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In Genoa Pastry Chef, Tess Hokin, Finds a Baker’s Dozen of Foodie Things to Do

Visit Genoa
Cuisine: Italian
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The allure of an enigmatic sponge cake draws pastry chef, Tess Hokin, to Genoa. Cocktails and seafood keep her there.
1. Wander through historic shops for sweets, meats, and tripe
It’s no wonder explorers like Columbus and Cabot come from Genoa. Finding your way through the maze of caruggi that make up the city’s old town practically necessitates some degree of navigational expertise. Fortunately, getting lost in Genoa is an ideal way of getting stuck into its cuisine. A far cry from the takeaways and tourist tat of larger Italian city centres, Genoa’s historic shops are about as authentic as it gets; they’re required to have been in business for at least 70 years to qualify for Vegie Botteghe status.
Sample intriguing sweeties and homemade cordial in an apothecary-esque confetteria (Confetteria Romanengo, Via Soziglia 74 R – 16123), visit an adorable old butcher’s (Macelleria Nico, Via Macelli di Soziglia, 8r – 16124) or, for the bravest among you, follow your nose to the pungent but strangely appetising scent of Genoa’s last remaining triperia. Serving up fresh, weird, fuzzy tripe in a variety of forms, it operates just as it did two hundred years ago (Antica Tripperia La Casana, Vico della Casana, 3r – 16123).
2. Have a portside bite at I Tre Merli
Sample an array of Ligurian classics at I Tre Merli (Calata Cattaneo, 17, 16128). You’ll find pesto pasta here bears no resemblance to the Sacla and spaghetti combo of student days gone by. Short sticks of fresh trofie pasta are coated in a delicate sauce with green beans and potatoes thrown in for good measure (carb-on-carb is a recurring theme here). The restaurant is just a stone’s throw away from the aquarium and Museo del Mare if you fancy delving into some of the city’s maritime history after lunch.
3. Get a Bird’s eye view
Visit any of the mind-blowing palaces that make up Europe’s largest medieval centre for a taste of 16th century Italian decadence. 42 of them make up a UNESCO World Heritage site and more are opening to the public each year. The one that stole my heart however, is Palazzo Rossi (Via Garibaldi, 18, 16124). Climb the slightly wobbly staircase for unrivalled panoramas of the city and coastline.
4. Chow down at Al Veliero
Al Veliero, (Via Ponte Calvi 10r -16124) serves up Italian food as it should be: simple and well executed. Don’t be intimidated by the lack of description on the menu, it’s almost all excellent. I say almost- if you’re a fan of jellied eels, you may enjoy the traditional seafood-floating-in-sour-jelly starter, cappon magro, but if not then skip to mains and get the pasta marinara with mussels and clams- sublime.
5. Get drunk in a plaza
Few things beat sitting with a cocktail on a balmy evening in a medieval courtyard. GloGlo bistrot (Piazza Lavagna, 19, 16123) is a popular choice with the locals and a perfect place to spend a couple of boozy hours. Six euros gets you a (strong) cocktail and an excessive board of meats and cheeses, so it’s a solid post-Brexit option.
6. Have a kip in a palace
Nestled in the heart of the old town, Le Nuvole offers a luxurious contemporary update on what was already a very luxurious 18th century palace. With incredible views of the plaza below and insanely comfortable beds, it’s the perfect place to conk out in a food coma after all that pasta. (Piazza delle Vigne, 6, 16123)
7.Go on a wild goose chase for cake.
Thanks to a near-religious worship of the Great British Bakeoff, Genoese sponge is about as well known a confection as the Jaffa cake on this side of the pond. Not so in Genoa. I’ll save you a lot of time and bewildered faces by telling you that Italians actually call Genoese sponge Pan di Spagna. A local baker apparently invented this light, airy sponge cake for a banquet held in honour of the King of Spain. A fascinating story, but not quite as fascinating as the glimmering windows of Pasticceria Tagliafico (Via Galata 31r, 16121). Alongside a seemingly endless array of traditional cookies and tarts, the Genoese appears here in every imaginable form, all of them delectable.
8. Take a trip to Boccadasse
Like a sophisticated Balamory, nearby Boccadasse is just a short drive or bus ride away from central Genoa. Head to Ge8317 (Via Aurora, 7R, 16146) at sunset for an aperol spritz and a conno of freshly fried anchovies, squid, and courgette. The restaurant’s tiny interior is covered with intriguing aquatic nicnacs, but with stunning views of the beach on its doorstep, you’ll want to dine al fresco.
9. Dine under the frescos at Cavo
Speaking of frescos, they are pretty much everywhere you look in Genoa thanks to the city’s history as a (very) rich trading centre. Enjoy them at your leisure in Cavo’s swanky dining room (Vico Falamonica, 9R, 16123), where you can sample beautifully made local dishes like stuffed pasta with walnut sauce, so long as the basket of irresistible house focaccia doesn’t defeat you first. Finish off with Cavo’s own amaretti cookies; soft pillows of almond joy.  
10. Burn off some calories in three acts.
Take a wander through a botanical wonderland in the grounds of Villa Durazzo Pallavicini, every inch of which are designed as part of a ‘theatrical’ experience. Highlights of the narrative/tour include a mini fort, an obelisk, and a purpose-built ‘ruin’ on a distant hillside. It’s a garden, but in keeping with Genoa’s somewhat cryptic city slogan, it’s also ‘More Than This’. You’ll see what I mean. (Via Ignazio Pallavicini, 13 – 16155).
11. Make proper pesto
In an experience best described a kind of interactive pesto-panto for adults (complete with V neck lime green aprons and participation certificates), Creattivando will teach you all the secrets of Ligurian cuisine with almost unnerving enthusiasm, before letting you try your hand at your own pesto a la Genovese. Don’t miss this one, it’s actually a riot. (Mercato del Carmine, Piazza del Carmine, 16125)
12. Eat like Verdi
Stop off for exceptional coffee and cake at the Storiche Botteghe Café Klanguti. (Piazza Soziglia 98-100r, 16123). Try the ‘Falstaff’, an iced brioche with hazelnut paste allegedly created to cheer up Guiseppe Verdi when his operas didn’t do so well at the box office
13.  Munch at Le Rune
Ligurian classics get a creative twist at Le Rune, wrapped in stellar service and a cosy ambiance (Salita Inferiore di Sant'Anna, 13, 16123). The menu changes seasonally, offering everything from beef shin raviolini to seabass with beansprouts and porcini mushrooms. Whatever you do, save room for the chocolate cake; it’s a mouthful of fondant heaven.
Tess Hokin travelled as a guest of Visit Genoa
Where to stay
A classic double room at Le Nuvole Antique Residence is available from €90 including breakfast.
A superior double room (two floors) at Le Nuvole Antique Residence is available from €120 including breakfast
What to do
Guided tour of the historic shops: 
Visit to the Strada Nuova Museum Network (Palazzo Rosso, Palazzo Bianco and Palazzo Tursi)
Visit to Boccadasse
Visit to Villa Durazzo Pallavicini in Pegli
Visit to Palazzo Spinola di Pellicceria
Pesto cooking experience at Mercato del Carmine
Cafes and Restaurants
Coffee break at Fratelli Klainguti
Lunch at I Tre Merli Restaurant
Dinner at Le Rune 
Lunch at Cavo Restaurant
Dinner at Al Veliero
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11 November 2016
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