Those of us who remember our history books recognise Genoa as the birthplace of famous explorer Christopher Columbus. While always an important port city in Italy, for decades Genoa languished behind Rome, Venice and Milan as the tourists passed it by.
This changed dramatically after the European Union nominated Genoa as the European Capital of Culture in 2004. Cruise ships docking in the Porto Antico now bring visitors by the thousands, and travellers in Italy are making time in their itineraries to spend several days on holiday in Genoa.
This tourism renaissance is well-deserved, as there are many beautiful and fascinating tourist attractions in Genoa. The medieval district is filled with stunning marble churches and stately palaces, grouped around scenic plazas like the Piazza San Matteo and the Piazza Dante. Visitors should be sure to look for the famous frescoes of the Church of Sant'Agostino and the fanciful Gothic carvings of the Cattedrale San Lorenzo, while the Via Garibaldi has a number of impressive Baroque buildings. There are many interesting museums in the city too, dedicated to everything from cultural and natural history to the navy, cathedrals and royalty of the city's past. There are no fewer than five art museums in Genoa.
Though it's Italy's largest medieval town, Genoa's present is just as vibrant as its past. The streets are always buzzing with life and visitors are spoiled for choice when it comes to restaurants, shops and entertainment. The Porto Antico on the harbour front has been rebuilt from a utilitarian dock to an entertainment area with museums, cinemas and restaurants, as well as one of the biggest aquariums in Europe along the pretty promenade.
Genoa makes a good base to explore the other towns along the Italian Riviera, including Portofino, Cinque Terre, Rapallo and La Spezia.