See a Different Side of Italy in Genoa, Cagliari and Trieste

Ask many who have travelled to Italy what cities they visited and I bet they will all give you similar answers: Rome, Florence and Venice.  Here we introduce you to three other less-visited Italian cities we think you might enjoy.


As the sixth largest city in Italy, Genoa can often be overlooked by tourists with only a weekend to spare.  But, nicknamed la Superba (‘the Superb one’) thanks to its stunning landmarks, the city is well worth a visit.  You can wander the maze of narrow alleyways, called vicoli, that make up the medieval heart of Genoa – the birthplace of Christopher Columbus.  Young people on bikes and scooters dart by, old women carrying bags full of groceries bargain with fishmongers and chatty students walk towards the university – the place really is the quintessential port city, bustling with life.

The thriftiness of the people here is often more of a façade than genuine meanness, but when it comes to money, no one can take on the Genoese – banking has a long tradition here.  The city’s Bank of Saint George was founded in 1407, making it one of the oldest in the world.

Take the Art Nouveau-style lift from Piazza del Portello to the Castelletto, a big esplanade that overlooks the centre.  From here Genoa looks like a tangle of stone and concrete, with the bell tower of the Cathedral of San Lorenzo rising above the rest, and the city’s most iconic landmark, the Lighthouse of Genoa (or La Lanterna) looming in the distance.

On Friday evening, the alleys quickly fill up with people in the thousands getting ready for a long evening of al fresco drinking and dining.  Don’t miss The Bigo, Genoa’s beloved panoramic lift, as its centrepiece.  This was originally a crane mounted on cargo ships, and now the 40m-high lift features a rotating see-through cabin, enabling visitors to get the best views over the harbour.


To get a real feel for what laid-back Cagliari (Castle’ in Italian) has to offer, make the journey up the grand stairs of the 400-year-old Bastion of Saint Remy to reach Terrazza Unberto I, a terrace known for having simply glorious views.  It’s worth taking your time here to study the scenery of this ancient city, which includes the pretty harbour, ponds where bright-pink flamingos feed and the mountain which is known as Devil’s Saddle, due to it shape.

The temperature reaches a scorching 35C outside. You can take shade in the Cathedral of Santa Maria, and admire its stunning neo-Gothic façade and artworks inside, such as the marble sculptures and grand 15th-century paintings.  A few blocks from here is the medieval Tower of The Elephant, an imposing limestone structure built by the Pisans in 1307 that represents the entrance to the Castello neighbourhood.

White limestone was also used to build the city’s walls, and the striking effect of the bright sunshine reflecting off them once prompted DH Lawrence to describe Cagliari as a “white Jerusalem” after his visit here in the early 1920s.


With its vibrant history, start your tour by making your way up the steep alleys leading to the hilltop San Giusto, where you will be rewarded with breathtaking views of the history-rich city below.  A giant crane, symbolising Trieste’s naval heritage, is the most prominent figure in the harbour, while to the right, a grey dome stands out against the backdrop of rooftops and mountains.  This belongs to the beautiful Serbia-Orthodox church, San Spiridione.  A few steps away from here is the elegant colonnade of the Catholic church of Sant’Antonio Taumaturgo.  Also nearby is one of Europe’s largest places of Jewish worship, the Synagogue of Trieste.

This city’s diversity is in part due to its proximity to the Slavic world and its past as the Austro-Hungarians’ only port on the Mediterranean.  Walk in the footsteps of intellectuals and the literati, such as James Joyce, at the famous Caffe San Marco.  The Mittel-European ambience and its décor haven’t changed in almost a century, nor have the way cafes such as this are used as places for people to meet and discuss culture and politics and gesticulate over a cup of joe.

Trieste is known as the capital of coffee and locals even have their own vocabulary for the black stuff.  If you want an espresso, make sure you ask for a nero – in the rest of Italy, it’s still an espresso.  A macchiato is a capo, but if you want it served in a glass, as for a capo in b.

From Caffe San Marco, walk and admire the Neoclassical buildings of Piazza della Borsa, enrute to Piazza Unità d’Italia, the main town square – the buildings’ golden decorations shine in the sun as passers-by stroll around the vast square overlooking the Adriatic Sea.  From the tip of the Molo Audace, a pier stretching from the waterfront, you can look back inland and admire the city, and see why Trieste has bewitched so many writers and travellers.

Trieste has its very own Grand Canal which is a more humble version of Venice’s famous waterways – perfect for an afternoon stroll as you check out the boats.