Do you want to visit Genoa like a local? Then check the 10 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 that has been able to get the best out of its territory. 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 like a local
Genoa: view - Photo credit: Carolina Fanni
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 10 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 points of the city.
10. Marvel at the view from the belvedere
The spectacular view from the Spianata Castelletto.
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.
9. Shop like a local in the old town
The square Piazza Raffaele de Ferrari, perfect spot to start shopping.
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.
8. Genoa like a local: eat in a traditional trattoria
A staple of Genoese cuisine: spaghetti with pesto.
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".
7. 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.
6. Discover a charming fishermen village
The Boccadasse pebble beach with its pastel houses.
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.
5. Spend a day at Villa Duchessa di Galliera Park
Villa Duchessa di Galliera Park
To the west, in the Voltri neighbourhood, there is a large green area off the tourist track and much loved by the Genoese: the Villa Duchessa di Galliera Park.
Genoese people choose this beautiful park to spend beautiful relaxing days walking in the green, among Italian gardens, waterfalls, caves, woods and even deer and baby goats!Precisely because of the presence of animals, this park is perfect for children who can observe the animals up close and feed them.
In addition, many Genovese choose it to celebrate Easter Monday or holidays as there are also several areas equipped for picnics.
Within the park is the Villa Brignole Sale Duchessa di Galliera, a Genoese aristocratic villa that had several owners and hosted several important people in history as Ferdinand II of Bourbon, King Charles Albert, Queen Maria Theresa of Habsburg, and many others.
Today, the Villa is almost entirely occupied by two educational institutions, so the interior spaces are open to the public only on special occasions. Furthermore, you will find a beautiful theatre, the oldest in Liguria, completely restored in 2010 and reopened to the public. Walking through the grounds, you will also encounter the Sanctuary of N.S. delle Grazie, a destination for families and pilgrims, especially at Christmas time.
Villa Duchessa di Galliera Park is easily reached by train by getting off at Genoa Voltri Station and walking for a few minutes. Alternatively, you can take the bus, line 1.
4. Take the Zecca - Righi funicular and reach the heights of Genoa
Diamante Fort - Parco delle Mura - Photo credit: visitgenoa website
One of the most scenic views of the city can be seen from the hillside neighbourhood of Righi, the arrival point of the Zecca - Righi funicular, inaugurated in 1897 and still in operation today.
The Righi district, because of its privileged location, 300 meters above the sea, is one of the favourite neighbourhoods of the Genoese because from this place you have a beautiful overview of the whole city with its walls, castles, Castelletto district, port and the sea on the horizon.
Once at Righi, you can have fun at Adventure Park or enjoy nature walking inside the Parco delle Mura, where in addition to the 17th-century walls built to defend the city, you can also see some forts erected between the 17th and 19th centuries.
Not far from the funicular, you will find the Astronomical Observatory of Genoa, also popular with children. Furthermore, there is no shortage of inns and trattorias where you can enjoy excellent Genoese cuisine with the Genoese!
You can take the Zecca-Righi funicular from Largo Zecca in the city centre. The cost is that of a regular ticket.
3. Enjoy the Anita Garibaldi promenade
Anita Garibaldi promenade - Photo credit: Matteo Niccolai
The Anita Garibaldi Promenade is considered the most beautiful seaside promenade in Genoa. It starts from the small port of Nervi and ends at Capolungo. It is about 2 km long and runs along the cliff, providing fabulous views.This road overlooking the sea was originally a trail used by farmers and fishermen. In 1862 Marquis Gaetano Groppallo had the idea of having this beautiful scenic road built. Today this path is loved by the Genoese and many tourists who visit Genoa every season.
The Genoese do not give up "their" promenade even during the high season when the presence of tourists is considerable. Even if walked daily, the Anita Garibaldi promenade gives a new emotion every time. The best times to take photos and admire a postcard view are certainly sunrise and sunset.
As you stroll by, you can stop and relax on one of the many benches, perhaps enjoying an excellent granita!If you have some time to spare, you can reach Nervi Parks on foot. Here you can visit the remarkable Nervi Museums, enjoy the park with its magnificent rose garden, or have a picnic.
The Anita Garibaldi promenade is easily reached by train, getting off at the Genova Nervi stop.
2. Improvise an aperitif in Vernazzola
Vernazzola - photo credit: visitgenoa website
Vernazzola, a picturesque fishing village centred around the mouth of the Rio Vernazza, is a very atmospheric place with its colourful little houses and its small beach, one of the busiest in town.
The Genoese love this hamlet because although it is close to the city centre, it is immersed in an atmosphere of peace and tranquillity that will make you forget you are in a city.
The best time to enjoy this colourful suburb is definitely sunset.
Especially in the summer, when the little beach is often crowded, Genovese like to improvise an informal aperitif in the late afternoon, admiring the colours of the sunset.
Enjoying a takeaway pizza, a good piece of focaccia or a cone of fried fish while sitting on the beach in good company is truly relaxing...even more if in front of a beautiful view!
From Vernazzola, you can walk to Boccadasse and then enjoy the night out!
1. Try the typical Genoese colazione
Cappuccino and focaccia
The Genoese people's breakfast is definitely tasty and very unique. It is a sweet-savoury breakfast to try at least once.
The Genoese for breakfast love to "dunk" focaccia in cappuccino, caffelatte or coffee. This combination may seem rather strange to a person from the outside. To a Genoese, it is an important ritual that must be performed according to precise rules.
Firstly, breakfast for the Genoese is a moment to be enjoyed calmly, sitting at the bar, possibly reading the news and commenting on it, maybe even complaining a bit!
The focaccia does not have to be either round or rectangular in shape. It must be cut into strips to be puffed into the cup easily.
The challenge lies in steeping the flatbread so that the oil does not remain on the surface. But to learn the correct technique, you need to ask a Genoese for help, observe and practice!