Mixing high art with the down-to-earth feel of an ancient port, Genoa is a treasure trove of fine foods and unpretentious bars
Tourists tend to overlook the capital of the Liguria region in favour of Turin, Milan or Bologna when it comes to city breaks in northern Italy, just using its airport to head for the Italian riviera. But the birthplace of Christopher Columbus, St George’s Cross, focaccia, blue jeans (the fabric was invented here by some accounts: “jeans” coming from Gênes, the French word for Genoa) and Joy Division record covers (I’ll explain that one later) is a joy in its own right.
Genoa’s long, narrow shape is dictated by its position between the sea and the Ligurian Appenines. Rarely more than a couple of kilometres wide, the city stretches along nearly 40km of coast – from the Voltri neighbourhood in the west to Nervi, a fishing village-turned-seaside resort in the east – with development snaking inland into a couple of valleys. Just east of the Porto Antico is the old city, Europe’s largest medieval town, a warren of tight caruggi (narrow streets) reminiscent of the Barrio Gótico in Barcelona or the centre of Naples. Genoa’s modern business/shopping area borders the old town, starting at the central Piazza De Ferrari.