It was wonderful to wake up to find MSC Splendida docked in the heart of Genoa and look down with a birds eye view of the whole port area around us. Unlike Marseille, we could stroll from the ship to the major sites and within ten minutes we were in the Porto Antico, or old port of Genoa.
As we walked along the promenade, this seemed to be where the action was, since it was a Sunday and local families were out having fun all along the waterfront. First we passed the Maritime Museum, a modern glass box which contrasted with the small traditional boats that were moored in front of it. Further along we came to a pirate ship that had been used in the filming of Pirates of the Caribbean with King Neptune as a figurehead. As in Marseille there were many beautiful yachts in this part of the harbor which now served as a marina and centre for restaurants and museums.
I hope you enjoy the video below from our MSC Cruise
Beyond the Porto Antico we could see the old town rising up on the hill with church spires and tall terracotta houses, so we turned away from the harbor and started up the hill. There were a few market stalls selling farmers produce, one of them with pesto, a speciality of Genoa. The pedestrian road led up the hill towards an imposing church and but most of the old fashioned shops, such as one selling ornate brass door knockers, were shut as it was Sunday.
Past many old buildings, we turned left and reached Piazza di Ferrari, a large open square surrounded by imposing buildings and a central fountain in the middle dating from 1936. On one side was the Palazzo Ducale, built in the 14th century and the former residence of the Doge or Governor of Genoa, now a public building, with a café and exhibitions in the open interior and courtyards.
We didn’t have a decent map of Genoa and couldn’t see any tourist information offices, so it was a case of following our nose and wandering through the narrow streets of the old town, with high buildings divided by narrow lanes, often with washing hanging across the street. Our wanderings led us to the Porta Soprana, with tall twin towers marking the gate of the old city walls. We stopped here in a small café with a big statue of Elvis outside, in a booth that gave us a good view of the many passers by who stopped to have their photos taken with Elvis. I decided to order a lasagne with pesto, since pesto is the specialty of Genoa, which I enjoyed very much.
After lunch we walked through the old city gate, past a Romanesque cloister belonging to a convent that was knocked down to make way for the road, to reach the Christopher Columbus House. The explorer was born in Genoa and the house is an 18th century replica of the house where he grew up, the original being destroyed by French bombs in 1684.
From here, we headed back up through the Piazza de Ferrari and turned down a road lined with fashionable shops such as Gucci, although being Sunday they were all shut, so we were able to window-shop without temptation. This led us to Via Garibaldi, a UNESCO world heritage site due to the large number of impressive Palazzo built there in the 16th century to house the Genoese aristocracy. The mansions are collectively called Rolli named after the official scrolls listing the residences that were suitable to play host to visiting state dignitaries. It was considered advantageous by the noble families to be the host of such guests since they could make political and trading connections to further their business interests. This weekend was “Rolli Day” when all the Palazzos were open to the public free of charge, so we stopped at Palazzo Nicolosio Lomellino to have a look around.
At first we could only see a courtyard with a decorative fountain, but then we were ushered up an interior staircase to a beautiful renaissance garden built into the hillside. The garden was entirely hidden from the Via Garibaldi, but stretched out with lawns lined with plants and a central fountain as well as a shady avenue with classical busts and orange trees. At the end was a statue and fountain and the English-speaking guide even allowed us the special privilege of a view from the upper level looking down on the garden, with a Moorish style tower. She explained that the neighbouring Palazzos had once had similar gardens but these were destroyed to make way for a new road, while since the mayor lived in Palazzo Lomellino he conveniently decided to route the road around his own house. The visit finished with a view of the impressive frescos in the public rooms of the Palazzo, the work of Bernado Strozzi. The second one was unfinished, since the project over-ran, the artist demanded more money and the owner decided not to pay up.
Our walk down the Via Garibaldi continued past all the other tall Palazzo, many of which are now museums. We stopped for a delicious ice cream at Profumo di Rosa, a gelataria where we tasted the Rolli flavor, which the owner explained she had created from a 16th century recipe in honour of the Rolli Open Day.
By now it was time to rejoin the ship, and we walked back down the street towards the port to join the MSC Splendida again. Tomorrow we arrive in Naples at lunch time and are looking forward to our excursion to Pompeii.
Excursion options in Genoa
A tour of Genoa’s history centre was available (3.5 hrs, £32 Adults ) with a walk through the narrow streets of the historic centre to Piazza de Ferrari, a light buffet lunch, visit to the Cathedral of San Lorenzo and time to explore the old port. A popular excursion for families is by ferry transfer to the Aquarium (3.5 hrs, £32 Adult) with its collections of tropical fish, sharks and dolphins. As an alternative to Genoa you can take an excursion to Portofino (4.5 hrs, £48 Adults) with a 1.5 hr boat trip along the scenic coastline to this charming old fishing port with time to explore before returning again by boat. Watch the MSC video about Genoa
Other articles in my Mediterranean Cruise series
Join me on a week’s Mediterranean Cruise with MSC Cruise
All aboard at Barcelona – Day 1 of my MSC Mediterranean Cruise
Bonjour Marseille – Day 2 of my MSC Mediterranean Cruise
Naples and an excursion to Pompeii – Day 4 of my MSC Mediterranean Cruise
Messina and an excursion to Taormina – Day 5 of my MSC Mediterranean Cruise
Tunis and Carthage – Day 6 of my MSC Mediterranean Cruise
A day at sea and back to Barcelona – Day 7 of my MSC Mediterranean Cruise
Articles about Genoa
Genoa, Italy – City of rich Maritime, Cruising and Ship Building Heritage TripsforTravellers.com
The best of Genoa, Italy GoSeeWrite.com
Genoa: A cruiser’s Guide – Top 5 sights Telegraph.co.uk
10 Great things to do in Genoa Timeout.com
36 Hours in Genoa Nytimes.com
For more information about things to do in Genoa visit www.genova-turismo.it
Thanks to MSC cruises who are hosting Guy and Heather’s Mediterranean cruise. Heather and Guy will be travelling on MSC Splendida from Barcelona on a 1 week cruise calling at Genoa, Marseille, Naples, Messina, Tunis. Prices for a similar cruise start at around £700 per person. For more information, visit the MSC Cruises website or follow them on Twitter @MSC_Cruises_UK or on the MSC Facebook page.
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