Genoa truly surprised me. I initially planned to mostly use it as a base for expensive day trip destinations nearby. But by the end of my time there, Genoa grew on me and already had me mentally planning my return. This once-large-naval-power has such unique combinations of colorful buildings yet grungy vibes, being a metropolitan cruise-ship port yet lacking the feel of over-tourism, and being home to great food (like pesto and focaccia) while having an affordable restaurant scene. I highly recommend paying Genoa a visit. And to make that easier, I’ve done all the planning for you with this perfect Genoa two day travel itinerary.
Start in Genoa’s Historical Center
Start the morning by walking up Via XX Settembre. It’s lined with clothing shops, gelaterias, and young folks galore. Even if you don’t plan to make a purchase, I recommend strolling down this street to experience the lively vibe and a peak into “real” Genovese life.
Keep walking up this street until you reach Piazza de Ferrari. It’s a large square with a large fountain, and happens to be at the intersection of a lot of important streets.
Walk through the left side of the Piazza de Ferrari and you’ll see Chiesa del Gesù e dei Santi Ambrogio e Andrea. It’s free to enter, so definitely take a peak before heading over to the Palazzo Ducale, or Doge’s Palace, just adjacent to the church. I personally just admired the palace briefly from the outside, but you can enter and the palace and view any ongoing exhibitions. Normal entrance is €12, and entrance plus an exhibition is usually just a few euro more. See what’s going on during your visit at the official website.
From this area with the church and palace, head down Via di Porta Soprana. Eventually, you will reach Casa di Cristoforo Colombo. It’s spelled a little differently than in English, but do you recognize the name? Although he’s associated with Spain, Christopher Columbus was actually from Genoa. I stumbled upon this attraction very much accidentally. But as an American who grew up learning each year in grade school how he “discovered” America (if you don’t know yet: he didn’t), it was interesting to envision where such a world-famous name grew up.
Next, head through the large Porta Soprana, a 12th-century gate a stone’s throw from Casa di Cristoforo Colombo. Past this gate, you’ll find a very calm area of Genoa. Not that Genoa in general is very touristy, but this area is even less touristy.
Exit this area near Genoa Cathedral on Via San Lorenzo. Like the first church you saw, it is also free to enter. After viewing the church, keep walking down the same street until you hit the Ligurian Sea.
Head to the Waterfront
The view of the water from the harbor honestly isn’t great (don’t even think about swimming!), but it’s hard to say you’ve seen Genoa, once a huge navel power, if you haven’t seen it from the water. Plus, the pretty, colorful buildings more than make up for the less-than-superb harbor views. Be sure to at least take a look at Palazzo San Giorgio.
Continue walking north along the waterfront until you’ll eventually hit a brown, wooden ship with a statue of Neptune attached to the bow of the ship.
Enjoy Sunset with a View from Above
Return back into the historical center, and walk until you reach Via Garibaldi. This walk isn’t “dangerous,” but always keep your valuables safe in this area between the harbor and Via Garibaldi.
Also known as “la Via Aurea” (Italian for “the Golden Street)”, Via Garibaldi is home to government buildings, banks, shops, and more. The street also boasts palaces integral to Genoa’s history as an important European power. The most famous of these palaces is Palazzo Rossi. It houses many works of art, and which you can enter for €9.
As the day is ending, make your way to Spianata di Castelletto. The only thing better than a killer view of the water is a killer view of the water during sunset! If you don’t have the stamina to climb stairs, you can take the elevator. (I believe it is €2 each way, but don’t quote me!). Otherwise, save that cash for a gelato (from Antica Gelateria Guarino) or Sicilian granita (from Don Paolo) once you’re up at the top. Grab your treat, and find an empty bench with your preferred view. This area is rather lively, with locals and visitors alike enjoying the view.
Have Dinner with the Cool Kids
For dinner, consider heading back through the historical center to Piazza della Erbe. It’s a very lively area filled with lots of young adults, outdoor seating, and multiple food options (one of them being vegan).
Start the Day with a View
Head into a tobacco shop or newsstand, and purchase a 24-hr public transport pass for Genoa for €4.50. If you are in a group of four, you can get a four-person one for just €9! Then, for 24hr after you first validate it, you can travel by bus, funicular, and train anywhere between central Genoa and Genoa Nervi. Such a great deal!
After you’ve got your 24-hr pass, head to the Zecca funicular. Take it all the way up until you reach Righi.
Grab Lunch in Town
Then, get some lunch in central Genoa, before heading to the Genova Brignole train station for the main part of your day trip. I recommend Il Genovese, which is six-minute’s walk from the train, and was initially recommended to me by my hostel. It opens from 12:00pm – 2:30pm and offers traditional Genovese cuisine at fair prices.
Head to the Beach
After a delicious lunch, head to Genova Brignole. Hop on a regional train heading towards Nervi, or towards Sestri Levante and stopping at Nervi. The ride is only 15 minutes, so pay attention not to miss your stop. You’ll arrive at Nervi in the early afternoon – aka the perfect time for a swim!
From Nervi’s train station, you can walk along the Passeggiata Anita Garibaldi a Nervi, a walkway with gorgeous views. Nervi also has a little downtown area if you head the opposite direction of the walkway when exiting the train station. I recommend eating somewhere here if you didn’t already eat lunch in Genoa already and don’t have your own prepared food packed. There aren’t a ton of proper food options once you leave this area. (The only real eatery is Osteria del Duca, at the far end of the walkway, and which didn’t open until 7:30pm for dinner on the day I was there.)
Walk along the Passeggiata Anita Garibaldi a Nervi, keeping an eye out for where you’d best like to spend a few hours swimming. There is a pebble beach called Spiaggia Capolungo at the far end of this walkway. But I preferred and recommend choosing one of the many flat sections of cliffs along the walk instead. Rotate between swimming, laying out, and munching on any snacks you brought until you start getting hungry for something more. Then you’ll know it’s time to head to Boccadasse for aperitivo.
Enjoy Aperitivo by the Water
Walk back on the Passeggiata Anita Garibaldi, but this time continue walking past the train station to the other end. This will take you to a bunch of colorful buildings along the water. From near here, find the Via Somma Rampa bus stop on Via Guglielmo Oberdan street. Then take the 15 bus for 20 minutes up the coast. Get off at Caprera/Orsini in Boccadasse, and walk seven minutes to the beach area.
Boccadasse looks like a mini version of a Cinque Terre village, so especially if you are not able to make it to Cinque Terre, I definitely recommend stopping by here. There is a beach at which you can swim, though I personally recommend sticking to swimming in Nervi. Instead of swimming in Boccadasse, simply enjoy an aperitivo with a view. The vibe here is lively in the evening, and the area is filled with young adults. So I think it’s the perfect setting.
Have Dinner with a View
Afterwards, walk the Corso Italia back to central Genoa. This 2 mile (3 km) waterfront promenade is an easy forty-minute walk that I recommend timing during sunset. I expected this walk to just be a small sidewalk along a road for cars. But it’s actually a large, brick-like promenade made for walking, jogging, and hanging out. Towards the end of your walk, you can stop by Ristorante Pizzeria Punta Vagno for fairly-priced pizzas and more. This restaurant has a lovely view over the water – perfect for sunset!
From the end of the Corso Italia, you can take a bus back to your accommodation (the 31 bus if you are staying at the hostel I recommend below and in my ultimate Genoa travel guide) or walk.
WHERE TO STAY IN GENOA
With just two days in Genoa, I recommend choosing accommodation close to both the train station and the historical center. For those of you traveling on a budget (like I always do!), I can recommend this hostel. I stayed there for five nights during my own visit to Genoa. It is a five-minute walk from the main train station, was clean, and the staff gave some great day trip suggestions. It’s a social hostel in that it hosts are organized events every night, but it is still calm enough
that a grandma like me had no problems. It’s not the cheapest hostel (I paid high-30-somethings USD a night), but it’s not the most expensive either, and there aren’t many hostels in the city. They advertise breakfast as included, but it’s so minuscule that I made a routine of getting coffee and a pastry for €2.60 right down the street.
While in Genoa, I met other travelers who stayed at this hostel, located in the historical center, and they seem satisfied with it.
WHAT DO YOU THINK?
I think this two-day Genoa itinerary is the perfect amount of time to see Genoa proper, but that doesn’t mean you can’t tack on a few more nights like I did and make further day trips. I detail all my personal recommendations based on my own trip in this full Genoa travel guide.
Have you been to Genoa? How did you like it? Let me know in the comments below – I always love talking travel (especially Italy travel!).