You wouldn’t be disheartened if you are in Genoa and looking for options for day trips, the Liguria region is surrounded by some stunning places and blessed with a beautiful coastline so pack your bags and get going!
There are plenty of options for day trips but here are a few of my favourite picks:-
Santa Margherita Ligure and Portofino – Just over 30min away from Genoa are both these coastal towns of Italy. Many famous celebrities and personalities have their houses here and it’s not a surprise why these two places are so popular. The rich coastline, lively promenade, easy access to the beach and true Italian food is all this part of the Ligurian region is known for. In Santa Margherita Ligure you get to see an abundance of churches, restaurants and bars so you have plenty of things to do around including shopping.
There are a few castles to, too keep you intrigued, and an impressive garden near Villa Durazzo. People even hike to Portofino as it’s not that difficult and takes around 75min or so. If you want to explore another hidden gem then take a ferry to San Fruttuoso and enjoy the view and the swim there.
Portofino is the richer and popular among the tourists but that doesn’t mean Santa Margherita is less pretty they both have their own charm and appeal. Visit the Brown castle here, take a stroll around the Piazzetta and have a coffee or a gelato, head to the Church of St George, and indulge in some retail therapy at many of their luxury boutiques.
Other places to explore in this rich fishing town are San Martino Church, the lighthouse, and an open-air museum for art called Marina di Portofino. Also, don’t forget to unwind at the popular beach of Portofino ‘Paraggi Beach.’
Pisa – An almost two-hour drive from Genoa to Pisa, this trip is highly recommended as the memories made here will be treasured for a lifetime. I went here as a child with my family and still remember the first time I saw The leaning tower of Pisa and was absolutely flabbergasted. A day trip to Pisa was just about perfect to see the famous attractions and the nearby surroundings.
First and foremost head to the Campo dei Miracoli which has some of the UNESCO World Heritage sites like the Leaning Tower, Cathedral of Santa Maria Assunta, Baptistery and Campo Santo. There is also a lively street in Pisa which is flooded with restaurants and shops, so surely check out Via Maffin up until Borgo Stretto.
Apart from the usual sights, you should even visit the Palazzo dei Cavalieri (palace), Basilica Romanica di San Pieroba Grado which is believed to be the place where St. Peter arrived in Italy. You can later head to River Arno which is surrounded by some lovely restaurants and with the sunset view, this place is an ideal way to spend your evening. Recently the city walls are also be opened to the public so you can wander around and admire the city views from the top.
Pisa is a truly wonderful place especially for the history buff and for individuals who love to admire the various architecture.
Cinque Terre – One of the most beautiful places on the coast of Italy are these five villages and that’s where it gets its name from ‘Five Lands’ meaning Cinque Terre. Ideally, it would be perfect to see all the five islands but at times due to bad weather the hiking trails are closed and the only way to reach some of the places are by boat and of course the train which stops at all five islands. If you have to choose out of the five islands which to visit go for Monterosso al Mare as it’s has a beach and Vernazza as it’s so scenic. You can catch an early morning train from La Spezia to reach the islands. People also go hike from one island to the other. Riomaggiore is vast but too touristy for me so I prefer Manarola over it.
Cinque Terre just like Amalfi coast is beautiful but considering I was staying in Milan this was the closest coast and a place on my bucket list for a while.
Milan – Also known as the fashion capital of Italy, Milan is a popular place to visit either for a day trip or for over a few days. Last time I spent a week without getting bored, there is so much to do around this city that the day just flies by. Besides driving you can even take the train. Start your Milan day trip by seeing the most famous Duomo di Milano. You can visit the cathedral and the rooftop which has pleasing views of the city. Next to the cathedral is the infamous Galleria Vittoria Emanuele II, this shopping mall has some of the best designer stores. Make your way to the restaurant district of the city ‘Naviglio’ this has so many restaurants lined up next to each other and the lovely canal makes the ambience a tiny bit romantic too.
If you are into history then take a tour of the Castello Sforzesco, it’s quite intriguing. For shopping check out these few streets Via Montenapoleone, Corso Buenos Aires and Corso Vittorio Emanuele II. If you are into music and art you would be interested in Teatro Alla Scala (opera house) and Museo del Novecento.
Another eccentric neighbourhood to check out is Brera, you can find cafes here, bakeries and shops. Probably an area you prefer if you want to be away from the touristy crowds.
Bergamo – With Lugano being so close to the borders of Italy it is an ideal place to see some of Italy’s best town. One of the historical places which you can tick off from your bucket list should be Bergamo. Over two-hour drive from Genoa, this delightful city of Italy is a must-visit. Situated in the Lombardy region, it has some fascinating history and architecture which will enchant you. The Citta Alta (upper old town) is where most of the attractions are located and the famed Piazza Vecchia square.
Citta Alta can be reached by a funicular and you can start your exploration from Piazza Mercato delle Scarpe which is the main square here. Over here you can see the Torre di Gombito which is a tower, and later make your way towards the Church of San Michele al Pozzo Bianco or San’tAndrea. There are abundant shops and restaurants around too, in case you want to take a break from sightseeing.
Plenty of museums and art galleries if you want to learn a thing or two, like the Natural Science Museum, Rocca Museum, Art Gallery of the Accademia Carrara and Museo Donizetti. You can even walk around the Venetian walls and shop your way through Via XX Settembre which is their famous shopping district in the Citta Bassa which is the lower city of Bergamo. Lastly don’t forget the prominent Basilica di Santa Maria Maggiore chapel, Cappella Colleoni (chapel) and Bergamo Cathedral, it is one of their popular attractions here.
Parma – The land of the delicious parmesan cheese is worth visiting if you want to get drowned in history and culture, this town is not as busy as Milan so it’s more fun to stroll around without bumping into many tourists. You can either take a train from Genoa or drive which takes about an hour less. Some of the attractions to see in this city are Parma Cathedral which is famous for its interiors and devoted to the Blessed Virgin Mary. Piazza Garibaldi is a delightful square which is surrounded by famous buildings and a statue. Unlike another opera house, the one at Parma is wooden and was also the largest theatre at once. Go for a stroll in the pleasing park Parco Duacle, this park is refreshing and glorious.
If you like to check out museums there are numerous places which will interest you like National Gallery of Parma, Museo Glauco Lombardi, and the Diocesan Museum.
The Battistero Parma is another ideal place to see as it showcases a fabulous mix of Roman and Gothic architecture.
Lake Como – If you just have a spare day and would like to choose the best city to visit from Lugano it has to be the exquisite Lake Como, you wouldn’t regret taking this trip. I drove to Bellagio which is rich in history and each corner of this town is absolutely spectacular, words are not enough to describe the beauty of this place. From here you can take a cruise which will take you along the shores of the Lago di Como where you can see various different houses and towns and if I did have the time I would have loved to get off at each station and stroll around the tiny towns of Como.
You will see the famous Villa Carlotta which has a marvellous botanical garden and a museum, from the cruise trip you can see the grandeur building standing in all its glory. Lake Como has steamers running across from most of its towns so if you wish to explore any of the neighbourhoods you can get off at any one of the stations. Some places you should not miss are Bellagio, Tremezzo, Varenna and Como.
Turin – A hub of culture, history and graceful architecture, Turin is all that I had imagined. I can aimlessly wander around the streets without boredom hitting me. Just about two hours from Genoa is another bewitching town of Italy, ‘Turin’, felt in love with this part of Italy. Some of the best museums, royal residences, churches, cathedral, cafes and shopping, it has it all. I feel it is such an underrated destination and deserves more exposure. You need to start your day at the Piazza Castello square where there are many iconic monuments around like First World War Memorial, Palazzo Madama (palace) and the start of Palazzo Reale which used to be a royal residence, do visit if you like to know how the royals lived.
When it comes to preserving its history Turin does it the best, that’s why you can find a number of museums here like The Carignan Palace, Egyptian Museum, Automobile Museum, and the National Museum of Cinema.
Apart from these, the famed Valentino park is admirable too, popular picnic spot for the locals. Don’t miss the medieval village of Turin, and the fortress located in this park. If you are hungry and want to try some typical Italian restaurants then make your way towards Quadrilatero Romano which is lined with restaurants. When it comes to places of worship Royal Church of San Lorenzo and the Turin Cathedral is an ideal place to visit. For the ones who are in search of a good skyline view of the city definitely check out Mole Antonelliana from where you can take the panoramic lift to see the stellar view.
I would ideally recommend a full day or two to experience Turin but if you are short on time you have the option to take free tours or guided tours around the city to know the best of Turin.
With these amazing places to visit, Genoa can be a perfect base city as its not expensive like some of its neighbouring cities, this place serves as a gateway not only to Cinque Terre but also to places like Pisa and Bergamo.