An Overnight Stay in Genoa

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The Nordic wind seemed to tell us that summer would be gone soon in a couple of weeks in Denmark.  By September, the good chance we could still catch the summer breeze is when we go further south.  So, a day after we tied the knot in Aeroskobing, we headed back to Copenhagen and took a flight back to Switzerland.

The next morning, we found ourselves heading towards the Mont Blanc Tunnel.  Then it’s official – we’re definitely heading to Italy!

I’ve always liked Italy.

After visiting Florence once and Rome twice, I couldn’t get my mind off from wishing to explore this beautiful country more.  By the time we were already looking for our honeymoon destination, I said it right away, “I want to go (back) to Italy.”

I’ve been asked about our honeymoon escapade a few times, with questions like:

How did you get to Cinque Terre?  Florence? Or Venice?   What are the best sightseeing (or even, less touristy) spots?  

What are the best things to do in Italy?  I want to do some wine tasting, which vineyards and wine villages can you recommend?  

Which restaurants and accommodations have you been?  Which are these places where I can just relax or be away from it all?

I’ve already shared in my previous post about the interesting things we did in our over two-week honeymoon escapade in Italy, in a nutshell.  This time around, in the upcoming posts, I’ll dig more into details on that exact journey we did two years ago.

I’m lucky for being able to visit some of Italy’s most gorgeous towns, yet there are still a lot of interesting places in this country I haven’t explored yet.   I’m pretty sure that in every new town I’ll visit someday, I’ll most likely be mesmerised over Italy’s charm all over again.

ALSO READ HERE: Italy is Love

For now, I can share with you our experiences in visiting these lovely Italian towns — Genoa, Cinque Terre, Pisa, Lucca, Tuscany, Florence, Siena, Verona and Venice.

The Road Trip Starts Here

Deep blue skies and warm sun rays gave us a fresh start on our first official trip together as Mr & Mrs.  The plan on our first day included a 5-hour long drive to reach Genoa; but it could still be a few hours more, depending on how busy it would get when we reach the Italian border.

“Summer ain’t really finish yet.  It’s better we drive as early as possible,” hubby confirmed.

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I couldn’t disagree more.  I was really enjoying the greenery views along Rhone-Alpes and the mountain valleys in the Alps on a bright sunny day.   As we were coming close to the highway tunnel though, we started to slow down.  Tons of cars, buses and trucks were all lined up to make it through one of the busiest tunnels in Europe.

Photo from wikipedia.org. I don’t think it did look as peaceful when we were there at the time then…

Mont Blanc Tunnel is one of the major trans-Alpine highway tunnel in Europe, which links Swiss Romandy region via Haute-Savoie, France with Aosta Valley in Italy.  Completed in 1965, the tunnel is situated at the northeast of Mont Blanc’s summit with 15 kilometers in length.  It then crosses exactly under the summit of the Aiguille du Midi at 2480m beneath the surface. Thus, Mont Blanc tunnel is considerably the world’s deepest operational tunnel; not until by next year when Gotthard Base Tunnel, a railway tunnel through the Swiss Alps, will be operational.

It took around 30 minutes waiting for our turn to get into Mont Blanc tunnel.  Actually it would take even longer at times, most especially when summer holiday begins or comes near to end.

It was worth the wait, anyway.  For just 10 minutes driving into the tunnel, we made it quickly to northern Italy.

Then three hours more, we finally made it to Genoa.

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Our First Bites of Italy

The famous novelist Paolo Coehlo once spoke in praise about Genoa:

Among the marvels of Italy, it will take some digging to find the beauties of Genoa, but it is worth visiting it. I remember walking there with a friend, when she suddenly said: “Let’s stop for a bit. I can’t stand this orange color!”

Since we were about to explore the Italian Riviera and the world-famous Cinque Terre, Genoa can actually be a good starting point.

ALSO READ HERE: 3 Days in Cinque Terre

Obviously, this city’s busy port is filled to the brim with yachts, cruises, ferries and cargo ships.  Not also far from its center is Boccadesse, a small yet picturesque fishing village that would already provide a glimpse of these brightly colored terracotta-roofed houses (that I likewise saw in Cinque Terre), beautifully straddling along the Mediterranean coast.

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Genoa is a very important historical port city in northern Italy, the capital of Liguria region.  Oftentimes overshadowed by Italian cities like Rome and Venice as a travel desination, Genoa actually has a long history as a rich and powerful trade center.  It is apparently also the birthplace of explorer Christopher Columbus.

Today, Genoa can be best enjoyed with its hidden gems behind cozy alleyways, fresh seafood cuisines, the newly renovated marina and artistic churches.

The incredibly twisty drive from Serravalle, along with the top view of the city from the motorway, was already the sign that we’re finally arriving in the city proper of Genoa.

As soon as we got ourselves settled at the hotel, we decided to stroll around right away before nightfall comes.

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Just amongst the dozens of narrow street alleys in Genoa…

In Italy’s historic towns like Genoa, it’s typical to see apartments, shops, restaurants and churches altogether (if not, some) in these narrow streets.  Get ready to be amazed in such a maze like this!

A few turns in small alleys here and there, we finally ended up in Piazza De Ferrari.

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Situated in the heart of Genoa, Piazza de Ferrari is the city’s main square that is renowned for its fountain, which was restored in recent years along with a major restyling of the square.  At the end of the 19th century, along with Milan, Genoa was the main financial center and business district of Italy.  It is there in Piazza de Ferrari that many institutions were established, such as the stock exchange and the Credito Italiano.

Yet next to the square are also historical palaces and buildings.  Once the home of Genoan dukes, the Palace of the Doges is now a museum and a center for cultural events and arts exhibitions.  The Teatro Carlo Felice is the principal opera house in Genoa from where you can find the equestrian statue of Guiseppe Garibaldi.  The headquarters of Ligurian region, the palace of the Ligurian Academy of Fine Arts, and the palace of the Duke of Galliera, Raffaele De Ferrari, to whom the square is dedicated.

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A few streets away from the square, we found the Duomo di Genoa.  In front of the cathedral are these cozy coffee shops and from there, we took our first sips of Italian coffee.  The Cathedral of Genoa was probably founded in the 5th or 6th century, and later its construction began in the 12th century.

Today the cathedral is dedicated to Saint Lawrence, and is the seat of the Archbishop of Genoa.

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Genoa is definitely the most fitting city for us to start to enjoy Italy,  especially then that we’re moving to explore further the region of Liguria the next day.

My Travel Notes
How we got there…

From Switzerland, we drove off to Genoa, taking the Mont Blanc tunnel and E612 expressway.  Together with quick stopovers and waiting queue to the tunnel, it took us almost 5 hours to reach Genoa.

We came across this beautifully retro classic Fiat car, and I fell in love that I almost convinced my hubby to trade ours with it.  Seriously, a quirky small car like this Fiat fits very well in driving around the narrow cobblestone streets in Italy.  But since we had come from a distant land, driving hundreds of kilometers in expressways and mountain valleys with this cutie won’t be a fun ride after all.  So for now, ciao bella!

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Where we stayed…

The NH Collection Genova Marina hotel is part of Genoa’s Old Port area, which was developed by world-famous architect Renzo Piano.  It sits on specially-designed ‘stilts’, steps from the impressive Aquarium and Sea Museum and only a 10-minute walk from the historic city center.  Plus it’s ideally located for the Ponte dei Mille cruise terminal.

What I like about this hotel is its fantastic sea views with short walking distance to the old town.  Having sumptuous breakfast in their al fresco terrace with views of yachts and cruise boats from afar was the one I liked the most during our stay there.

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Where we had our first Italian dinner…

Just in time to take in more carbs after that afternoon stroll in the old town of Genoa, we looked around and stumbled upon this quaint local restaurant called La Mama.  We noticed lots of locals eating in this cozy family restaurant, so we dined in right away.  My hubby and I ordered seafood dishes of course, and both were just really good.  We’re happy to have our first true Italian dinner just right.
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What we did during our overnight stay…
  • Get a glimpse of the marina.
  • Get lost at the narrow caruggi alleyways.
  • Stand in the middle of Piazza de Ferrari.
  • Sip Italian coffee in front of Duomo di Genoa.
  • Get a taste of Genoan seafood dishes.
If only we had one day extra, what other things we could have done to explore more of Genoa…
  • Spend a sunset afternoon at Boccadasse.
  • Enjoy the architectural beauty of Palazzi dei Rolli.
  • Take the panoramic view of Genoa at Spianata Castelletto. Castelleto is a residence area that occupies the hilly area outside of the city center of Genoa.
  • Visit the Royal Palace Museum.
  • See some sea creatures at the Aquarium, the largest in Europe.
  • Try some more of Genoan specialty dishes.

WHAT’S YOUR STORY ?

Would you like to visit Genoa someday too?  Or have you been here before?  What can you say about this historical old town in Italy?  Do you think it deserves more attention as a travel destination compared to cities like Rome or Florence?

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