Discover Genoa's Historical Centre
A large and fascinating historical centre - the true heart of Genoa - where you can hear the echoes of the history of the “Superba”, discover the beauty of the ancient Palazzi that are now recognised as UNESCO World Heritage; or be tempted by the aromas of the typical cuisine emerging from the ancient “sciamadde”, traditional food shops that for centuries have provided “street” food, long before the term was invented.
With its 113 hectares, it is one of the largest medieval city centres in Europe, made up of alleyways (caruggi) that open into large squares, often linked, like the churches that typically overlook them, to important Genoese noble families.
The spirit of Genoa is found in these alleys, where the smells, tastes, languages and cultures of a great historic port mix, indeed the historic centre, more than any other part of the city, has always been a melting pot. In these spaces, squeezed between the hills and the sea, rich Genoese merchants and nobles built splendid residences, where works of art have been collected and preserved for centuries, today many of these Palazzi are now museums.
In this agglomeration of buildings, architectural styles overlap: a medieval wall forms part of a 14th-century building, Gothic loggias are transformed into fashionable clubs. In the historic centre of Genoa, the past is the foundation of the present.
A visit to the Cathedral of San Lorenzo is a must. It was built around 1098 on the site of an earlier basilica dating to the 5th-6th century and then enlarged over the centuries maintaining a solemn splendour. The cathedral, dedicated to the martyr San Lorenzo, also conserves the ashes of the city's patron saint, St John the Baptist, which were brought to Genoa at the end of the First Crusade.
Also not to be missed are Piazza De Ferrari, the hub of Genoese life, Piazza Matteotti with the chiesa del Gesù – a magnificent example of high Baroque containing works by Rubens, Vouet and Carlone - and Via Garibaldi, the heart of the UNESCO Rolli and strade nuove site.
Located next to the city's most historically important port, Piazza Banchi was once the site of the grain market before later being renamed Piazza "dei banchi" (12th century), due to the presence of the money changers' stalls located under the arcades of the various palazzi.
In Genoa’s historical centre, time seems to stand still: noble palazzi and beautiful churches are interspersed with shops that have been in operation for over 100 years, where typical specialities are still prepared according to ancient recipes and handcrafts continue according to age-old traditions. Genoa is a city rich in historic shops and even the names of the streets often recall a past linked to craft activities and guilds, such as Via degli Orefici or Vico del Ferro. In fact if you look up at the street corners often you will be able to admire the magnificent votive aedicules that were donated by the ancient guilds to illuminate the streets at night.
The oldest part of the city can only be visited on foot: it is fascinating to stroll between the alleys, amidst the historic Palazzi. As you stroll, you can also admire the so called “Barbarossa” Walls, which encircle the heart of Genoa with their imposing presence but are now perfectly integrated into the fabric of the city.
The attached map shows four suggested itineraries, marked in different colours (blue, red, green and orange), which wind along the main streets of the ancient city; within the highlighted areas are some of the most significant artistic and cultural treasures of the city. Veritable jewels to be discovered and admired, through relaxed strolls through characteristic routes enjoyed in total peace and safety.
The blue route starts from the Stazione Maritimi area and leads towards the Aquarium and the attractions of the Porto Antico before entering the heart of the historic centre.
The red route lruns along the streets where some of the finest examples of the Palazzi dei Rolli, the ancient Genoese dwellings and UNESCO World Heritage Sites, are located.
The green route invites you to discover the characteristic alleys, the Genoese "caruggi", which unexpectedly make way for charming and colourful little squares.
The orange route, on the other hand, is dedicated to Medieval Genoa and its corners rich in history and charm, populated by churches, towers, votive aedicules and ancient gateways.
So many opportunities to move easily among the prestigious Palazzi, the renowned Historical Shops and the most characteristic and suggestive corners of Genoa's historical centre.
Some suggestions for a visit.
Experience the charm of the ancient city, let yourself be guided to discover the old town with the guided "Genova Walking Tour"!
Discover the magic of the sumptuous Genoese aristocratic palaces of the 16th and 17th centuries thanks to the "Guided tour of the Palazzi dei Rolli, Unesco World Heritage Site"!
N.B.: Guided tours may be suspended at certain times due to the health emergency. It is therefore recommended to check with the IAT Offices whether the tours are available on your prefered date.