Piazza de Ferrari, Genoa.
Europe,  Italy

Exploring Genoa’s old town

genoa piazzas.
Beautiful buildings appear every time you turn a corner in Genoa’s winding old town streets.

As part of our mediterranean cruise experience with MSC, we took a half day tour around Genoa’s amazing old town, which joined UNESCO’s World Heritage List back in 2006. Rich in history and renowned for its art, music and food, we were able to get a glimpse into the history of this beautiful city and were surprised by the gorgeous architecture and opulent churches that appeared around each and every winding path.

Touring Genoa’s old town

Our tour began near the port, where we were able to see the Palace of St. George, built in 1260, which in centuries since has been given several ‘facelifts’ and now is decorated with wonderful examples of trompe l’oei. It’s also played several roles, having been a prison for the likes of Marco Polo and most recently being used as a bank.

Our guide – who as history buffs we loved as she gave us great historical stories about the past ruling families in the city – then took us on an adventure through the old town’s winding streets. Tall and thin, we never stopped being surprised when we turned a corner to discover ourselves in a new piazza, where the square opens up, surrounded by beautiful buildings and slightly derelict old churches.

genoa churches

Opulent beauty can be found in Genoa's churches.
Opulent beauty can be found in Genoa’s churches.

Visiting Genoa’s churches and basilicas

But don’t let those plain fronts trick you – we explored several churches including the personal chapel of the Grimaldi family on Piazza San Luca, and as we walked in we entered a whole different world of gold gilding, marble, opulent artwork and amazing stonemasonry!

It’s definitely worth taking the time to pop into any church you find, as with most places in Italy I’ve visited, you’re likely find beyond beautiful interiors and even the occasional priceless masterpiece!

Genoa’s historical families

Many of the region’s richest families had homes in Genoa and it’s also great to explore these as you travel through the old town’s streets.

During our tour we came across raised gardens (space was at a premium!) and this amazing fountain feature at the end of one house’s ‘driveway’!

A beautiful fountain in old town Genoa.
A beautiful fountain in old town Genoa.

And that’s one of the things I love about Italy: I never get bored of simply putting on my walking boots and exploring the city, as every street turning or old wooden doorway offers the possibility of an amazing new discovery.

My highlights of Genoa

Our tour ended at the beautiful Basilica San Siro, one of the oldest churches in the city, and well worth a visit, but my personal highlights was visiting the Piazza de Ferrari. As well as being an amazing place to people watch, it’s also where the old city meets the new, and the grace and beauty of the old architecture and streets begins to be replaced with bustling modern city streets and high street shops. At its centre is a beautiful fountain, which is a wonderful place to grab a coffee and watch the world go by.

In truth our short tour only gave a small glimpse into the wonder of Genoa, but this taster has made sure that this is a city I will return to, and I’d recommend it to anyone that loves, culture, history and food!

Piazza de Ferrari, Genoa.
The beautiful fountain in Piazza de Ferrari, Genoa.

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To see more photographs of what Genoa’s old town has to offer, head to out our Genoa photo album on the Ladies what… Facebook page.

By day Co-Editor Keri is a freelance journalist and copywriter, but spends most of her free time either travelling or planning her next trip!  A complete travel fanatic, she has a love of tropical climates, wildlife and afternoon tea (hence the creation of her Global Afternoon Tea Challenge!)

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