by Sarah Marshall, The Telegraph, May 29, 2019
A basil-based pasta sauce that’s become a store cupboard staple and quick-fix mealtime saviour, pesto is arguably the greatest creation to emerge from this Ligurian port city – so celebrated, in fact, it’s been granted Unesco status. The green goddess is certainly ubiquitous but there’s so much more on the menu, as demonstrated by new gourmet market Mog, which opened beneath the arches of Mercato Orientale’s historic cloister earlier this month (moggenova.it).
An extension of the classic 19th-century food hall where plump tomatoes are sold alongside fronds of forest-green cavolo nero, the new street food set-up features 11 counters stocked with artisan creations including panini from Michelin-starred chef Ivano Ricchebono. Upstairs, there is a cookery school overseen by the Italian Academy of Chefs, and a restaurant with rising star Daniele Rebosio at the helm. It’s a good excuse, if any is needed, to feed curiosities about one of Italy’s most misunderstood cities, a place where industrial sea-trading activities and a concrete flyover mask mesmerising 17th-century palazzos filled with treasures procured at a time of great wealth. A past shaped by commerce lives on in cherished shops dedicated for decades to the sale of one item, and whether it comes in the form of chocolates or silk ties, retail therapy is a justified cultural pursuit.
Consumed in situ, local delicacies like trofie and focaccia have a distinct Genoese flavour, but edible souvenirs travel well. Airport authorities have lifted liquid bans to allow pots of pesto over 100ml to be carried hand-luggage only – a world-first and proof Genoa’s culinary prowess is flying high. UK connections are via British Airways (ba.com), easyJet (easyjet.com) and Ryanair (ryanair.com).
Flaunting antique elegance without gathering dust, Hotel Bristol Palace still wows with its crystal chandeliers, velvet drapes and a nautilus staircase spiralling into the sky. Doubles from £176, with breakfast. Cheaper (and smaller) is boutique B&B Hotel Valery (valeryguesthouse.com), a 19th-century mosaic-floored home with doubles from £67 including breakfast.
Starting at the Porto Antico, marvel at Renzo Piano’s glass ball Biosphere, and cross under the flyover to find Palazzo San Giorgio’s dragon-slaying facade. Head straight to reach the church of San Pietro in Banchi profanely perched on a row of shops and continue along Via degli Orefici and Via di Soziglia to salivate at time-warped stores selling sweets, stationery and elaborate cakes. Veer left, zigzagging through Sestiere della Maddalena’s medieval alleys, to reach a parade of palazzos on Via Garibaldi; the Musei di Strada Nuova has works by Rubens and Van Dyck. March towards Piazza del Portello and take the art nouveau Castelletto elevator for inspirational city views.
One of the few Unesco-listed Palazzi dei Rolli open to visitors year-round, 17th-century Palazzo Reale (palazzorealegenova.beniculturali.it; £5) on Via Balbi is a showy blend of mirrored galleries, rococo grandeur and baroque gaudiness.
Climb one of the world’s oldest continually functioning lighthouses, Lanterna (lanternadigenova.it; £5), which was initially founded in 1128. The 253ft (77m) tower is open on weekend afternoons. It’s at Capo di Faro – get there from the ferry terminal by walking along a promenade hugging the old city walls.
A dying breed, the Botteghe Storiche (a collection of 39 historic shops) each specialise in different products: Romeo Viganotti have been making chocolates since 1866, while monks at Antica Farmacia Sant’Anna (erboristeriadeifrati.it) concoct herbal remedies.
For easy aperitivo-hopping without having to stray too far, creep under the awnings of bars clustered around Piazza delle Erbe. A more memorable night is promised between the candlelit stone walls of medieval-themed Taberna Storica Degli Alabardieri in Vico Vegetti. For a greater spectacle, sip cocktails in the company of crumbling marble busts at Les Rouges (lesrouges.it), a clandestine salon on the first floor of Palazzo Imperiale. Made with local vermouth Asinello Corochinato, their Spritz Genovese pays homage to the city (£6).
Overlooking the architectural attractions of revamped Porto Antico, the glass-walled Il Marin (facebook.com/RistoranteIlMarin) is a breezy, modern set-up with sharing tables, serving seafood on slates. Mains around £21. Toy with tradition at bright multilevel bistro Le Rune (ristorantelerune.it) overlooking the Sant’Anna funicular. Old favourites are given a makeover: try artichoke and sausage ravioli with pesto (£9).
Off the map
A stack of colourful houses tipping into the sea, Boccadasse is a traditional fishing village at the end of Corso Italia, a 1.5 mile (2.5km) promenade from the city. Walk it in 40 minutes from Foce, take the 31 bus from Albaro (£2) or a taxi from downtown (£9).