Category: Genoa.

Gorgeous Genoa: A look beyond the obvious in a less well-known area of Italy

Think of Italy and you’ll have visions of ancient ruins in Rome, gondolas punting through Venetian canals or the beauty of the northern lakes. And then there’s Genoa.

Where, you say?

OK, so it might not have the same recognition factor but if you’re looking for an Italian destination that’s not swamped by the tourists who flock to the likes of Rome and Venice, it’s worth checking out.

It’s a small city yet it’s easy to spend hours wandering the maze of tiny streets that lead off each main road.

Nestled in the north-west corner of Italy it has a climate closer to that of the South of France but everything else about it is typically Italian – and proud of it. Residents revel in sharing the history of their city, and the things it’s famous for.

First and foremost that’s focaccia, a delicious oven-baked bread that looks and tastes like a pizza base. Everywhere you turn in Genoa (or Genova, its name in Italian) you’ll find stalls and shops selling every type of it.

In many ways Genoa is a modern city with all the nightlife and shops you’d expect to find in any European city. If you want old, though, take a look at Christopher Columbus’ house, the Doge Palace and the Old Port. And while it might not have Rome’s Coliseum or Venice’s St Mark’s Square, there’s a sense of real history here – the way people live has barely changed.

If you’re lucky enough to be there when one of the local markets is on, try some of the local specialities – pungent cheeses, cured meats and, of course, the wines.

Then if you want to sample a little more nightlife than bars and clubs there’s an opera house which stages regular concerts and musical performances.

If cities aren’t your thing, venture out into the countryside and the tiny coastal areas around Genoa. You’ll find everything from fishing villages that rarely see a tourist to the glamorous celeb haven of Portofino.

Images of the multicoloured houses here have become world-famous thanks to George Clooney, Coleen and Wayne Rooney and J-Lo, who have all used this tiny place to get away from it all.

But there’s no denying it’s a millionaires’ playground. If the prices didn’t set off the alarm bells (if you can find a coffee for less than a fiver you’re doing very well!), then the harbour certainly will.

Enormous yachts with white-uniformed crew scurrying around after super-rich owners are moored just yards from the tiny rowing boats the locals use.

But there’s a good reason why this has remained an exclusive resort. It’s very difficult to get to.

The winding roads can take three times longer to navigate than you’d expect, so the fastest way to visit is by boat. Trips run from most of the villages or direct from Genoa.

But if the world of celebrity leaves you cold, then head for the Cinque Terre – the five villages.

Here vineyards surrounded by rugged cliffs litter the hillside.

Be warned, if you get a taste for the local wines buy them while you’re there, as you’ll struggle to find them again back home.

The hotels might not be five-star but take one look out of your window as the sun sets across the cliffs, bouncing off a stunning blue-green sea and you’ll forget about your missing luxuries in a second.

This is rustic Italy at its best. Everywhere you look is another view, around each bend a different village to explore.

I started in Riomaggiore, a village so steep there’s a bus to take you from the top to bottom. A quick walk down to the beach is a whole different story here!

Again the hotels might not be quite what you expect but the food won’t disappoint. Head to the very top of the hillside for the local restaurants and tuck into a seafood feast.

Then walk it off on the 45-minute Via dell’Amore trail along the cliffs from Riomaggiore to Manarola (there’s a quick and cheap train if you prefer).

If you fancy even more R&R, Monterosso might be the place. Another of the Cinque Terre, it’s the only one with a sweeping sandy beach and can offer all the usual delights of a seaside holiday.

But the seafront villages aren’t the only things worth seeing. Take a trip further inland to the rustic towns and villages of the mountains. Some are ruins (one featured as a destroyed city in The Lord Of The Rings) while others have castles perched on hilltops. You can also get views to die for at the Hanbury Botanical Gardens in Ventimiglia – a UNESCO World Heritage Centre.

And as it’s just a few miles from the French border, and Nice and Monaco, it could be just the start of your trip.

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Category: Genoa
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