You don’t particularly need to be in Genoa to visit Genoa. The regional capital of Liguria is conveniently located only a short drive away from popular business destinations, such as Turin and Milan, so that the locals will often consider it for a weekend retreat or a much needed break from their daily routine. There’s something magical about the character of this city, something that stays with you long after you have left. Genoa is mysterious and enthralling, while at the same time being the epitome of openness and multiculturalism. Its maritime tradition has influenced every aspect of the local culture, from the lilting dialect to the souk-like architecture of the old town, from the exotic cuisine to a set of unique words that exist to define concepts that do not exist anywhere else in the world. We already offered you a quick guide to the best things to do in the city for free. Today we thought we’d give you a few extra tips on fascinating and unusual attractions that will help you gain a better understanding of Genoa, its character and its history.
1. Visit Galata Sea Museum
The name Galata comes from the Greek word for sea, but it is also the name of a particular area of Istanbul that was once home to a lively community of Genovese immigrants. The same name was used in the XIX century for the local harbour’s imposing warehouses. As the city evolved and the old port stopped being the heart of the local economy, the warehouses fell into disuse and disrepair, and were later restored and turned into one of the most impressive maritime museums in the world. Genova has so much to say when it comes to the sea and the stories it contains. Galata is an incredible museum, that offers – among other things – precious insight into the life of Genoa as a maritime republic. From sea monsters to life on a submarine, from XVI Century explorers to gripping accounts of storms and shipwrecks, we suggest you embrace this unique adventure and visit the largest maritime museum of the Mediterranean. After exploring the different sections of the museum, take a few moments to relax on its impressive terrace with its hanging gardens: the view is breath-taking.
2. Visit the Museum of World Cultures at D’Albertis Castle
Enrico Alberto D’Albertis was a ship captain and he perfectly embodied the spirit of adventure and curiosity that is at the core of the Genovese character. After spending years travelling at sea from the late XIX to the early XX Century, he decided to turn his family mansion into a museum of world cultures, in order to share some of the exceptional findings he had collected. The building itself is a tangible piece of local history: built on the remains of a XIV Century fortification, it was subject to modifications and additions by the owners, who sought to add a touch of the exotic and the moorish to the medieval original. This museum is a monument to cultural exchange and contamination, to curiosity and inquisitiveness. While the original intent of Captain D’Albertis may have been colonial in nature and perspective, the current museum is built as a truly multicultural experience, meant to offer different points of view and to remind the visitor that our experience of the world is always relative and filtered through our own culture and mind-set.
3. Climb to the top of the Lighthouse – la Lanterna
When someone in Genoa mentions “the Lantern” (la Lanterna) they are referring to the lighthouse, which happens to be the tallest building of its kind in the Mediterranean. As it is to be expected of the ultimate maritime republic, this is the undisputed symbol of the city. Built in 1543, it measures nearly 250 ft, which, considering the rock on which it stands, raises it almost 400 ft above sea level. La Lanterna is the third oldest lighthouse still in activity worldwide. The fact that the lighthouse is still being used for its original purpose, means that it is only opened to tourists three days a week. Looking at impressive building from the shore, you might get an idea of why Genoa, through its history as a maritime power, has often been described by contemporaries as “the Dominant one” and “the Proud one”. The climb is not for the faint-hearted and probably best avoided by those who are not comfortable with heights, but if you manage to make your way to the top, you will enjoy a truly spectacular view of the city and the sea.
4. Visit the Red Palace
If you visit Genoa, you are almost guaranteed to walk down via Garibaldi at some point. This is one of the most iconic streets in the city (and possibly in the Country): its baroque architecture is so rich and unique that the street itself is a listed UNESCO site. Among the many wonders that via Garibaldi has to offer, we would like to draw your attention to the aptly named and unmistakeable Red Palace. This museum (which is part of a complex including the White Palace and the Doria Tursi Palace), is a beautiful historic mansion, home to a magnificent collection of frescoes and paintings by Italian and European masters. What is today the museum’s collection was once the private collection of the Brignole-Sale family. It took almost two century to build and it includes works by Italian masters such as Guercino and Veronese and Flemish masters such as Dürer and Van Dyck, among others. The palace itself is part of the local Rolli, the historic houses of the old town: a grand total or 42 UNESCO-listed mansions that are nowadays used mostly as museums.