An Introduction to Genoa ...


Genoa is a difficult city to describe.  Rather, it is a place you should experience, in all its complexity.  Words cannot do it justice, and nothing will prepare you for it.

There are so many ways to experience it, so many layers explore.  Historically, there have been people here for 2,000 years, or more.  It has the largest intact medieval center in Europe - a vibrant working center.  A centro storico that is full of small alleyways called carruggio.  A place where it is simple to lose yourself.

It is a city saturated with stories.  It has entertained, and seduced, so many great artists.  Rubens loved it here and recreated a small slice of Genoa back in Antwerp, his Belgian home.  The painter, Van Dyck was here too.  

Giuseppe Verdi loved this city,  Richard Wagner made notes on it, saying, 'I have never seen anything like Genoa!  It is something indescribably beautiful, grandiose, distinctive'.  

And that's as true today as it was in the past.

Marco Polo, the great Venetian explorer, didn't choose to spend time here.  He was held prisoner in Genoa, captured after a battle between his Venetian city, and Genoa but he wasn't treated so badly ... in the end.

Nietzche was here, and Charles Dickens fell under the city's spell too.  Like me... 

I arrived here back in 2008, and I have been struggling, ever since, to find words that go some way to describing all that I have discovered here.  All that I continue to discover. 

The Genovese have been famous as explorers, merchants and bankers.  They competed with neighboring regions in their role as one of the most powerful naval city's in Italy.  Their history is full of rich and complex stories, made visible in the wealth of the magnificent residences and churches built over centuries.

Ligiurian cuisine takes time to explore and savour.  There are a multitude of restaurants and bars to discover.  Tiny artisan shops, butchers and all kinds of other retailers, advertising their wares, having set up in the small medieval spaces of the centro storico.

Small because Genoa is a city that has 'sprawled', over centuries, on a rather narrow strip of land located between the sea and the mountains.  Limited, initially, to inside the city walls ... over time, the city has crept up hills and around ancient riverbeds, challenging Nature for space.

It is a city so worth exploring.  Although, be warned, it offers more of a pick-a-path exploratory style.  Perhaps you choose your interests, or you wander ... stumbling upon a multitude of quietly magnificent finds along the way.  Sometimes, a view, a funicular, or a tiny trattoria that serves delicious local food.

More than all of this, for me, Genoa has a soul of her own.  Although clearly a city, she feels as though she has a living beating heart.  I wander sometimes, thinking about where her 'heart' might be.  The fountain perhaps, with its arterial flow of water, and the quiet rush of the fountain, best heard on a quiet Sunday morning in Piazza De Ferrari.  Or the port, although that seems less likely in the 21st century.

Under the streets and ancient paving stones, streams run down to the sea.  The sea ... a constant presence, as it laps the feet of the city, providing respite from the crowding of a centuries-old city.

There is Corso Italia for a seaside stroll.  Boccadasse for coffee or a swim.  Nervi for a cliffside walk above the Ligurian Sea ... and on, round the coast, to Camogli, San Fruttoso, Portofino, and beyond.

But even here, despite my intention to entice you to visit, I haven't done justice to this remarkable city called La Superba. I have only made an attempt.  I suspect, the very best solution, is surely all about you visiting and exploring it for yourself.

See you there.