The Best European Cities for Café Culture
By Jack Stacey
26 April 2019
There is, I suspect, an image that appears in everyone’s heads, when someone says the words 'European café'.Read more
Sprawled over Liguria's picturesque hills as they descend toward north-western Italy's Mediterranean coast, Genoa, the region's atmospheric capital city, justifies its nickname: la Superba.
Like many of Italy's great cities, Genoa has a rich and illustrious history. Occupied by the Greeks in the sixth century BC and later by the Romans, Genoa was destroyed by Carthaginians during the Punic Wars and rebuilt to become, by medieval times, a prosperous financial, shipbuilding and trading port. Subsequently beleaguered by the Black Death, ongoing wars with Venice, economic decline and the continual threat of piracy, Genoa's 'golden era' only arrived in the sixteenth century, when many notable artists and architects including Alessi, Rubens, Caravaggio and Van Dyck were drawn to the city.
This colourful history has shaped modern-day Genoa, its legacy
evident in the city's wealth of magnificent architectural styles.
The grand sixteenth and seventeenth century 'palaces' collected
around the Via Garbaldi have earned UNESCO World Heritage status,
whilst many more architectural gems are tucked away in the maze of
narrow medieval streets that forms the Old Town at Genoa's
These highlights and the city's many fine museums and galleries, its magnificent cathedral and ancient churches and its beautiful waterfront which combines the historic harbour with a thoroughly contemporary dock area demonstrate why Genoa is such a popular and rewarding destination, and referred to as 'the Superb one'.
Genoa's Romanesque twelfth-century cathedral easily rivals those of Italy's other major historic cities, having retained its magnificence despite partial destruction by fire and by war and significant restoration and extension over the centuries. The cathedral's stunning internal decoration includes many fine sculptures and carvings, an exquisitely-painted high vaulted ceiling and pictorial stained-glass windows.
Housed in one of the many grand mansions ('palazzos') that were built by the aristocracy in Genoa during the seventeenth and eighteenth century, the National Gallery of Spinola Palace is set over four floors and contains original masterpieces by painters including Rubens, Tintoretto, Van Dyck and Strozzi, as well as ceramics, frescoes and period furniture.
Located on the city's waterfront, Genoa's aquarium is the largest in Italy and one of the largest in Europe. Opened in 1993, the aquarium showcases biodiversity in seventy-one separate tanks which replicate natural marine environments including the Antarctic, the Mediterranean, the Red Sea, the Amazon, and the Indian Ocean and contain more than six hundred species of animals and plants including dolphins, sharks, seals and penguins as well as rare and exotic fish.