In the heart of the Italian Riviera, the medieval port town of Genoa is famous not only as the birthplace of Christopher Columbus, but also for its regal heritage. Here are our picks for the city’s must-see palaces.
Basilica of Santa Maria di Castello (Basilica di Santa Maria di Castello)
Via di Santa Maria di Castello, 15, Genoa, Italy
The original Basilica of Santa Maria di Castello was built in the 10th century, though it underwent a series of renovations and additions from the 12th through the 17th centuries. Artworks by Francesco Maria Schiaffino, Lorenzo Fasolo, Alessandro Gherardini, and Giuseppe Palmieri were commissioned by Genoa’s noble families to decorate the interiors. The church is also known for frescoes depicting Stories of David and 16th-century majolicas from the Genoese school. Visitors can tour the church, loggia, convent cloisters, and art museum.
The basilica is a popular stop on hop-on hop-off or private city tours, along with the Cathedral of San Lorenzo, Doge’s Palace, Palazzi dei Rolli, and Old Port (home to the Genoa Aquarium, the largest in Europe). Tours of Genoa can be paired with day trips to nearby destinations along the coast such as Santa Margherita Ligure, Portofino, and the Cinque Terre.
Things to Know Before You Go
Comfortable shoes are recommended if you are visiting as part of a walking tour.
Photography without flash is allowed in the basilica.
Modest attire that covers shoulders and knees is required to enter the church.
The basilica is accessible to wheelchairs and strollers.
How to Get There
The Basilica of Santa Maria di Castello is located in the Castello district, Genoa’s most historic neighborhood. It’s an easy uphill walk from either the port area (eight minutes) or the Cathedral of San Lorenzo in the historic center (five minutes).
When to Get There
The church is set on a hilltop above Genoa’s busy port and center, and can be a welcome respite from the frantic pace of this large coastal city; tour during the busiest hours of the day for a quiet break.
Genoa’s Last Remaining Tower
Get your bearings while walking to the basilica by keeping your sights on the crenellated top of the Embriaci Tower, located just next to Santa Maria di Castello. Said to have been built by the prominent Embriaci family in the 12th century (though recent studies attribute it to the De Castro family), this is one of the few remaining towers that pierced the skyline of Genoa in the Middle Ages.
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- Via San Lorenzo
- Genoa Cathedral (Cattedrale di San Lorenzo)
- Doge's Palace (Palazzo Ducale)
- Piazza de Ferrari
- Galata Maritime Museum (Galata Museo del Mare)
- Aquarium of Genoa
- La Biosfera
- Piazza Caricamento
- Palazzo Rosso
- Palazzi dei Rolli
- Palazzo Bianco
- Genoa Via Garibaldi (Via Giuseppe Garibaldi)
- Chiossone Museum of Oriental Art (Museo d'Arte Orientale Edoardo Chiossone)
- Spianata Castelletto