If You Only Have Three Days in Genoa

Take two days to explore this coastal town, then venture to other villages along the Italian shores. Be sure to hike from Santa Margherita to Camogli along the edge of the Portofino promontory.

While the climb is quite literally breathtaking (900 steps), the Church of San Rocco, perched on the very edge of the Ligurian Sea, is a gorgeous spot to spend the day. Taking the train to Camogli, you can then spend the morning hiking up to the church and enjoying the beautiful altar piece and frescoes. Coming back down into town, make sure you stop by one of the many seaside restaurants for a celebratory lunch, and grab a gelato from one of the boardwalk stands on your way back to the train station!
5 Vico del Campanile delle Vigne
One of the most highly decorated churches in Genoa, Santa Maria della Vigne is hauntingly beautiful. Originating in the 10th century (when monks tended wine-producing grapevines in the courtyard, hence the name), the Basilica was not completed until the mid 1700s. But tucked into the far corner is an original Madonna and the Angels by Giovanni Mazone, circa 1465.
16032 San Fruttuoso GE, Italy
The tiny Abbey of San Fruttuoso is nestled in a cove between Camogli and Portofino, and accessible solely by foot or boat. If you want to hike it, find the trail at the far end of Camogli, and be ready for a steep, but gorgeous, two hour hike up and over the mountain. If you would prefer a quick 15 minute boat ride, catch the boat for a few euro in the harbor of Camogli and ride to San Fruttuoso in style. The abbey itself is beautiful, but it is also nice to simply sit and have a cocktail at the beachside restaurant (look closely - their kitchen is upstairs, so they send the food down in a small wicker basket when it’s ready!).
Getting to Portofino from Genoa is quite easy. Take the train from Genoa’s Brignole Station to Santa Margherita Ligure, and then catch the 82 bus to Portofino (a 12-minute trip around the bay). While I’m not a huge bus person, this is one of the most gorgeous bus rides I’ve ever experienced. A tiny fishing village with a very posh clientele, Portofino is a wonderful day trip—perfect for walking around, shopping at high-end boutiques, and enjoying an apertivo dockside before heading back to town. Yet Portofino is also covered with trekking trails, so another option is to wear walking gear and come for the breathtaking hikes!
Via Giuseppe Garibaldi, 147, 16032 Camogli GE, Italy
Camogli is a quick 30-minute train ride out of Genoa, making it easy for an evening out for cocktails and dinner. Leave from Brignole Station, and arrive in Camogli by 6:30pm so that you can get a seaside table at Bar Auriga for a perfect Aperol Spritz as the sun sets and the waves crash in.
Mura delle Chiappe, 50, 16136 Genova GE, Italy
The winding streets of ancient Genoa all lead in one direction—straight up. Lace up your tennis shoes and keep climbing. Eventually you will reach a small park at the edge of the city, the entrance to one of the many fortresses that speckled its 17th-century walls. From here you’ll be treated to one of the best views of both old and new Genoa. Come at dusk for a stunning sunset over the urban edge of the Ligurian Sea. (And if you are too tired to walk back down, catch the funicular for less than two euros!)
Via Garibaldi, 11, 16124 Genova GE, Italy
Nestled among the stunning palaces of the UNESCO World Heritage Palazzi Dei Rolli, Palazzo Bianco was built in the late 16th century by the Grimaldi family, one of the 28 ‘albergi’ families that ruled Genoa for centuries. Today, the gorgeous building houses an art museum focusing primarily on Flemish and Italian artists, with a strong emphasis on Genovese artists themselves. But do not miss the opportunity to stroll out into the gardens. They are magnificent anytime of year, but especially beautiful in early spring.
1 Piazza di Pellicceria
Tucked deep in the heart of the ancient city, this is an easy Palazzo to miss—but don’t miss it. My favorite of the Genovese museums, five floors of this massive palace are dedicated to the history and splendor of Genoa—the first three being the restored palace of the Spinola family, and the top two serving as the National Gallery. Explore beautiful frescoes, ceramics from the 1700s, actual clothing from the 15th century, and a massive original Rubens, among the many other varied treasures.
Piazza Giacomo Matteotti, 84R, 16123 Genova GE, Italy
Take your morning coffee in the sunshine, shaded by the the Palazzo Ducale. With quite a few tables, Douce does a busy morning cappuccino/focaccia business, so you can also come later in the afternoon (when it’s slightly warmer) to make sure you get an alfresco seat. Just make sure you don’t order a cappuccino after 10am—the Genovese are likely to laugh at you. It’s espresso or nothing at that point!
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