Exploring Italy 7/8 – Genoa

1 – Introduction
2 – Food
3 – Hotels
4 – Public Transportation
5 – Attractions of Venice
6 – Venice
7 – Genoa
8 – Milan


Our walking map of Genoa

Genoa is among the lesser-known Italian cities.  I had never heard of it prior to planning for this trip, and many of my well-traveled friends didn’t know where it was, either.  However, Genoa was an important city-state in the European history.

For hundreds of years, Genoa was a naval powers that dominated the Mediterranean and rivaled Venice.  It was among the pioneers of slave trade.  It introduced to Europe, from its trading post in Asia, the disease Black Death that quickly wiped out half of Europeans.  It was also home to Christopher Columbus, the dude credited for finding the New World.

Contrary to Venice, though, this was a rather quiet port city with few tourists.

Via Balbi, a main street in Genoa, had only a single lane

A neat tunnel with fancy buildings on top

Via Cairoli

Via Garibaldi, named after the general that unified Italy, is at the heart of Genoa where some of the city’s wealthiest people lived

One of the “palaces” on Via Garibaldi

Ting helping me plan out the walking paths


Mountain City

Genoa is a mountain city by the sea, with plenty of hills, stairs, and elevators.  Getting up to the residential neighborhoods can be quite hard if you don’t know your options, but once there the view can be breathtaking.

View from Spianata Castelletto

View from Spianata Castelletto

Albergo dei Poveri

Selfie from the hill


Ferrari Plaza

I was eager to find out which Ferrari Genoa’s central plaza was named after, but there was close to zero information online.  There was no super car here.

Building at Piazza de Ferrari

Fountain in the center of the plaza

Near the plaza were some impressive historic ruins.  It was pretty clear that, unlike Venice, there was little thought here of preserving the cool stuff and presenting them to attract tourists.  It reminded me a lot of Taipei where bits and pieces of history were randomly scattered throughout the city.

Remains of old city wall and gate

House of Christopher Columbus

Backyard (?) of Christopher Columbus


Baltimore of Italy

I thought that Genoa was a lot like Baltimore: (1) it’s a major sea port (Italy’s largest); (2) it’s got a trendy water front where the majority of visitors congregate; (3) at the water front, among tourist traps, is an impressive aquarium (Europe’s largest); (4) neighborhoods can get rough quickly once you leave this area.

Because Hong and I are big aquarium and zoo enthusiasts, part of our reason for visiting Genoa was to check out Europe’s largest aquarium.

Compared to its peers in the U.S. and Asia, this aquarium doesn’t sell itself that well on the exterior

Ting being really into some tropical fish

Hong and I enjoyed the aquarium. It was fun and educational.  Aside from a huge dolphin tank, though, there wasn’t any exhibit or creature that stood out as extraordinary.  Ironically, while these establishments generally target young folks, our kids were far less into it than we were.


The Gritty City

Travel guides described Genoa as gritty, and I learned the meaning of the word by walking through this city.  Many parts of it, just steps away from the main touristy landmarks, were visibly poor, run-down, and dirty.  Dog poop on the sidewalks was not uncommon.  We took one wrong turn and walked through a few blocks reminiscent of Spanish Harlem.  Overall probably still quite safe (petty crimes against tourists were supposedly far lower than Milan and Venice), although it did feel uncomfortable at times.

A neat walking path up a really beat up residential neighborhood

A side street by Ferrari Plaza where many restaurants were (but not open)

Major graffiti on a major street

More graffiti

The police tortures immigrants?  This was written in more than one place, so it must be true

Graffiti in English



There was a restaurant/bar named MADAI.  No idea what it served or whether it was good, but Ma Dai happens to also be the name of a Chinese general in the Three Kingdoms era.  Dynasty Warriors, the game, added the character Ma Dai in the recent versions.  His costume design is so funky and un-Asian, that we had always jokingly called him Christopher Columbus.  Guess what?  Genoa happens to be home to Christopher Columbus… Coincidence?

Restaurant Ma Dai

Ma Dai from Dynasty Warriors


I really enjoyed Genoa, and struggled in my head whether I prefer it over Venice.  It wasn’t as clean, amusement-park-like, or tourist friendly.  However, it’s got a comparable amount of rich history, and its authenticity plus unique landscape was fascinating.  I am glad to have been to Genoa and would definitely recommend a visit.


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