Genoa, Italy, is an ideal location to spend a day as a family.
While the small shadowed streets house many quaint and reasonably priced restaurants (because of its history as a port town, many restaurants offer delicious, local seafood dishes) and shops, it is not this that is of interest to children. Walking down from the train station parents can appreciate the magnificent, multi-cultural San Lorenzo Cathedral and the beautiful palaces along Via Garibaldi and keep the kids going with a promise to visit Europe’s biggest aquarium.
The Acquarium of Genoa
Housed on one of the quays along the docks, the aquarium is renowned for its conservation efforts around the world, and has the largest collection of varied aquatic life in Europe. The building is well organized, keeping children entertained for hours on end. After the seals, dolphins and sharks, there are extensive themed rooms exhibiting different ecosystems and environment and the fish and amphibians that inhabit them, from the Antarctic to Madagascan forests. There are several giant turtles that swim placidly through the schools of brightly colored fish. Photography is allowed without a flash, so there are many opportunities for some great up-close marine portraits. Half way through the building is a Hummingbird Forest, where visitors can walk around admiring the multi-colored hummingbirds without cages or panes of glass in the way. The aquarium finishes with several touch-tanks, where children can delight in tickling the rays that are swimming around shallow pools. Right next door to the aquarium is an eco-sphere, a large globe containing tropical plants and birds. Around the old harbor area is a great place to walk around with kids, as there are a variety of old boats to see, and even a large 16th century pirate vessel to explore so children can experience what it feels like not to be a land-lubber.
The Botanical Garden of Genoa
In the centre of the city are the botanical gardens for one of Italy’s largest universities, the ‘Orto Botanico dell’Universita di Genova‘. Founded in 1471, this is a great place to walk around on a warm day with the blue skies of the Mediterranean stretching overhead. At the edge of the port is the oldest functioning lighthouse in the world. The Torre della Lanterna is a towering feat of engineering on the hill of San Benigno…the large brick building has been bringing ships safely into port for centuries, and is adjacent to the Museo della Lanterna, a colorful child-friendly museum that teaches the history of Genoa as a port town. Looking San Benigno back to the city affords spectacular sights of the water-front, with the large palaces and stone facades rising up the hill that runs along the edge of the coast before spilling over the crust into the more modern, commerce-centred city.
The Ligurian coastline
One of the greatest parts about visiting Genoa is the idyllic coastline surrounding the east and west of the city. Whether you are able to rent a car or just fancy taking a scenic bus ride, the roads winding around the coast are an unbelievable portrait of Mediterranean beauty, The small fishing neighborhood of Boccadasse is a gorgeous little hamlet around the bay from the city of Genoa, and sits on the side of the hill with cobbled streets sliding down to the small beach, where picturesque row-boats lie on the sand. The entire region of Liguria is beautiful, with small towns occupying niches in the hills that run along the edge of the European landmass. Towns such as Bogliasco, Chiavari and Cogoleto do not have the same attractions that the large city of Genoa has, but offer un-spoilt views of Italian maritime towns resting in the inlets of the Mediterranean coast.