter is the shorter alternative (170 km total), but offers fewer sightseeing opportunities.
Coming from the French Riviera just follow the highway A10 and enjoy the sight (approx 160 km from the French border). If you're tempted to avoid the toll roads, be aware that it will take you at least three or four times as long although you might get better views.
Coming from Tuscany you can take the A12 from Rosignano to Genoa; mind that you must have snow chains on board between the gates of Carrodano and Sestri Levante when travelling from November 1st to March 31st, even though snow is seldom a problem here.
Genoa can be reached via Eurolines coach from many European countries. Long distance buses also run from Nice.
Genoa is an important port, and has many ferry services. Grandi Navi Veloci crosses from Barcelona weekly, and takes about eighteen hours. It also offers a weekly crossing to Tangiers, which takes around forty-six.
Locals will say driving around the city is somewhat faster than public transportation (traffic jams at rush hours notwithstanding), but once you have reached your destination you are faced with the nightmare and frustration of looking for a nonexistent parking spot. It is not just chance that most locals switched from cars to scooters - to the extent that even finding a spot for a scooter has become difficult too. All attractions within the center are in walking distance or well served by public transportation, therefore a car is of no use at all. If you still decide to drive into the city, don't bet on available street parking (there are street parking fees anyway) go directly to a parking garage and hope not all of them are full. If you think of driving to the beach on a sunny weekend day within Genoa or in another town along the coast, forget it. Finding a parking spot in walking distance to your beach is an once-in-a-lifetime event. Use public transit instead.
Public transportation will probably be your best bet within the city. The bus network is operated by AMT and services the whole city until 1 AM at night. Be sure to check routes and timetables you need because the system can be somewhat confusing, e.g. some routes only travel at certain times and are replaced by other similar ones with different numbers at those times. There is also an underground line connecting the main square, piazza De Ferrari, with the northwestern neighborhood of Rivarolo, serving the historical center, the Porto Antico touristic area, the Stazione Principe main train station and the ferry terminal at Dinegro along the route. As is common in Italy, tickets are not sold on board (except at night or on Sundays, then at an increased price); you need to buy your ticket before boarding the bus at a newspaper kiosk or a tobacconist's or an underground station, and validate it at a punching machine once you have boarded the bus. For trains, purchase a ticket from a machine at any underground station, and validate it at a punching machine before boarding. Single tickets cost 1,50 € and are valid for 100 minutes after validation for an unlimited number of travels in any direction. A daily pass costs 4,50 €, while a group daily pass valid for 4 persons costs 9,00 €. Those passes must be validated at the beginning of your first ride.
There are also a number of public elevators and cable railways connecting the center with the neighborhoods on the surrounding hills. The upper stations of the Ascensore di Castelletto elevator and of the Funicolare del righi railway offer an astonishing view of the city.
Trenitalia suburban and regional trains travel in east-west direction along the coast connecting all the coastal neighborhoods/suburbs with the city center. This is the most convenient means of transportation if you plan to see some peripheral districts or towns along the coastline. AMT tickets and passes are valid on Trenitalia trains within the city limits (Voltri and Nervi); single tickets only allow one train ride, and you will need to validate them again at the yellow punching machines at the stations - check for the correct validating space with the name "Trenitalia" on the back side of the ticket. If you are traveling outside the city limits to visit some outer towns, you will have to buy a ticket at a Trenitalia counter or machine. It is advisable to buy return tickets right away because there are usually no ticket counters at minor stations and chances are good that the ticket machines there won't work, turning buying a ticket (or discussing with the conductor on the return train) into a hassle.
The historic center of Genoa is serviced by bus only around some important squares and streets (Piazza Acquaverde for Stazione di Piazza Principe, Piazza della Nunziata, Largo Zecca, Piazza Corvetto, Piazza Caricamento). Its caruggi alleys are so narrow that no vehicular traffic is physically possible, and they have to be visited on foot - distances are definitely not huge anyway.
AMT also operates a public boat service called Navebus (check the timetables here: ) connecting the Porto Antico to Pegli. It is a great and cheap way to have a look at the city from the sea; once in Pegli, you can pay a visit to the Villa Pallavicini public park.
Private boat services start from the Porto Antico and travel along the coast to Camogli, San Fruttuoso, Portofino, Chiavari and the Cinqueterre.
There are plenty of things to do in Genoa. A lot of young kids spend their time playing with their friends in public pools and share ice-creams in the summer time. There are a lot of paintings in the town and on the brick floors which a lot of people admire. Fishing for catfish is also a hobby most people have.
Italian language courses organised by Scuola Tricolore . Whether you are interested in group or individual courses, in the morning, afternoon or evening, Scuola Tricolore offers high quality tuition and for those interested accommodation and leisure activities. Courses available in the morning, afternoon and evening.
Italian Luanguage School A Door to Italy  - the ideal school for foreigners who like to improve their language skills. You can ask for private teachers and personalized lessons even outside of the schoolfacilities.
Genoa is great for shopping. You have the designer boutiques, department stores, food shops, and antique dealers.
Downtown, for those who want luxury boutique browsing, you can find some world class fashion-related shopping along Via XX Settembre, starting from Piazza Ferrari.
There are a lot of small, picturesque and tourism-related shops in the centre. These are mainly in the central squares and the small alleways. You can find souvenir stalls, kiosks selling books and snacks, sailor-themed stalls, traditional flea markets, modern and antique furniture dealers, little bookstores and tiny art galleries.
There is a large shopping center called Fiumara located near Genova Sampierdarena train station. To reach Fiumara, take a local train to Genova Sampierdarena station and exit the station. Turn left and go under a bridge, near which there is a sign to the left for Fiumara. The shopping center is visible from the other side of the bridge and is about 10 minutes walk. The mall can also be reached by car or bus routes 1, 2, 4 and 22. The mall is open from 9AM-9PM Monday - Sunday. Nearby there is a theater and activity center which includes a pool hall, bowling alley and restaurants.
The vast majority of places charges service for a fixed amount per person (called coperto), as is custom in Italy. A trattoria, cafe or bar will not charge this fee for lunch, and this is often a good place to get pasta or a sandwich in the afternoon. Restaurants are open from approximately 12:30 - 3:00PM for lunch and 7:30 - 10:00PM for dinner.
Streets in Genoa are usually quite safe, especially in the main tourist areas and residential areas. Downtown, Quarto dei Mille, Quinto del Mare and Nervi are all safe districts during the day as well as the evening.
However, some limited areas in the historical centre off the main alleys might be subject to petty crime or just be uncomfortable for the general tourist (e.g. prostitutes waiting for clients in the middle of the day in dark side alleys just a couple of blocks away from a touristic attraction). Especially north of Piazza Caricamento/via Banchi/via Luccoli, around the Via Pré and in the Stazione Principe area, it is advisable to exercise extra caution and follow your common sense, e.g. avoid walking into narrower, darker, deserted alleys off the main paths unless you know where you are going. Pay special attention to your surroundings, avoid displaying flashy items and do not carry large amounts of cash or valuables.
Muggings or violence towards tourists are practically unheard of, however deft pickpockets are not seldom. Be particularly careful in the via San Lorenzo/via San Bernardo/via San Donato area (which is a popular and very crowded nightlife zone for students and young people) and also on city buses.
When walking, you should not expect motorists (especially scooters and bikers) to be particularly disciplined. At unsignalized crosswalks, you might need to insist on your right of way by just starting to cross the road (with caution!), as Italian pedestrians normally do, rather than waiting for motorists to stop. If a car, van or truck has stopped to let you cross, be very careful and always assume there might be a scooter passing that vehicle at high speed without seeing you.
Virtually all beaches in Genoa and surroundings are made of cobbles, rocks and cliffs. The sea floor is normally very steep and you won't be able to touch the ground just some meters away from the shore, hence beware if your swimming skills are not good. When bathing, be extremely cautious as stones under water are mostly covered with vegetation and very slippery. Avoid bathing at all if the sea is not calm: waves that may seem innocent from the shore might be strong enough to turn getting out of the sea into a quite dangerous and scary undertaking, running the risk of being smashed into the shore or into a rock (that you perhaps don't see because it's under water). There is normally no lifeguard service on free public beaches.
Beware of paid parking lot scams. Car drives up to a parking lot, with the typical "push button to receive ticket to enter" deal. Before the driver can push the button, the scammer pushes the button and grabs the ticket for him "to be helpful". But then, in order for the driver to get the ticket -- since he'll need it later on to pay and to exit -- he has to give the "helpful" scammer a few Euro. In essence, the scammer holds the ticket ransom until he gets a few euro as compensation for "helping the driver park".
It is not difficult to find someone who can help you with easy/touristic problems in English, Spanish or French, but the best is of course to speak a little bit of Italian.