Welcome back to Ask a Local, a series of posts in which I interview locals all over the world about what to see, where to go, what to eat, and how to fit in in their city or town. The following interview was originally published in my Italy guide.
Today I’m happy to introduce you to Matteo Noris, a traveler, cyclist, and outdoor enthusiast here to tell us all about Genoa – a bustling port city full of hidden art, significant monuments, and the largest aquarium in Italy.
First, tell us about you.
My name is Matteo and I am 22. I was born in Santa Margherita, Liguria and I grew up in Recco, a small town near Genoa. As soon as I finished high school, I moved to UK where I completed my university studies. In January, I will move to Stockholm where I have been offered a job.
I am passionate about traveling and I have already visited many countries (from China to Guatemala to Qatar). I also travel by bike and I have cycled last May from Manchester (UK) to Genoa. I am passionate about Couchsurfing.org and I also host people through Airbnb. I am the proud owner of a Fiat 500r (1973 model).
In my spare time, I enjoy the beautiful surroundings that this region offers. I am a cyclist, swimmer, and runner.
If someone is visiting Genoa for the first time, what do you recommend they see or do?
Well, the historical center of Genoa and the caruggi or vicoli (alleyways and narrow streets) are a very interesting spot in town and they offer a lot from the historical/art point of view while also being the center of the nightlife.
Also, the Porto Antico—the area that faces the sea in front of Genoa—offers a great number of bars and things to do (including the Genoa Aquarium).
If you are coming in spring or late summer, I would suggest a walk along Corso Italia, a three-kilometer long promenade facing the sea and surrounded by beautiful villas. Another must for first time visitors is a visit to Garibaldi Street, the street that takes you past most of the important palaces in Genoa.
What neighborhoods or parts of town are best to stay in?
The city center, most of the vicoli, and the eastern part of the city are all safe and generally nice. The western part of the city (where the airport is) tends to be a more complicated place to be, although there are exception like Pegli and Arenzano, which are beautiful areas.
I would also recommend, if you are not too concerned with going out at night and don’t need to be right in the city center, staying in Nervi, Bogliasco, Recco, or even Camogli. They are very nice towns located along the coast, very well connected to Genoa through trains and bus lines.
Let’s talk about day trips…what nearby places should everyone make sure to visit?
You should make sure to visit Camogli, Nervi and it’s promenade, Portofino, Sestri Levante, the Cinque Terre, Porto Venere, Final Borgo, and Alassio.
Tell us about the local dishes. What should people try here?
Well, in Genoa you will find some very typical osterias, which will serve incredibly good food. Some of them will look older, while others might have enjoyed some renovation lately and be more attractive. Either way, you’re in for a treat.
The very typical dishes in Genoa are: pesto (a sauce that we put with a special type of pasta called trofie), farinata, focaccia, many different vegetable pies (torta di bietole for example), focaccia con il formaggio di Recco (very special), pignolini (very small fried fish that can be found in the small traditional take-out places in Porto Antico area), ripieni (filled vegetables), ravioli, and much more.
What are your top three favorite bars and restaurants?
The best pizza in Genoa, in my personal opinion, is found at Edo Bar, at Via Mazzini 5. It’s not very fancy, but, trust me, the take-away pizza is amazing (and very well priced!).
The best restaurant, which is divided in two parts (a fancy and more expensive one and a trattoria), is Da o Vittorio (address: Via Roma 160).
The best gelato is at Gelateria Priaruggia (at Via Quarto 1).
For a different experience, try Trattoria della Maria, which is very traditional. (Address: Vico Testadoro 14.)
A brand new place with great sandwiches and a beautiful bar can be found at Via Colombo 56 r. The bar is simple, but simply great. Finally, for great sandwiches (but avoid the bar itself; it’s awful), check out Gran Ristoro. (Address: Via Sottoripa 29.)
What is the best way to meet locals and make friends?
People from Genoa are not famous for being the most open population in Italy. However, Couchsurfing.org might be a good shot. Also Piazza delle Erbe will be the place to be for aperitivo or late in the evening; it’s usually very crowded with university students and young people in general.
What is the best place to go take beautiful photos of the city?
Spianata Castelletto is the best spot in the Genoa city center.
Why should people make sure to visit Genoa?
Genoa it’s a very peculiar city. Unlike Florence or Venice, where art is right in front of your nose and you can’t miss it, in Genoa, art and history are hidden and it takes a long time to discover and notice things. Genoa is a city that enjoyed different golden periods and crisis. Because of this, the city has no one prevalent architectural style, but there are many different styles that coexist.