Genova, Italy: Getting Lost In The Winding Seaside Streets

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The Italian seaside city of Genova (Genoa in English) marked the final leg of my European adventure.

As Italy’s largest port, it has a rich history as one of the country’s most powerful and important cities. From a tourist’s perspective, it is often overlooked, as foreigners focus most of their attention on Rome, Venice, Florence and the like. This is a mistake. Genova, the birthplace of Christopher Columbus, has lots to offer.

Porto Antico
Porto Antico

The port of Genova, the city’s economic engine offers some lovely views. Taking a stroll along the Porto Antico, you’ll see a impressive display of yachts and sailboats. It’s a great place to people watch and a popular meeting spot for locals.

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Stepping away from the waterfront, you can turn up one of Genova’s winding streets or alleyways. This is probably the city’s hallmark. It’s both lovely and disorienting at the same time. I ended up getting all turned around my first couple of trips through the city’s streets, which feel more like a maze than urban planning. Take a look at the google satellite view below, you’ll get an idea of what I’m talking about.

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All these little streets are filled with houses, shops and restaurants. There’s no central area where you go to find a grocery store, there’s a butcher or market around every tight little corner.

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All these little maze-like streets eventually lead to squares, which are usually home to churches or other important buildings.

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Before getting to Genova, my Italian cousin advised me to try some Focaccia during my visit. It’s a flat, oven-baked bread that kind of resembles pizza, but it’s quite different. I tried a few different varieties from different shops, but the best one was this cheesy, garlic‚ focaccia al formaggio‚  I found just off the old port.

focaccia al formaggio
focaccia al formaggio

I didn’t get to spend as much time in Genova as I would have liked, as I was up against the clock, a flight from Paris to Canada waiting for me. If I go back to Italy, I’ll be sure to give Genova the proper attention it deserves.

Torino: The Olympic City of Italy

The church of Gran Madre di Dio
The church of Gran Madre di Dio

The 2006 Winter Olympics put Torino (Turin in English) on the map. Before that, nobody had heard of it, which is unfortunate, because it’s a beautiful little city that punches above its weight.

Columns are everywhere in Torino
Columns are everywhere in Torino

While being considerably smaller than Milano, it offers more in the way of architecture and classic Italian style than it’s larger counterpart. Situated along the Po river and surrounded by hills and mountains on all sides, Torino’s natural beauty rivals any European city.

The architecture is great too.

Mole Antonelliana
Mole Antonelliana

The city’s landmark building is the Mole Antonelliana. Built atop of a synagogue, the tower is visible throughout the city and can be used as an orientation point.

Torino boasts its share of incredible churches, some dating back to the 15th century.‚ The Neo-classical church of‚ Gran Madre di Dio ‚ (featured in the top photo) was built in 1831. The Duomo di Torino was (photo below) was built between‚ 1491€œ1498.

Duomo di Torino
Duomo di Torino

One stop I made was Cafe Fiorio. It’s been open since 1780, it’s been a home to intellectuals throughout Torino’s history. Mark Twain and Herman Melville were frequent clients along with many eminent politicians.

Cafe Fiorio
Cafe Fiorio

Getting around Torino is easy. The city streets are laid out in a grid, instead of the twisting and turning side-streets typical of many European cities. Most of the main sites are all in the downtown core, which is easily walkable. There is a comprehensive bus and tram network that crisscrosses the town and the new Metro, built for the 2006 Olympics is also an option.

A peaceful city buried in the mountains, Torino is a fantastic place to relax and live life at a slower pace. For the tired traveler, it provides a wonderful opportunity to recharge and recuperate before moving on to a busier city, be it Milano, Rome or somewhere else.

Visiting Milano, Italy’s Luxurious Northern City

Duomo by day
Duomo by day

Italy proved to be the final country on my European tour. This was my first extended visit to the country, I had previously made a day trip from Nice, France to Ventimiglia, a small town just across the Italian border, in 2011.

Flying from Clu-Napoca in Romania, I landed in Milano, Italy’s modern and fashionable city. The city is known more for its shopping and posh lifestyle than it is for its architectural or natural beauty. Nevertheless, there are still some impressive sites to visit.

Duomo by night
Duomo by night

The Duomo di Milano is the city’s landmark building. It serves as the centre point of the city. A popular meeting spot, practically all of Milano’s public transportation converges around the massive cathedral.

Galleria Vittorio Emanuele ll
Galleria Vittorio Emanuele ll

Close by is the Galleria Vittorio Emanuele ll, a magnificent shopping centre. Built in 1867, its modern use of iron and glass makes an elegant indoor plaza for shoppers can wander, covered from the elements. It’s particularly impressive at night.

Castello Sforzesco
Castello Sforzesco

A short walk away is the Castello Sforzesco, a glimpse back in time to the middle ages. The 14th century structure houses some of Europe’s finest museums and leads to Milano’s large Parco Sempione.

Galleria Vittorio Emanuele ll
Galleria Vittorio Emanuele ll

At the North end of the park, you’ll find the Arco della Pace, a grand arch commissioned by Napoleon. It was completed in 1838.

Arco della Pace
Arco della Pace

I only spent two nights in Milano, but that proved to be enough to see most of the architectural sites the city has to offer. Shopping isn’t really my thing, but if you’re looking for a getaway where you can enjoy great food, shopping and a little bit of history and architecture sprinkled in, head to Milano.