Do you want to visit Genoa like a local? Then check the 5 things to do to live the city like a true Genoese.
Genoa is a rich in history and traditions: an industrial city with a romantic side.
A former maritime powerhouse squeezed between the sea and the mountains, the city has been able to get the best out of its territory, as we can appreciate today in its gastronomy.
Often, hasty visitors only spend a night or two in the city, favouring other seaside destinations along the coast or the beautiful Cinque Terre.
But Genoa deserves to be visited and explored in depth, to discover its hidden treasures and picturesque, scenic views that inspired artists and songwriters, such as Fabrizio De Andrè.
Genoa is much more than the classic spots for tourists, such as the famous Aquarium, the Sea Museum or the lighthouse (called La Lanterna): it boosts many places to explore that are off the beaten track.
So we created a list with our suggestions to make you experience the city like a genuine Genoese, to discover those little gems that make your visit special.
Here are the 5 things to do in Genoa to enjoy the city like a local: from the hub of the nightlife to the unmissable trattoria dishes, passing through the best panoramic point of the city.
5. Marvel at the view from the belvedere
Belvedere Castelletto is considered the most fascinating viewpoint in Genoa.
The view sweeps free at 360 degrees, boosting "postcard views" between the city rooftops and towers up to the sea, passing through the port, the real beating heart of Genoa.
Belvedere Castelletto is like a "balcony" overlooking the city: to enjoy the view, walk up until the summit or take the liberty-style lift to the Castelletto Ponente stop, starting from Piazza Portello.
Entering the belvedere park is free and definitely recommended: you will not only find tourists, but also many Genoese who want to appreciate the city from above. Get an ice cream or a drink in the local bars and explore the narrow streets winding around the viewpoint.
Until 1849, in this area lied the fortress of Castelletto: the building was demolished by the Genoese as they were afraid that it could have been used against them in case of enemy occupation. The belvedere was built here to replace the fort and it's now one of Genoa's gems.
4. Shop like a local in the old town
Genoa has been a major centre for commerce in the past: this vocation still echoes today, so shopping lovers will not be disappointed when in town.
In Genoa you will find a great variety of big chain and craft shops for your purchases: major brands of international fashion and low cost chains stand side by side, along with traditional shops and markets.
Among the streets dedicated to shopping, the most popular are Via San Vincenzo and Via XX Settembre.
Via XX Settembre is the beating hearth of Genoa, full of life and shops, with enchanting facades and ancient buildings. Here you will find all kinds of commercial activities, especially clothing with international and Italian brands. Right on Via XX Settembre is the Mercato Orientale, the most famous market in the city, where you can see the locals shopping for fresh fish, fruit, meats, spices and much more.
Via San Vincenzo, on the other hand, is a completely pedestrian area and is the place used by the Genoese to go for a stroll, as well as being well-known for shopping opportunities.
For luxury shopping and big names, head to the Galleria Mazzini, inspired by the chic galleries of Paris, or to Via Roma, very elegant and popular among locals.
In the narrow streets of the center of Genoa you will also find many craft shops, ateliers and emporiums where you can buy the most sought-after products.
If you want to buy a 100% Genoese souvenir, focus on typical food products, such as a jar of tasty basil pesto (alternatively walnut or broad beans dressing are very tasty) or a packet of delicious canestrelli biscuits.
3. Eat in a traditional trattoria
The "trattorie" are the traditional tavernas in Genoa: these are the ideal place to enjoy local cuisine in a friendly and informal atmosphere.
The more modern and original restaurants have not completely replaced these small "temples" of Genoese cuisine, which remain the perfect places to taste traditional dishes.
The quintessential Genoese plate is pesto, the popular green sauce made with local ingredients, such as basil, oil, garlic, pecorino cheese and pine nuts (and which gets along well with the tasty Ligurian pastas, such as trofie).
Every self-respecting trattoria offers at least one variant of pasta with pesto: do not leave Genoa if you have not first tried this dish, with its strong and unmistakable taste. If you are in the city centre, search for the "Trattoria Rosmarino" to try their pesto and then stroll along Via XX Settembre for some shopping.
Those who want to try their hand at Ligurian cuisine can sign up for a one-day course to learn how to cook pesto.
But there are also many other dishes to try, such as the famous focaccia (served in a variety of flavours and shapes), pansoti (a stuffed pasta often served with walnut sauce) or panigacci (a delicious round bread served with cold cuts and creamy cheeses). In winter, order the tasty Ligurian minestrone.
Obviously, Genoese gastronomy draws a lot from the sea, boosting a great variety of fish dishes (try the cod fritters or anchovies as an appetizer): one of the Genoese cornerstones for fish is the "Trattoria dell’Acciughetta".
2. Enjoy the nightlife in Piazza delle Erbe
Piazza delle Erbe is located in the heart of Genoa and is one of the major local meeting spots for a drink, an aperitivo or for the whole night.
You will always find a seat for you, as there is a myriad of small tables and umbrellas (it's great especially in summer or when it rains) where you can relax and meet friends. The outdoor tables are framed by the picturesque tall houses of the centre of Genoa: location-wise you can't go more "local" than that.
This square is the hub of the Genoese nightlife: young people (and not so young people) flock to the square on weekends, both in the afternoon and in the evening until late: highly recommended especially on spring and summer evenings.
One of the cornerstones of Genoese clubs is "La Libreria", a retro drinking spot, elegant and very popular, perfect for cocktails and aperitifs. There are several other places that are worth a visit, such as "Bar Berto" or "Biggie Cocktails & bistrot".
If you wonder about the origin of the name, Piazza delle Erbe is so called because in the past this was the spot for peasants willing to sell their fruit and vegetables to Genoese citizens.
1. Discover a charming fishermen village
The picturesque fishermen village of Boccadasse is one of the unmissable places in Genoa.
The look of Boccadasse hasn't changed much in the past two hundred years ago: narrow streets and pastel houses overlooking a small cove dotted with fishermen's boats.
Enjoy the waterfront strolling along Corso Italia up to the Church of Sant’Antonio (still housing many ex-votos related to the sea dramas of the local sailors). You can end your walk at the delightful Boccadasse beach, with its pebbles and clear water, or stroll up Via Nicolò Dodero and then go down along Via al Capo di Santa Chiara, to enjoy some spectacular views of the Ligurian Sea.
The Genoese love this corner of Genoa, especially in spring and summer.
This small neighborhood is perfect for drinking and eating until late or for an aperitif in the typical narrow Genoese alleys. If you are hungry, eat a typical Ligurian focaccia or look for a friggitoria and enjoy a snack like a true local: the delicious mixed fried seafood served in the paper cone.
Boccadasse was loved by Italian songwriter Fabrizio De Andrè, who dedicated the song “Crêuza da me” to this part of the city. Not only that, the neighborhood gave its name to the “Boca” district in Buenos Aires (and therefore also to the Boca Juniors football team) since it was inhabited by Genoese immigrants.
You can reach Boccadasse by bus 42 from Piazza Dante in about 30 minutes, or walk for an hour from the city center along Corso Italia.