The port city of Genoa was once a medieval superpower to rival Venice and still has grand palaces and ornate churches to prove it.
But as much as you’ll want to wander the lanes of the historic centre, it’s hard to resist spending most of your time sampling the local cuisine or shopping at family-run stores to take home a taste of the province of Liguria.
Here’s how to enjoy the city on a budget…
During a trip to Genoa, visit the likes of Gelateria Profumo and the fishing village of Boccadasse
Where to stay
Hotel Le Nuvole
Pick up your keys from the sister hotel next door, then enter this grand former townhouse that stands on a bustling pedestrianised square in the historic centre. Take the lift to the top floor and a stylish, boutique residence where your bedroom (one of 15) might have views of the fine church next door or a pavement cafe below. B&B doubles from £74 (hotellenuvole.it).
This few-frills place is in a good location off a pedestrianised street and has a large terrace with Jacuzzi. Its 56 rooms are decorated sparsely, but whatever you save on the bill, splurge it in nearby cafes and restaurants. A good-value breakfast costs £4 pp. Room-only doubles from £57 (hotelnologo.it).
A family-run B&B that’s part of a 15th-century ex-convent. There are only two rooms, either sold together to families or groups — or one is kept empty if you take the other, so you’ll never be sharing with strangers. There’s a terrace with great views over the city. B&B doubles from £61 (valeryguesthouse.com).
What to see and do
Wander the lanes of Genoa, pictured, a city filled with grand palaces and ornate churches
Genoa’s historic centre is crisscrossed by caruggi, medieval alleys that link squares and streets lined with shops, churches and cafes. Expect to get lost!
If you need help, guide Barbara Cudia charges from £30 pp for a group of four for three hours (hellogenoa.eu). Take one of 18 public lifts and funiculars (amt.genova.it) to make climbing the city’s hills easy.
Seaside stroll: Walk to charming Boccadesse, which is the perfect spot for sunset photos
Follow the locals and stroll along the mile-long Corso Italia, to the fishing village of Boccadasse in the early evening. It is the perfect spot for sunset photos — and you can stop off for cocktails or a fried fish snack.
The Palazzo Spinola National Gallery, built in 1593, contains works by Brea, Tintoretto and Rubens (entry £5.20, palazzospinola.beniculturali.it).
Pictured is the ‘amazingly rich baroque interior’ of the 16th-century Il Gesu church
The 16th-century Il Gesu church on Piazza Matteotti looks dull from the outside, but has an amazingly rich baroque interior (culturainliguria.it).
Where to eat
Trattoria Rosmarino is an ‘unpretentious’ eatery close to the grand Piazza de Ferrari (pictured)
Genoa is the home of focaccia and pesto, and its restaurants make full use of delicious, local ingredients. Trattoria Rosmarino is an unpretentious place for lunch or dinner just close to the grand Piazza de Ferrari. It highlights the best produce from Liguria: a delicious dish of pasta and pesto is £9. Salt cod with potatoes and olives is £12.
At this good-value lunchtime spot, you can dine at a dozen or so stalls under one roof — a starter here, a main there, dessert to take away — so mix and match.
The setting, with sun streaming in through the large upper windows, is rather wonderful. If you want a more formal sit-down meal, go upstairs where 24-year-old wunderchef Daniele Rebosio oversees the kitchen with mains averaging £20 (moggenova.it).
After visiting the 12th-century Abbey of San Matteo (pictured on the right), head to 20 Tre for dinner
This restaurant is a short stroll from the 12th-century Abbey of San Matteo, a handy reference point if you get lost while searching for it in the tight cluster of narrow lanes here. Your meal might include prawn tartare with apple and vermouth ice cream, home-made gnocchi with monkfish and crunchy asparagus, before a main that will cost about £16 (ristorante20tregenova.it).
Come to Italy and not have gelato? Unthinkable. This rather nondescript-looking ice cream shop is worth seeking out for its range of delectable flavours that are made on site daily.
The ices are hidden in metal jars, so all the more reason to taste before deciding. Its sister bakery nearby makes some of the most sumptuous cakes and pastries in town (villa1827.it).
Need to know
British Airways (ba.com), easyJet (easyjet.com) and Ryanair (ryanair.com) fly to Genoa. Volabus (amt.genova.it) links the airport to the city centre and costs £5 one way. Genoa tourist information: visitgenoa.it.