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Asked about historical cities in Italy people mention Rome, Venice, Florence and Pisa. Genua usually doesn't appear in the list, which is completely unjustified. Genoa has the largest historical center of Europe, a reminder of the great powerful city state it once was. And if you are bored of the city; Genoa is also an excellent base for touring the area.
Did you know that Genoa is known worldwide by the blue color from this city? The Levi Strauss jeans were made with a substance which was colored with 'blu di Genova', which was corrupted to 'blue jeans'.
The Via Garibaldi, also known as the Strade Nuove, is on the World Heritage List. Along this street stand impressive palaces. They are not all open for visits, but the Palazzo Bianco, Palazzo Rosso and the Palazzo Doria Tursi are. The Palazzo Bianco has a fine collection of Italian, Spanish and Flemish artists, including works of Pisano, Veronese, Murillo, Van Dyck and Rubens. The Palazzo Rosso is, apart from being a gorgeous building, a museum with a vast collection of paintings, etchings, drawings, coins and sculptures. There is also a topographic and cartographic department. The Palazzo Doria Tursi is being used as a city hall. Inside you can see beautiful frescoes, including a presentation of Columbus to the Spanish court. Columbus spent his childhood in Genoa, but whether he was born there is unclear.
The lively square Piazza de Ferrari is the center of Genoa and a good starting point for exploring the city. The square is dominated by the large fountain that was installed in 1936. In the immediate vicinity are Piazza Matteotti and Piazza di San Matteo. Characteristic of Genoa are the buildings with black and white stripes of slate and marble. This is shown clearly on the Piazza di San Matteo, where you can find the palaces of the powerful Doria family. The same family also commissioned the construction of the Gothic San Matteo Church. At the altar you can see the sword of Andrea Doria. The Doge's Palace, or Palazzo Ducale is located on the Piazza Matteotti.
The black and white design is reflected in the Cathedral of San Lorenzo too, which gives the Duomo a somewhat sober and austere appearance. The famous Sacro Catino is being preserved in the treasury of this church; it is a green glass dish which was looted on one of the crusades and was allegedly used by Jesus during the Last Supper.
Large parts of different periods have been preserved of the old city wall. There are (parts of) the walls from the nineteenth, twelfth, fourteenth, sixteenth and seventeenth century. The latter wall has a length of up to 20 kilometers. One of the most beautiful and famous gates is the Porta Soprana.
At the port stands a modern construction, the Bigo, a type of crane with eight arms. On one of those arms a rotating lift goes up, giving you a nice view of the city and harbor. You can also find the Aquarium here, one of the largest in Europe with 39 tanks. The conditions of a tropical rainforest have been mimicked in one part of the aquarium.
Genoa owed its influence, wealth and power to the sea. That very history of Genoa and the sea comes alive in the Galata, or the Maritime Museum. Part of this museum is the replica of a warship from the sixteenth century, Il Galeone Neptune.
For a great view of the city and its surroundings, take the funicular (funicolare) to the top of the Righi hill, high above Genoa at 292 meters above sea level. There are several stops and the train also runs through a 700 meter long tunnel. The starting point of the funicolare can be found at the Largo della Zecca, a little square in the center of Genoa.
About 20 kilometers east of Genoa lies the charming fishing village of Camogli. From the harbor you can take a boat trip to the beautiful, but very isolated landscape monastery Fruttuoso, where the oldest parts date back to the tenth century. If you drive further east you will encounter the famous Cinque Terre, which is included on the World Heritage List. These five villages - Riomaggiore, Manarola, Corniglia, Vernazza and Monterosso - are right up steep hills. Best is to leave your rental car and follow the footpath that connects the five villages with each other, the Via dell'Amore.
The Ligurian coast has some of the most beautiful beaches in Italy. The part of the Italian Riviera in Genoa includes fine (but sometimes busy) beaches near Rapallo, Portofino Chiavari and Sestri Levante.
The old center of Genoa is pedestrianized and thus finding a free parking place around that center is not always easy. There are some large parking garages around the port. Another option is to leave your car on the large parking lot at the Piazza della Vittoria and travel by public transport to the city center.
Cristoforo Colombo Airport Genoa is the airport on an artificial peninsula more than seven kilometers west of the city center. The airport is easily accessible by rental car: it lies right next to the motorway A10 (Genoa - Ventimiglia). The exit to the airport is clearly signposted.