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The tastes of Genoa


Nestled on the Ligurian coast, the bustling city of Genoa is a delight to explore – particularly for lovers of fine Italian food

Boats in the port of Genoa

Rome, Florence, Venice, Turin… All fabulous Italian cities renowned the world over for their wealth of heritage, architectural delights, culture and cuisine. But there is, arguably, one magnificent city missing from this list. Genoa, the great trading port on the Ligurian coast, which boasts all of the above in spades, yet remains under the radar for many visitors. As a result, this lesser-known jewel and UNESCO World Heritage Site offers a truly authentic Italian experience, especially when it comes to food.


You’ll find local traders with family food businesses who really know their stuff and offer the best regional produce and local delicacies – all with unpretentious charm. And although at first glance Ligurian cuisine appears simple, it’s this simplicity of combinations that accentuates the superb flavours of the local ingredients. The famously delicate Ligurian olive oil lies at the heart of all local dishes, a selection of which can easily be sampled in informal restaurants or as you wander around the city.



This savoury pancake, made from huge amounts of olive oil and a chickpea flour batter, is baked in a large copper baking tin in the wood-burning forno of local bakers and served in irregular-shaped slices. Choose from normale (plain) or seasoned with fresh rosemary, pepper and sea salt, and enjoy it sitting by the sea or in a quiet spot on a cobbled street in the old town.



There is focaccia – and then there is focaccia from Genoa. The city is full of charming, family-run focaccerias, dedicated to artisan interpretations of the Italian flatbread, seasoned with olive oil and salt. Enjoy it in its simple form or choose two or three varieties with generous local toppings – such as zucchini (courgette), melanzane (aubergine) or cipolli (onions) – as a delicious snack lunch or with your morning coffee, like the locals do.
Try: Panificio Patrone on Via Ravecca, Antico Forno della Casana on Vicolo Casana or Panificio Mario on Via San Vincenzo.



The fish and shellfish sourced from the Ligurian waters are varied and delicious. One of the most simple and tasty dishes is the fritto misto (mixed deep-fried seafood): freshly caught and seasoned with lemon, salt and pepper, enjoyed with a glass of local white wine. Other fishy delights include insalata di pesce (seafood salad), stoccafisso in agrodolce (salt cod in sweet and sour sauce with pine nuts and raisins), stuffed anchovies and triglie (mullet) alla Genovese.


Pesto alla Genovese

True pesto – or pesto alla Genovese – is an artform. The holy mix of basil, garlic, salt, grated cheese and Ligurian olive oil hails from the area around Genoa and the pesto capital of Italy is rightly proud of its green delicacy. The basil used is key: it must be basilico Genovese, a particularly sweet variety grown in Liguria, and it must be young and fresh (no more than a few weeks old) to deliver the purest taste. Locals will always enjoy their pesto with fresh pasta, such as hand-rolled trofie or mandilli. Or try the Ligurian take on lasagne, with pesto and pasta served in layers of pappardelle.
Try: Il Genovese on Via Galata. The down-to-earth trattoria makes its famous pesto by hand every day and is hugely popular with locals – always a good sign.


Cakes and pastries

Coffee and cake stops are a must while on the tourist trail. One of the region’s most famous sweet specialities is pandolce, a candied fruitcake most synonymous with Christmas. Others include canestrelli (flower-shaped shortbread biscuits with a hint of lemon), baci di dama walnut pastries and gobeletti (shortbread tarts filled with quince jam).
Try: Caffe degli Specchi on Salita Pollaiuoli, Pasticerria D Villa on Via del Portello or Pasticceria Tagliafico on Via Galata.



A wander around an Italian city isn’t complete without a gelato or two. Take your pick from a wealth of Gelateria artiginale. Or if you head back from the seafront, you can try some of Genoa’s finest at Gelateria Profumo Di Rosa, where the flavours are inspired by the local flora such as mimosa chocolate.


Try: Gelateria Profumo di Rosa on Via Cairoli or Cremeria delle Erbe on Vicolo delle Erbe.


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