This is the fourth blog in the series about our honeymoon in October and November 2015. You can read more of the posts here.
If you were planning a city break in Europe as part of a honeymoon where would you go? Paris, Venice, Rome, Barcelona? They are all excellent choices but none of them fitted where we wanted to spend the bulk of our honeymoon, the Italian Riviera. So what are the nearby city break destinations? Turin and Milan spring to mind, then there is Genoa.
Genoa, the birthplace of Christopher Colombus, Italy’s sixth largest city doesn’t often get the love it deserves. With one of the largest medieval city centres in Europe, a UNESCO world heritage site, it should get much more love than it does. But inside the the medieval labyrinth of the old town, by the fountain of Piazza de Ferrari and in the palaces of the Doges and other powerful families you will find a city with both a realism and a real soul that is often missing in much prettier places. Genoa may not be the most pretty, polished or beautiful northern Italian city but it is wonderful place to visit as a couple for a city break.
So after a long train journey through the Channel Tunnel, across France and north Italy and an overnight stop in Turin we arrived, the old fashioned way, by train at Genova Piazza Principe railway station which, conveniently, was right next to our hotel for the next three nights.
Where to stay in Genoa
I wanted to make this honeymoon about stepping back in time. A trip which would be all about old fashioned luxury, whilst taking things slowly. After looking at a few different hotels I settled on the four star Hotel Continental Genoa, a stone’s throw from the station, which is a historical late 19th century hotel in what’s known as Liberty style.
When I went to check us in I was told we’d been upgraded (I did let them know it was our honeymoon) to their sister hotel next door the five star Grand Hotel Savoia a beautiful, refined and luxurious 19th century hotel. The Grand Hotel Savoia describes itself as stepping back into the past on board a transatlantic liner and I could really see that. The decor is beautiful and the whole building, from the lounge and bar to the restaurant (where a truly amazing breakfast is served each morning) to the room we stayed in, everything feels as though it was made to keep the modern world out.
We both thoroughly loved our stay at the Grand Hotel Savoia in Genoa, it is positioned in a fantastic location to explore the city, close to the train and tour buses as well as the medieval centre and the Porto Antico/ Old Port which is lovely to wander along.
What to see, three days in Genoa
We spent three wonderful days in Genoa arriving on Tuesday morning and leaving early Friday afternoon to head to Rapallo. I think Genoa is the perfect size for a little city break. Paris or London are much, much too big and would take a fortnight’s holiday just to scratch the surface. Gennoa, however, is one of those beautiful European cities which you can explore at leisure in just a few days and come away with more to see, but not feeling disappointed that you missed out.
Aside from wandering the old streets Genoa has a lot to offer. There are renaissance palaces from Genoa’s days as a powerful state, a wonderful Opera, beautiful long boulevards and shopping streets as well as the port and waterfront area to explore. And then Genoa is the birthplace of Pesto and the home of focaccia, yum! You’ll find pesto in everything from being the usual pasta sauce to a pizza topping, and as a soup base for minestrone. As well as being used in just about way as a dressing or extra sauce.
Our first day we arrived in Genoa in the early afternoon following a pleasant trip from Turin. After checking in, relaxing and getting to know our hotel we decided to get out and explore the old city; exploring cobbled, narrow streets where the sun barely get’s through, Cathedral San Lorenzo (and the remains of the old city walls close by) and stopping by the fountain in Piazza de Ferreri before making our way back to our hotel via our first taste of Genovan Pesto.
Our first full day in Genoa started with a vast and luxuriant breakfast at the hotel buffet. One of the highlights for me of the honeymoon as a whole were long and relaxing breakfasts. I loved having gorgeous hot breakfasts, sausages, bacon, eggs and tomatoes, mushrooms & courgettes.
And that was just the beginning. There were pancakes, cake, cold meats, cheeses, pastries, fruit, vegetables and yogurt with lashings of great coffee. Yum.
One of Hana’s cousin’s visited Genoa a few months earlier and recommended we see the three palaces which line Genoa’s most beautiful street and the heart of the historical centre, Via Giuseppe Garibaldi. The street is inscribed in the list of UNESCO World Heritage Sites as part of the system of the Palazzi dei Rolli and Strade Nuove del Centro Storico of Genoa. The palace’s to visit are Palazzo Rosso, Palazzo Bianco and Palazzo Doria Tursi. The buildings lining the street, along with the Palace of the Doges and Piazza de Ferreri go along way to show the wealth which Genoa built up during it’s time as a maritime superpower and trading nation as a city-state.
You can buy a single ticket for the three palace’s as they are run by the Genoan municipality. Whilst they are quite large buildings you can easily see the three in a single day. We managed to see them all in just a few hours. As when we went to Rome a back in 2013, there weren’t any explanations of what you are seeing so it is not only worth it, it’s essential to get an audio guide where you can to really make it worthwhile visiting.
The Palazzo Rosso is an art museum and gallery. Of the three palaces this was our favourite, the art works there are absolutely beautiful and were easily the best we saw in the whole trip. When visiting, make sure to take the lift to the roof terrace to see the view out over the city. It isn’t obvious straight away that it is there but a nice lady will take you up in a lift to the room where you can then climb a few stairs up to a viewing platform over the old city and the ports.
Next on our hit list was Palazzo Bianco. Palazzo Bianco, or the ‘white palace’ is a gorgeous building housing paintings from the Sixteenth, seventeenth & eighteenth century Italian and European masters such as Caravaggio. Of the three buildings, the Palazzo Bianco was may favourite to walk around.
Finally we visited the Palazzo Doria Tursi. Of the three museums, whilst the building was impressive, the contents weren’t as impressive at the first two. It may be that we were suffering from art fatigue by that point!
After a day full of culture we headed for a walk around the Porto Antico followed by a gorgeous dinner of seafood, grilled fish and grilled vegetables in the medieval old town, then to bed full of gorgeous Italian food.
Here’s our gorgeous dinner, one of the best meals we had on the trip and a perfect example of Italian fritto misto.
Day three & four
We kicked off our third day in Genoa with a trip to the Palace of the Doges, another gorgeous art museum where we visited a collection on loan from the Museum of Detroit which runs till 10th April 2016. This was a real treat as the collection on loan contained several works by Picasso, Van Gogh, Gauguin, Monet and Renoir. Wowza. If the art at the palaces yesterday was lovely, this was spectacular! And what not follow it up with but some lovely pasta and wine before a walk around the city.
When in Rome do as the Roman’s do. When in Genoa, go to the Opera. Italy is known for food, fashion and the opera. We’d done the food, I think I nailed the fashion, so to the opera!
On our final evening in Genoa we decided to go to have some wine, great food and visit the opera. Dinner was gorgeous wine, lovely meats (by this point I’m about 50% pork) and minestrone soup with Pesto. Delish. Here’s the wonderful food and the restaurant, Taggiou we ate in can be found here www.taggiou.it/ristorante.
The opera house is a really lovely building combining older and more modern elements. It was a really great experience seeing the opera, Simon Boccanegra, even though it was all in Italian and we couldn’t understand everything which was going on. A quick wikipedia search helped us get up to speed in the intervall. Even if you can’t follow exactly what is happening it is still well worth going to the opera for the experience and the beautiful singing.
Our last day in Genoa came around all too quickly and I was as sorry to leave it behind as I was excited to see Rapallo, our destination for the next 10 days. We were taking an afternoon train to Rapallo so after a suitably vast breakfast (after all we are travelling today) and checking out we wandered down to the marina and took a tour bus around the city. I think taking any kind of tour, whether walking, by river or by bus, is a great way to see a city and perhaps explore areas or see sights which you might not have seen if you hadn’t. Like the lovely cafe with a window filled with gorgeous cakes, nummy. Noting on our map where it was, as soon as we finished the tour we headed off, as quickly as we could, to the cafe for a nice little drink and a cheeky cake. Okay, yes I had some cake at breakfast, but it is a holiday right? And it is a great way to end our trip to Genoa.
We left Genoa as we arrived, by train this time from Brignole headed for Rapallo and ten nights of five-star luxury. I really enjoyed our time in Genoa. As much as it is a modern city with everything you’d expect (like being able to buy a new mobile phone), our trip to Genoa really did feel like stepping back in time. I’d highly recommend both a visit to the city and staying at the Grand Hotel Savoia.
Grand Hotel Savoia
Via Arsenale di Terra, 5,