One day in Genoa Italy: detailed itinerary to see Genoa’s main attractions in one day and practical travel tips for your visit.
Genova is a beautiful city in the North West of Italy and a place that surprises many.
In a beautiful position between the sea and the mountains, Genoa is mostly famous for its port and its Aquarium however, it also has a wonderful city center and many attractions worth seeing, including interesting UNESCO World Heritage Sites and an atmospheric historical city center.
A very close friend of mine is from Genova and I was lucky enough to have her guide me around the city the last time I visited. I had one full day in the city and with her help, I was able to see many Genova highlights in just a day.
This is my recommended itinerary for one day in Genoa Italy.
Italian cities have long been held up as ideals, not least by New Yorkers and Londoners enthralled by the ways their architecture gives beauty and meaning to everyday acts — Rebecca SolnitFind more quotes about Italy here
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Genova or Genoa?
Before we start, I just wanted to give e bit of background to the name of the city.
The Italian name for the city city is Genova and it is pronounces Jeh -no -vah.
Genoa is the English name of the city and, interestingly, the name of one of the local football teams (Genoa FC)!
One day in Genoa itinerary
This is a walking itinerary and will have you on your feet for most of the day.
It touches some of the best things to do in Genoa in one day and several of the city highlights however, 1 day in Genoa is not enough to see everything and, especially if you want to see museums, you will have to prioritize some attractions over others.
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Morning in Genoa
Piazza Principe to Genoa’s Royal Palace (Palazzo Reale)
Our itinerary starts from the Genoa Piazza Principe train station.
This is where I arrived and where you are most likely to find yourself if reaching Genoa by train.
Before you start off, I recommend you pick one of the many cafes in the area and get your strength up with a quick coffee and Italian breakfast with the locals – you will have no difficulty finding a good coffee here and it can be a good way to get a first taste of local Genoa life!
Good to know: If you have one day in Genova as part of a cruise stop, the itinerary doesn’t change significantly since the cruise terminal is not far from the attractions lists in this itinerary.
From the train station, our first stop is Genoa’s Royal Palace.
The palace is a stunning patrician manor house built by the Balbi family in the XVII century (1643-50) and became a royal palace in 1824, when the Savoia family bought it and made it their home in Genoa.
The palace is beautiful and has wonderful elegant rooms worth seeing (the Mirrors Hall is incredible) as well as many masterpieces by artists from all over Europe such as Anton Van Dyck, Tintoretto and Guercino.
This is a wonderful stop for art and history lovers but also for anyone who loves castles: the rooms are filled with brocade, chandeliers and frescoes and perfectly embody that ‘royal’ atmosphere you would expect in a palace fit for a ruling family.
Entrance to the palace is ticketed, you can book your slot here.
Church of Annunziata
The church of Annunziata is a famous church in Genoa city center that Montesquieu described as ‘all golden’ and indeed, the gold vaulted ceiling is the first thing you notice as you enter this impressive church!
Hiding behind a rather plain façade, you will find the main nave framed by tall columns with a spiral design supporting a ceiling with impressive golden frames and colored frescoes.
The visual impact is powerful and the light coming in from above the altar reflects against the golden detailing making it literally shine.
The first impression is rather grand but the church has more than its first visual impact to impress the visitors.
It is also home to many masterpieces and frescoes from the XVII century that are a perfect example of Genoa’s version of the manierism/ baroque style that was popular at the time.
Via Garibaldi and the System of Rolli’s Palaces (Palazzi dei Rolli)
Via Garibaldi is a beautiful, elegant street in Genova city center built as one of the so-called ‘strade nuove’ (new streets) during Renaissance times.
The new streets are a set of streets built at the height of Genoa’s financial power by the city’s aristocrats and they are characterized by the presence of many elegant palaces known as ‘Palazzi dei Rolli’, now UNESCO World Heritage Sites.
The palaces are several Renaissance buildings with something in common: they were part of a system of public lodging that required their owners to host important visitors to the city when required!
The system worked on a lottery basis and the list of palaces was kept on paper rolls (rolli) which still now give the name to these residences.
Via Garibaldi is a beautiful road and embodies the elegant spirit and beauty of Genoa, a side of this busy city that maybe surprises visitors the most.
Top tip: Palazzo Rosso has a lovely terrace from where you can catch lovely views over Genoa, not to be missed!
Piazza de Ferrari
Our next stop is Piazza dei Ferrari, a ln elegant piazza with a large fountain in the center.
The piazza is surrounded by beautiful buildings list of them owned by banks and financial institutions and it is a good place to see before you dive into a very different part of Genova, that of ‘i caruggi’ (see below).
Church of San Lorenzo
San Lorenzo is Genoa’s cathedral and is a beautiful church with an interesting story.
It dates from 1098 but it has been restored many times, so now is a combination of several interesting architectural styles such as Gothic (1300) and Mannerism (1500).
The church is famous under two main accounts: in one of its side chapels, the chapel of San Giovanni, it contains what are said to be the ashes of St John the Baptist.
The other thing that makes this church peculiar is the presence of a replica of an unexploded bomb!
The bomb is in the right nave of the church and a plaque tells us its story: in 1941, Genova got bombarded by the British fleet and a bomb fell on this church, however, it ‘miraculously’ did not go off.
In memory and thanks to this miracle, a replica of the bomb is now in the place where I originally fell with a thank you plaque to the Virgin who saved ‘Genova, Mary’s city’
Caruggi is the local term used in Genoa to indicate a certain type of road, specifically the small alleys of Genoa’s old city center.
The caruggi are wonderful and a treasure trove of surprises.
Dating back to the Middle Ages, these streets are narrow and develop in what feels like a maze of roads, dotted with beautiful historical shops.
Aptly named Via degli Orefici (Goldsmith road) of Vico del Ferro (iron road) recall the original vocation of this area and the corporation that called this area home.
The main characteristic of the caruggi is how narrow they are and this is by design like Amalfi town, another of Italys’ marine republic, Genova needed to protect its people from possible attacks from the sea and having a maze-like city center with narrow roads was the most efficient way to make the advance of the enemy hard!
The best way to visit the caruggi is to allow yourself to take some time here and follow your heart: if you feel like you are lost, just head down towards the port and you will find your orientation again in no time
Lunch at Osteria Vico Palla
At this point, you are likely to be very hungry and a good place to satisfy your craving for delicious Genovese food is Osteria Vico Palla.
This is a historical osteria popular with locals and tourists alike and a great place to taste Genovese cuisine, especially fish dishes.
Afternoon in Genoa: Porto Antico, Genoa’s Old port
Maybe the best known and most popular area of Genoa is the city’s old port, a wonderful area where to spend an afternoon.
The port is, as the name suggests, the old harbor area of Genoa and it has been transformed in a beautiful and interesting destination with plenty of attractions and things to do.
The main things to see in Genoa’s Porto Antico are:
- The porto itself which is lovely for a stroll
- Gena’s Acquarium, the biggest aquarium in Europe and so interesting, I list a visit here it as one of the best things to do in Italy for kids: you can get skip the line tickets here.
- The Biosphere, a spherical construction by architect Renzo Piano, containing a recreation of a tropical microclimate, complete with exotic birds
- Galata Museo del Mare, one of the biggest maritime museums in the Mediterranean which also offers the chance to visit the submarine Nazario Sauro
- Galeone Neptune, a tall ship that is guaranteed to catch the attention of kids and adults alike
- Citta’ dei Bambini e Ragazzi, a wonderful play and educational area for kids and one of the best places in Genoa for children – If you are looking for a specific guide for families, read our guide about visiting Genoa with kids.
- Bigo panoramic lift by Renzo Piano, to catch a view of Genoa from above, official tickets here
- Panoramic ferry wheel Genovawheel
- Isola delle Chiatte, by Renzo piano, a lovely place from where to observe ships go by
Good to know: Genoa’s Old Port is a rather large area so especially if you want to visit the Aquarium or the museum, I recommend you take some time here and don’t rush your visit.
Evening in Boccadasse
I highly recommend you finish your day in Genoa with a short trip to Boccadasse.
This is a delightful corner of the city right on the sea with that lovely Cinque Terre- esque character made by the presence of colorful homes perched over the sea.
Boccadasse is a small place perfect to see right before sunset or where to have dinner before heading back to the city center.
How to get around Genoa
This is a walking itinerary that only requires the use of public transport or a taxi to get to and from Boccadasse.
Public transport tickets are available at Tabaccai shops. A single ticket costs 1.50Euro at the time of writing and it is valid for 100 minutes from the first validation.
The app AMT Genova offers the option of buying some tickets directly on your phone: the ticketing system includes buses but also Genoa’s cable cars that can be useful if you want to add some panoramic stops to your day.
What to eat in Genova
Genoa is famous for its delicious food. Some you must try are: Pesto Genovese, maybe the most famous food export from the area, Genoese focaccia, plain or with cheese, farinata (made with chickpeas), local fish.
Genoa is a fantastic place to buy food souvenirs and fashion: you can find ideas on the best souvenirs to get in Italy here.
Genoa tours worth considering
Since I had a local to guide me, I didn’t take a tour of Genoa however, I identify a few that I believe are worth considering, to dig deeper into the spirit and history of the city:
- Genoa street food tour with local guide
- Genoa Walking tour and top city views with local guide
- Genoa Private walking tour with local guide
- Genoa Private Tour of Music Traditions
I hope you enjoyed this itinerary for one day in Genoa and it inspired you to visit. Safe travel planning!