Before the cruise - Milan, Genoa and Portofino

Before the cruise - Milan, Genoa and Portofino

Author Anne Plau

We fly from Düsseldorf to Milan early in the morning. We land in Malpensa just after 8:00am The sun is shining and the midday temperatures reach 23 degrees. We take the Airport Express from the airport to Milan Central Station. Our hotel is located near Porta Venezia, not far from the metro and tram stops. And therefore just right for our city tours on your own.

From the Porta Venezia to the elegant Brera

Opposite the Porta Venezia is the Giardini Pubblici Indro Montanelli park. We cross this pretty green area and arrive at Palazzo Dugnani.

Dugnani Palace

Dugnani Palace

From there we go on to Brera. This is an upscale neighborhood in the old town area. Many well-known designers run boutiques or elegant hotels here. However, we are drawn to the Orto Botanico di Brera, the botanical garden, and the observatory. A passage leads to the Pinacoteca di Brera.

Via Fiori Chiari - near the Pinacoteca
In the Orto Botanico di Brera
Brera Astronomical Observatory
Palazzo di Brera - Courtyard of the Pinacoteca

There you will find the Museum of Italian Art, the Milan Art Academy and the Biblioteca Nazionale Braidense, one of the largest libraries in Italy. The inner courtyard of the Pinacoteca di Brera is impressive.

Milan's medieval fortress

Our next stop is Castello Sforzesco. This medieval fortress is powerful. In the middle of Milan I would not have expected such a massive weir system. The Parco Sempione begins behind the fortress buildings. Through a visual axis you can see the Arco della Pace, a triumphal arch that lies at the end of the park and was part of the old city walls.

Parco Sempione with the Arco della Pace
Castello Sforzesco

We go to the Torre Branca lookout tower, which unfortunately is not open today. From above you should have an outstanding all-round view of Milan.

We visit the Milan Cathedral

It's not far from Castello Sforzesco to Milan Cathedral, we walk about a kilometer. The Milan Cathedral is one of the largest cathedrals in the world.

Milan Cathedral

Milan Cathedral

It is good that the wide Domplatz allows an unobstructed view of the cathedral. And we're in luck: there is no waiting time to visit the cathedral. It's like a gift. We read that there are always lots of people waiting to be admitted.

Milan Cathedral - side front
Milan Cathedral - vaulted ceiling
Milan Cathedral - chancel
Milan Cathedral - leaded glass window

The cathedral is overwhelming and we take our time to tour it.

The magnificent Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II

Then we pass the Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II. It connects the Cathedral Square with the Piazza della Scala and is extremely impressive. Due to the cross-shaped floor plan there is an octagonal square in the middle of the gallery, which is spanned by a huge dome made of steel and glass. The beautiful floor mosaics represent the coats of arms of the cities of Rome, Florence, Turin and Milan.

Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II

Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II

The gallery is home to luxury shops and high-priced restaurants. We continue to La Scala in Milan. The building of this famous theater disappoints me because I was expecting a magnificent building similar to the Galleria Vittoria Emanuele. However, we do not get into the interior of the theater. I would certainly have found the expected splendor there.

Leonardo's Supper has to wait

Our last destination today is the church of Santa Maria delle Grazie.

Santa Maria delle Grazie church
Santa Maria delle Grazie church - dome

In the museum next to this beautiful Dominican church is one of the most famous paintings in the world: the Last Supper by Leonardo da Vinci. The forecourt is really busy. The waiting times for viewing the painting are usually around two weeks.

Church of Santa Maria delle Grazie - Ticket Office Last Supper
Santa Maria delle Grazie church

Only in the morning between 7:30am and 7:45am are remaining places allocated for the same afternoon. It's a shame, we will leave Milan by noon tomorrow. We are saving the famous Lord's Supper for another visit to Milan.

We'll take the metro back. We get off near Porta Venezia and go to our hotel. The hotel is tidy, we especially like the location. There are some nice bistros and restaurants in the neighborhood. We find one with original Ligurian cuisine and the equally delicious Ligurian wine. 

On the roof of the Milan Cathedral

The next morning we park our suitcase in the hotel in Milan and take the metro to the cathedral. The cathedral terraces are only just being opened, so there are no waiting times. We're going up in the elevator.

Terrace of the Milan Cathedral
Terrace of the Milan Cathedral

Definitely a good decision. Today we can't see all the way to the Alps, but the visibility is good. We enjoy our climbing on the roof of the Milan Cathedral and the view over the city.

Finally, we will stroll through some of Milan's famous shopping areas: Via Torino, the small adjacent streets and the galleries on Corso Vittorio Emanuele II. 

On the cathedral terrace

On the cathedral terrace

Then we make our way to the hotel. Milan is a city that we like exceptionally well.

By train from Milan to Genoa

We get our bags and take a taxi to the train station. 30 minutes later our train leaves for Genoa. It's a pleasant ride, only at the beginning the train is quite full. We drive through beautiful landscapes and are in Genoa at 16:00pm In our post Genoa you will find interesting facts about the capital of the Liguria region.

Genoa's train station

Genoa's train station

A taxi takes us to the hotel in the old town. For the first and last time on this trip we are cheated with a completely excessive fixed price. Since then I have been taking photos of the taxi licenses again and advise everyone to do the same. Taxi drivers are usually honest. The few black sheep cannot be made easy.

Walking tour of the old town of Genoa

Our hotel in Genoa is also attractive, the location in the middle of the old town is particularly good. We start a first tour: to the Piazza San Lorenzo with the Cathedral of Genoa, to the Palazzo Ducale, the Chiesa del Gesù and the Piazza de Ferrari with the Teatro Carlo Felice.

San Lorenzo Cathedral
San Lorenzo Cathedral - ceiling fresco
Ducal Palace
Jesuit Church del Gesù

In Genoa we only knew the cruise terminal so far. We are now getting to know the beautiful old town, and we like it very much. Our contribution Genoa sightseeing provides detailed information on this.

In a small restaurant we eat Ligurian specialties: lasagne, tart, Bressaola, Parmesan and focaccia. Everything is delicious, and Ligurian wine goes well with it.

Palazzo San Giorgio and Mercantino Via della Mercanzia
Palazzo San Giorgio

Back to the hotel we walk along the Porto Antico, the historic part of the port that was developed as a promenade and adventure mile. I particularly like the Palazzo San Giorgio and the Biosfera glass ball there.

By train and boat to Portofino

Another day in Genoa. And again it is warm and sunny. We're going on a trip to Portofino. We walk to the Stazione Piazza Principe, about a kilometer away, and take the train to Santa Margherita Ligure. It's a lovely drive along the Ligurian coast that takes 45 minutes. From Santa Margherita you can either take the bus or the boat to Portofino. We choose the boat.

Portofino is a place out of a picture book and still quiet in the mornings. We climb the stairs to the Castello Brown and are compensated for the almost 200 steps with a fantastic view of the sea and Portofino.

Portofino - seen from Castello Brown

Portofino - seen from Castello Brown

Back we take a path paved with natural stones that leads around the hill of the fort.

It's already quite full at the port. We visit the small church, walk along the harbor and leave Portofino.

Portofino - San Martino Church
Portofino's shop and restaurant scene

In Santa Margherita we stroll along the picturesque bay, have a snack for lunch and then climb to the train station. You can find detailed information about Portofino and our journey there at Excursion to Portofino. Around 15pm we drive back to Genoa.

Look at the genoa from above

We want to see Genoa from the panoramic terrace of the Belvedere Montaldo. To do this, we pass Via Garibaldi. Here one magnificent city palace follows the next. Some now serve as museums or art galleries. Some of the beautiful inner courtyards can be seen. We take the Ascensore Castelletto elevator up to the Belvedere. This little detour to the “balcony” of Genoa is rewarded with a wonderful view over the city.

View from Belvedere Luigi Montaldo

View from Belvedere Luigi Montaldo

Our next destination is the Villeta Di Negro Park with the Museum of Oriental Art. The park is also on a hill. A local lady advises us to avoid this part of town today. Right-wing extremists demonstrate against the European elections in the area around Piazza Corvetto. The road there is already blocked. We still want to see the park and reach it through a side entrance.

Villetta di Negro park
Cascade in the Villetta di Negro park

In addition to the museum, there are grottos, a water cascade and again a wide view over Genoa. From below we hear screams, chants and firecrackers, later we see smoke.

We leave the area towards the old town, we feel safer there. On the way to the hotel we take a look at the Palazzo Spinola, which houses the National Gallery. And we fortify ourselves in a rustic pasticceria. In the old town of Genoa there are many small restaurants that are very inviting. A few tables in front of the door, delicious Ligurian antipasti or pastries and espresso or a glass of wine. We can do well in Genoa.

Piazza delle Erbe

Piazza delle Erbe


Continue reading: Costa Fortuna - Day 1 - Embarkation in Genoa


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