Genoa - A view from our expert author

Dickens was taken aback, ‘It is a place that ‘grows upon you’ every day. There seems always something to find out in it… It abounds with the strangest contrasts; things that are picturesque, ugly, mean, magnificent, delightful and offensive, break up the view at every turn.

Genoa Liguria Italy by Maudanros ShutterstockThe port is the heart of Genoa's sprawling cityscape © Maudanros, Shutterstock

Genoa is a real port city. When Dylan Thomas arrived here in 1947 he wrote to his parents, ‘The dock-front of Genoa is marvellous. Such heat and colours and dirt and noise and loud wicked alleys with all the washing of the world hanging from the high windows.’ Genoa is still a vibrant, sometimes intimidating place, that’s definitely on the up. Henry James thought Genoa was the ‘queerest place in the world’, and it is certainly different from any other Italian city.

Until recently it wasn’t on the tourist trail at all and despite efforts to clean up the old town, it’s still packed with prostitutes, even on a Sunday morning. Yet, as James pointed out, ‘it is not fair to speak as if at Genoa there were nothing but low-life to be seen, for the place is the residence of some of the grandest people in the world.’ That is certainly the case. Once a maritime superpower, Genoa has some of the most sumptuous palaces in Italy.

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