For me Genoa is like a sleeping beauty: sleeping due to its obvious disinterest in tourists and a beauty because it has much to offer. Let me introduce you to the things you can do in Genoa on a Monday, the day you are usually discouraged from visiting this Italian city on, as most of its attractions and museums are closed. But things happen, and if you can’t reschedule your visit, you might as well try and make the most of it.
So you are in Genoa on a Monday. I hope you have arrived by train like me, and we can start our little sightseeing trip from the railway station. A quick reminder just in case: the main railway station of Genoa is called Genoa Piazza Principe (lit. ‘Square of the Prince’). Nobody is waiting for you, there’s no single tourist information centre around. You can buy a map at the bookshop nearby if you need one. To most of your questions about sightseeing you’ll get the evasive “I don’t know”. Pay no mind and don’t despair – I am here to help you out.
So you have arrived in Genoa by train, bought your map at the bookstore and... come on, leave that railway station already! There you are, with Christopher Columbus’s statue greeting you as you go out – as you probably know, the great Italian explorer and colonizer was a famous citizen of the Republic of Genoa.
Admire the monument, then take time and consult your new map to head down Via Balbi (Balbi Street), a bit to the left from the station. In the 1600s the establishment of the street was sponsored by the Balbi family who built the Jesuit College and their residential palaces here. Some of the palaces were designed by Italian architect Bartolomeo Bianco and sketched by Flemish artist Peter Paul Rubens. By today the University of Genoa has replaced the Jesuit College, and former Balbi palaces house a state museum and university facilities. Let us stop at Via Balbi 5, the University’s principal building. It’s located to your left and it’s open, come on in!
Examine the present and the past of learning here, take the stairs, get a view from the top, and... We continue to explore Via Balbi. In a while you’ll reach a square with a basilica to the left, go up the stairs and get in. It’s just unexpected and breathtaking, the Basilica della Annunziata. Linger here to get the feel of it. Gorgeous, right?
Take some pictures and continue to the Garibaldi tunnel.
The tunnel is quite long, just go ahead and shortly after you get through, look to your left to see a humble entrance to another tunnel. It leads to the lift for a nice view over all of the Genoa, confirmed by the letters above the doors: “Panorama Della Citta”.
Just remember to buy your ticket, return, and now you see all of it. Genoa has a peculiar colour, don’t you think? A bit sand-like and a little magical.
Now let’s go back! Mind your steps at the exit, cross the street and after a short while turn right to Via Garibaldi. Looks quite presumptuous, doesn’t it? But of course it has a reason to.
Via Garibaldi is home to 42 palaces, completely restored, being the very first European example of urban planning realized in cooperation with citizens, which accounts for the consistent design that meets specific organizing, representative and diplomatic needs. The street was put onto UNESCO’s World Heritage List in 2006, including the Strade Nuove (“New Roads”) with its magnificent “Palazzi dei Rolli,” a series of noble Renaissance and Baroque abodes built in the 16th 18th centuries. Even though most of the buildings are now occupied by banks, municipal offices and such, you can still marvel at the facades and the courtyards. Don’t rush and savour it.
Moving on, go back to the main square of Genoa, Piazza De Ferrari, and admire its buildings and the water fountain.
The Doge’s Palace is just next door too, and guess what, its exhibitions do work on Mondays. Just go in and see what they offer. I attended Mucha and Art Nouveau Atmospheres exhibition. What will be your choice?
After the visit, leave out the main entrance and find yourself in another square. To your left there’s the Gesu church, open every day from 15.30 to 18.00. I hope you are there at about that time.
At the main altar you’ll see the oil on canvas painting called “The Circumcision of Jesus” by Peter Paul Rubens, dated 1605.
Let’s get going though as there’s another sight to enjoy in a few minutes from here: Cathedral of San Lorenzo. Different again, and beautiful, with lions guarding the entrance.
The interior is just magnificent.
OK, now head to the port area, home to Acquario di Genova, one of the largest aquariums in Europe. The latest admission time on weekdays in May is 6.pm., so you may be late... Don’t worry; you can always decide to stay for one more day.
Tired? You bet you are! Sneak a glance at the galleon Neptune, built for Roman Polanski’s “Pirates” film.
Then try to find an open cafe or a restaurant nearby as you deserve a bracing dinner. Bon appetite!
Author: Anita Sāne
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