Much like the city of Verona, Genoa Italy peaked many centuries ago. The city has become an uncoordinated combination of past glory and modern structures that stretch hopefully into the nearby foothills, as if trying to etch out a new identity independent of the past. Skyscrapers overlook landmarks dedicated to Christopher Columbus and Nicolo Paganini, near the center of the city's "old town". Once the most powerful port in Europe, and still the second largest (only to Marseilles, France), Genoa has thankfully avoided much of the decay characteristic of many of the world"s busiest ports. Much of its rich history and former wealth is still on display, encased within the medieval walls that still make up the city"s heart and soul.
Located on the Ligurian Sea, Genoa Italy is the self-appointed capital of the Italian Riviera. Built directly into cascading hills, newly renovated funiculars climb from downtown piazzas towards the high walls that acted as the city's most effective line of defense throughout the region's violent history. From these vantage points, you can see the clamor of the bustling port contrasted against tranquil Mediterranean seas. During the summer, the brisk breezes found at these heights are a welcome change from the afternoon heat in city. Hour-long harbor cruises are another way for the city to show off its frenetic, highly animated way of life.
The hills add a certain mystery to the town, with winding alleyways splaying out in every direction. One can choose a single direction to explore and it is nearly guaranteed that you will tire long before Genoa gives up its secrets. The bars, cafes and cabarets located along the harbor make sure you are never far from the temptation of alcohol.
Past the warehouses and ever-present cranes in the harbor is the medieval town, with ancient buildings slowly metamorphosing into structures built during the Renaissance. As Genoa accumulated more and more wealth, opulent palaces, marble streets and immaculate gardens sprung up along the outskirts of the country and many of these structures still proudly showcase the past wealth of this great city.
One of the feature attractions is the Acquario di Genova (Genoa aquarium), the largest collection of marine life in Europe. Originally built to honor Christopher Columbus - the Genoa aquarium was created to appear as a giant ship preparing to set sail. Its tanks hold over a million gallons of water and the myriad exhibits explore not just the sea life found in the Ligurian Sea, but the rest of the world too. Playful dolphins abound, though you can just as easily spend your time with a number of dark and evil looking species of squid and octopi.
Besides Columbus, the most famous person to claim Genoa Italy as his birthplace is Nicolo Paganini. Regarded as perhaps the finest violinist to ever live, Nicolo Paganini"s instrument is still on display at the Palazzo Tursi, which also houses many of Columbus's handwritten letters.
In part because of its commercial importance in centuries past, Genoa offers easy access to the rest of the country - whether by rail, ferries across the Ligurian Sea, or plane. In fact, many travelers prefer to enter Italy via a flight to Genoa, since international flights are often cheaper than corresponding flights to Rome and Florence, and the smaller number of tourists result in a more authentic introduction to the country. Genoa is also an excellent starting point for beach vacations to popular coastal destinations like Portofino.