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Tuesday 2 April 2013

Genoa on a shoestring

The historic and busy Italian port city of Genoa, home base of MSC Cruises and several other cruise lines, is worthy of exploration pre- or post- any tour of the Mediterranean.

Birthplace of Christopher Columbus and blessed with a well-preserved old quarter, Genoa is also a surprisingly affordable destination, both when it comes to accommodation and dining out.

I've just enjoyed a sensational three-course lunch that featured beautifully al dente spaghetti, olive oil, garlic and some moist, plump clams and mussels; followed by a fritti misti composed largely of prawns, squid and salty whitebait and then a delicious lemon tart. A carafe of local Cortese white, bread and coffee were all included - as was free wifi.

This gem of a lunch came in an initially unpromising hole-in-the-wall eatery called Osteria sopra di Mare, which holds around 25 people - all locals on my visit - and a blackboard menu that is also recited by the waiter.

It's scruffy, atmospheric, just across from the Porto Antico and should be on the agenda of every visitor looking for an authentic Genovese experience. Did I mention the bill came to just 20 Euros?

And that bargain-basement price is far from unique in Genoa. Dinner last night comprised a delicious pizza with prosciutto and funghi fior 6 Euros, enjoyed with a large bottle of Moretti beer. Again, I was the only visitor in the place; a tiny, overcrowded pizzeria favoured by locals in the city centre alleyways that goes by the name of Pizzeria Ravecca.

I've also stayed in two hotels I'm happy to recommend in Genoa. On arrival, the gracious and peaceful Grand Hotel Savoie, and prior to departure the slightly more faded but once very grand Hotel Bristol Palace. The first cost around 129 Euros a night, the latter 80 Euros a night. Both are unashamedly old fashioned but both delightful in their own way.     

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