Genoa is one of those captivating Italian cities that remain off the tourist radar. When visiting it, it’s great to see both its famous UNESCO World Heritage Sites as well as the hidden corners like a local.
There is no better way to explore Liguria’s capital than with someone who is more than a tour guide: qualified insiders help you save time and avoid tourist traps, and they make the destination come alive with local anecdotes and expert access.
Our interviews provide a unique occasion to have tips and opinions on the territory by a local expert.
Today we meet Simona, one of our insiders for the city of Genoa. Born and raised there, Simona graduated in Cultural Heritage Studies and has been a qualified tourist guide since 2006.
She is a supporter of Genoa Football Club (the oldest active Italian football team with 125 years of activity) and is passionate about cooking: “Farinata, focaccia with cheese, Ligurian polpettone and pasta with pesto are my favourite treats for me and my guests”.
What is your favourite “corner” in Genoa and why?
My favourite place in Genoa is Boccadasse, a small fishing village that is reminiscent of the Cinque Terre for its atmosphere and colours. It is easily reachable from the city centre, even by bus.
Boccadasse is a magical place where we Genovese go for a drink by the sea, to take a walk, enjoy a delicious ice cream in the gelateria near the beach or – why not – simply to bask in the first spring sun or stop and watch the sea.
The place is framed by the rocks and the boats of the fishermen waiting to go out into the sea.
I love to reach Boccadasse at sunset with my scooter, to enjoy the magical atmosphere and a quick local dinner with fish fritters and a nice glass of Ligurian white wine.
What do tourists ask you most frequently about?
The tourists I accompany to discover Genoa are intrigued by the climate. A recurring question is about the frequency of snow in the city. Some ask me if temperatures drop below freezing in winter.
I explain that Genoa is beautiful even in December and January, thanks to the mild climate and the beneficial influence of the sea.
In short, a city to be discovered all year round!
What are the things that strike visitors the most?
There are 2 aspects that I think affect tourists the most and remain in their hearts. One is the magnificence of the Rolli palaces, assets that became a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2006.
Among the tourists’ favourites are those in Via Garibaldi, the local nobility’s Strada Nuova built in the second half of the sixteenth century.
The other aspect, in my opinion, is the atmosphere of the caruggi, the narrow alleys of the historic centre with the typical aromas, colours and flavours of Genoese cuisine.
Where do you eat the best Genoese focaccia? And what is the local dish not to be missed?
For me, the best focaccia in the historic centre is that of the Casana bakery, a few steps away from Piazza de Ferrari. But when I am near Brignole station, another favourite address of mine is Mario’s bakery in Via San Vincenzo.
In Genoa’s panifici you can also find the local dish that you absolutely cannot miss in my opinion: the farinata, a pie made with chickpea flour, water, olive oil and salt. It is a true tradition in Genoa, a simple and much appreciated street food.
You can enjoy it plain or with the addition of other ingredients. My favourite farinata is with gorgonzola or, depending on the season, with artichokes, both added on top.
How many days do you need for an ideal visit?
In my opinion at least 2 days: one to discover the beauties of the historic centre, and the other to enjoy scenarios and views of the seaside districts, such as Boccadasse, Nervi or Pegli, and to discover Genoa from above, through lifts and funiculars.
These are two complementary aspects for a city that seems to be squeezed between the sea and the hills. With an extra day, you should not miss a nice tour of the city’s museums, full of beautiful masterpieces.
The Palazzi dei Rolli are all wonderful. What is your favorite and why?
My absolute favourite is Palazzo Nicolosio Lomellino in via Garibaldi 7, with its splendid secret garden, absolutely unimaginable from the outside: an oasis of peace and tranquillity, beautifully adorned with flowers and trees.
The palace is an architectural jewel built in the second half of the sixteenth century, with fine stucco frescos and decorations. Inside, it hides three wonderful nymphaea (one of which is visible looking out the atrium, which is often open) and even a small mirador.
I particularly like it in the spring, in the afternoon: the flowers and the fruit trees are wonderful and the atmosphere returns to the past.
And your favourite church?
My favourite one, ever since I was a child, was the church of the SS. Annunziata: an artistic jewel that must be seen both for its architectural beauty and paintings.
But another church entered my heart in 2005, when I began to prepare the tour guide qualification exam: it is the church of San Luca. It is small and intimate but at the same time elegant and artistically rich: a small chest of great treasures, an example of a noble church commissioned by an important Genoese family.
Any advice for places where to take photographs with particular or less-known views?
My advice is to move away from the historic centre and go to Pegli to admire Villa Pallavicini. In 2017 it was elected as the most beautiful park in Italy: 8 hectares with many noteworthy scenarios, and not only from a landscape point of view.
My advice is to get there from the sea, if the weather conditions allow it. From Genoa’s Old Port, in the historic centre, you can reach Pegli in less than half an hour.
Share with us an advice as a local
Get on the Zecca-Righi funicular and take the Castelletto lift, then walk down through the typical Ligurian “creuze”: seen from above, Genoa leaves you speechless. And just a simple bus ticket is enough, as the local public transport system includes 12 lifts and 3 funiculars in Genoa: a vertical connection system that facilitates the daily life of the Genoese and fascinates tourists.
Thank you, Simona!