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Liguria Region

A strip of land forming a semicircle between sea and mountains: this is Genoa, a very dynamic city, which shows off the grandeur of its past through the palaces of its nobility, its villas and the collections in its museums; a city by the sea: an international port of call for both trade and people, with charming maritime scenery, like the Porto Antico (Old Harbour), home of Europe’s largest Aquarium and the Sea and Navigation Museums, in the area by the Dock. The old city centre is a tangle of narrow, dark alleys where the sky is merely a tiny strip through the rooftops and where you can discover its regional cuisine based on crispy focaccia bread, dried cod fritters, gattafin (fried ravioli with vegetable filling) and farinata di ceci (chickpea flour pancakes). The living heart of its culture is the palazzo Ducale (palace of the Doges) and also via Garibaldi, hub of the Genovese nobility during the sixteenth century.
And the old via Aurea (Golden street), a road lined exclusively by lavish palaces: 13 masterpieces in stone and marble unified by the baroque style, with sober facades yet splendid interiors. This street bears witness to the golden age of the Genovese Republic, when it was Europe’s bank and lent money to kings and princes; who were welcomed by the Genovese into their palaces with feasts, balls and banquets that lasted for days, and the guests were awed by the frescoed halls, marble staircases, artistic gardens and beautiful nymphaeums: a splendour that even fascinated Rubens, who arrived in Genoa in 1604, and enjoyed roaming the city admiring those palaces.
Via Garibaldi is only 250 metres long, but filled with treasures: Lomellino palace has a magnificent mannerist façade, elegantly proportioned and entirely decorated with stuccowork. But the most important palaces, which are also famous museums, are three: the Doria-Tursi palace, the Town Hall, which hosts a fascinating collection of ceramics, tapestries and ancient coins, and where the hall, courtyard and arcade are linked by scenic stairways; palazzo Bianco (White palace), with a Gallery that hosts the richest collection of Genovese and Ligurian paintings from the fifteenth century through the eighteenth, and amongst which stand out the works of Veronese and Caravaggio, Rubens and Van Dyck; finally, palazzo Rosso (Red palace) is a witness to the social prestige and pomp of the Brignole-Sale family, who built a grand abode, full of arcades, halls, marble sculptures and decorations; the façade is exceptional due to its red plaster, which is visually very impressive. Inside, it continues to surprise with an important series of frescoes, an extraordinary collection of paintings (Dürer, Reni, Guercino, Veronese …) and the family portraits, which were immortalized by the magnificent brush of Anton Van Dyck. The Cook, Bernardo Strozzi’s masterpiece, is one of the most important works of art in the family collection. What make this palace so grand are the frescoes that cover its rooms and halls with their mythological figures, their allegories and their ceilings of shining skies.
Different skies shine in the Borgio Verezzi caves. Skies of white and shining stalactites; here water turns to stone along a wonderful underground path five kilometres long, amongst small azure lakes and nooks that, like an art gallery, display incredible sculptures crafted by nature. Further inland, Verezzi is a beautiful village surrounded by the greenery of the countryside: the stone houses are of a lovely pink colour. Along the narrow alleys of the old town centre, beneath the small arches and low vaults are the folkloric houses of the Saracens: at piazzetta S. Agostino, a breathtaking view spans the whole gulf.
Social life, instead, is to be found in Portofino, Rapallo, Sanremo and Santa Margherita Ligure.
Camogli, a small town by the sea with its old harbour and its houses built into the hillside, is also extraordinary; in May a wonderful feast is held there: at its core is a huge pan, in which two tons of fish are fried!
Then the ancient village of Levanto awaits, set in a sea-swept bay and surrounded by olive trees and vineyards: walking through the labyrinthine alleys of the old town you can run into medieval treasures like the beautiful Loggia del Comune (Town Hall).
Right after Levanto start the Cinque Terre (Five Lands), a “world heritage site”, where nature and man have created one of the most beautiful sceneries in the world, with terraced slopes covered by olive groves and propped up by miles of dry stone walls: Monterosso (Red mountain), with its amazing panoramic trail dug into the rocks (Via dell’Amore), Vernazza, Corniglia, Manarola and Riomaggiore, look out onto the sea, clinging to the rocks or nestling in narrow valleys.
Riomaggiore, the easternmost amongst them, stands atop a ridge of rock jutting out over the sea, surrounded by a terraced hill: its many-coloured houses, high and narrow, cling to the rocks and lean against each other for better support.

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