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Genoa: What to bring home

12/05/2014

Once the centre of a medieval empire, Genoa’s rich trading heritage lives on, satisfying the tastes of locals and tourists alike

Genoa, the capital of Liguria

La Superba (‘the proud one’)

The Ligurian city of Genoa in northern Italy has earned the nickname La Superba (‘the proud one’) for its glorious past and ancient landmarks. But no less impressive is the rich haul of treasures to be found in its shops and markets, including the finest lace, pottery and handcrafted silver.

 

The Old Town

Genoa’s medieval old town takes you into the belly of its Caruggi – a dense tangle of narrow pedestrian alleyways that form a maze where getting lost is a pleasure. Wander to Via Macelli di Soziglia to peruse local shops that offer mostly traditional Genoan artefacts, including handmade pottery, lace and jewellery.

Genoa too often goes unrecognised for its contribution to Italian cuisine – but it’s here that pesto originated, so it would be a culinary sin to go home without a jar. Then you can continue your journey through old Genoa to the Cathedral of San Lorenzo, with its distinctive zebra-striped façade – an ideal spot to purchase trinkets and souvenirs.

 

Luxury and designer

If you’re looking to treat yourself, there’s no better place than Via Roma or Via Luccoli, lined with haute couture boutiques and larger department stores as well as ornate columns and arches that vie for your attention. Discover European fashion on Via XX Settembre at high-end Italian label Marella, which sits alongside old favourites Diesel and Zara, while the elegant Galleria Mazzini is a covered thoroughfare, built in imitation of the Vittorio Emanuele II Gallery in Milan. It’s filled with shops, restaurants and market stalls, and it’s hard to imagine a more picturesque setting for souvenir shopping.

Genoa has something for everyone, and bargain hunters won’t be disappointed: while the lively and pedestrianised Via San Luca is good to visit for younger, trendier shops, the best outlets for vintage fashion are Almanacco and Betty Page.

 

Market values

If you weren’t hungry on arrival at the Mercato Orientale, the piles of fresh fruit and vegetables, stacks of parmesan wheels and overflowing tubs of olives will soon get your tummy rumbling. A Genoan secret, this market is tricky to find, but once you’ve filled your bag with Genoa’s finest herbs and spices and your stomach with slices of Parma ham, you’ll be glad you made the effort.

There are lots of smaller markets too, which are ideal for picking up last-minute gifts. The market at Piazza Banchi was the area’s first salt market, and quickly became the heart of the city’s business and trade. It’s still busy today with second-hand book and record sellers, souvenir stalls, kiosks and tiny art galleries. The Piazza Colombo also hosts a second-hand book market, while the Via degli Orefici is bustling with traders and locals doing their weekend browsing for bargain jewellery and marble and wooden artefacts. Antique hunters, meanwhile, should head for the market in Palazzo Ducale’s courtyards, held monthly between October and July.

 

Our 2-night tour, Genoa, La Superba offers the perfect introduction to this fabulous town and includes a half-day walking tour, accommodation, transfers and services of a local guide.

 

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