The Mole Diaries: Genoa
Not exactly a tourist hotspot, Genoa has a bit of a reputation as a grubby, dirty city, however the city is full of hidden gems and the longer I have been here to more I have grown to love it. Whilst it is definitely not as classically beautiful as many other places in Italy, it provides a great base for travelling whilst you are here, whether it be to other major cities or simply exploring the world famous Italian Riviera and the likes of Portofino and Cinque Terre.
Finding somewhere to live
Scary as it sounds, I would recommend sorting your accommodation after you’ve arrived in Genoa. This way, you can see the room first hand, and perhaps more importantly the area it’s in. Advertisements for rooms in centro storico are abundant but the tiny alleyways characteristic to this part of town near the port are not safe at night and the Genoese themselves tell you not to walk alone there at night. I knew a girl who ended up living next door to a brothel - less than ideal. Rooms around Via Balbi, Piazza della Nunziata and Castelletto on the other hand, are popular student living areas - ideally located for the university and around a 15 minute walk into the centre of town. Some useful accommodation websites are Easy Stanza and Bakeca.
Room prices vary from €300-€350 a month for a single room, or if you’re happy to share with someone else, rent can cost as little as €200 a month. Whilst you look for accommodation it is worth staying in Genoa Youth Hostel (it’s quite a long way out of town and looks a bit like a prison from the outside) but it’s where I first met lots of other Erasmus students and once you’ve paid for your first night there, Genoa University will pay for the next four.
What to pack
Anyone who has also lived here will tell you that Genoa is a very windy city. Over the winter months when it can also get quite rainy, you will probably get through a number of umbrellas as you battle through the conditions. Having said this, until the end of October the weather was nice enough to swim in the sea, so don’t think a bikini won’t get any use if you’re arriving from September. Don’t bother with heels though – nobody out here wears them, and if someone does, they are the unfortunate subject of numerous stares.
Bring plenty of passport sized photos for various registration requests and a copy of all your important documents in case anything goes mysteriously missing as they quite often seem to do. A mini dictionary is also invaluable to begin with. If you are a tea-lover like me, bring teabags with you! It is a home comfort Italian supermarkets do not cater for and in the first few weeks whilst you are still adjusting to life abroad you’ll be grateful you made space in your suitcase! (This is not exclusive to tea; bring Marmite, Cadbury’s, Heinz – any personal favourites.)
Although Genoa is a relatively large town, it is possible to walk most places, especially if you are just in the centre. Having said this, Genoa is a very hilly city, and every so often it is worth taking advantage of the bus service (which operates live arrival times on its website) or the ascensore and funicolare if you fancy giving your legs a break from time to time. Bus tickets have to be validated and are €1.50 for 100 minutes. There is also an Ikea in Genoa which runs a shuttle bus service there and back (it’s free as long as you buy something in Ikea and keep the receipt to give to the driver).
Things to do
1. Porto Antico
Genoa is severely lacking in parks and anywhere green but the port makes up for this. There is always something going on here or it is equally nice to sit by the sea and enjoy a gelato. During the winter months, a space is devoted to a covered ice skating rink.
2. Go to the Aquarium
Expensive, but it is so big that on a rainy day it could easily keep you occupied all day long. Especially good if the weather’s against you when you have visitors.
3. Visit Eataly
Located on the port, the view you get when you take the lift up to this gourmet supermarket is fantastic. Although I wouldn’t recommend doing any actual food shopping here, it is a nice place to eat and appreciate quality Italian food.
4. Get lost in the vicoli
Although slightly daunting, it is well worth wandering without a map and seeing what you find.
5. Piazza delle Erbe
In the heart of the old town, with a lively atmosphere it is a great place for an aperitivo or to meet friends.
6. Take a trip up to Righi
On a nice day take the funicolare from Zecca and enjoy a lovely view of the whole of the city.
7. Visit Boccadasse
At the end of Corso Italia (itself a great place to sit and watch the Italians on their passegiata) Boccadasse is a tiny beach with a great gelateria and plenty of rocks to sit and sunbathe.
8. Go to Nervi
A short train ride away and famous for its park, there is also a lovely seafront promenade to walk along.
9. See something at Teatro Carlo Felice
They do really good student discounts and it is worth buying a ticket just to see the theatre itself.
10. Go to the cinema
Every Monday at the Space Cinema in Porto Antico, they show one film for €2.50.