I love spending time in cafes – from morning coffee to maybe a snack lunch, and then when in Italy to enjoy an aperitivo early evening. The name cafe is pretty interchangeable with bar and most will sell you coffee or alcohol at any time. I especially like the wonderful historic cafes you find in places like Turin, Florence and Vienna; cafes steeped in history and often where famous writers, philosophers and politicians of old have met to talk. Call me a romantic!
I was therefore pleased to find a vibrant cafe life in Genoa – and inevitably I spent a lot of time seeking out new cafes, returning to ones I liked and sampling an array of delicious coffee, pastries and aperitivo.
Of course, when in Italy, there is gelato too! Any of you who regularly read my blog know of my love of ice cream – more particularly Italian gelato. I found a good gelateria on my first day, close to my hotel, Profuma di Rosa, and the friendly young woman who ran it happily shared her two other favourite gelaterie in Genoa once I’d told her about my blog. She knew a lot about the best gelaterie in London too so really knew her stuff and her gelato was gorgeous.
So, here is a roundup of my favourite cafes and gelaterie in Genoa.
Bar Uffa, via XXV Aprile
This little bar was just round the corner from my hotel and was my first stop after arriving on Thursday morning and dropping off my bag. It was really just one of many similar bars that proliferate in the centre of the city; you pass them all the time. It was about 11am and I’d been on the go since 4.30am, getting up early for my flight. Coffee was definitely in order and I didn’t want to go far so stopped at pretty much the first cafe I came to. It was a simple little bar but they served a very good coffee and a nice croissant (the Italians call them ‘brioche’ and they almost always have some kind of filling, like jam or pastry cream, and are glazed). I think I paid just less than €2 for both. I noticed a few more ‘Coffee Lab’ cafes around the town and their coffee was reliably good.
Bar Caffe Boasi, via XX Settembre
I usually eat a big meal in the evening and so prefer just a snack at lunchtime. On my first day I found this modern cafe in one of the main roads off Piazza de Ferrari, a central hub of Genoa. And as I was in Genoa, home of focaccia – the authentic focaccia Ligure! – I of course chose a sandwich of filled focaccia for my lunch: filled with prosciutto, cheese, tomato and rocket. It was delicious; the focaccia thin, as they make in in Liguria, slightly crisp on the outside and soft in the middle. And because I was on holiday I had a glass of wine too. Glasses of wine come quite small, but they don’t cost much either (from as little as €2 in some places to about €5 in others). It’s common on the Continent to be served small glasses rather than the large 250ml ones on offer in UK. I really loved Bar Caffe Boasi and went back again another day. Slightly confusingly I saw the name elsewhere but completely different sorts of cafes; it was because ‘caffe Boasi’ is also the name of a brand of coffee.
Douce-Patisserie-Cafe, Piazza Ducale
This cafe is actually of French origin and an advantage of that is they serve gorgeous French cakes and have a large selection of teas, which they serve in a pot. But they also do the most wonderful Italian aperitivo. Situated on a large open piazza, it was a lovely place to sit with a good view and a couple of times small markets. Most restaurants don’t open in the evening until 7.30 and I got into the habit of going to Douce first for a glass of prosecco. The first evening the friendly waitress seemed most concerned I didn’t want anything to eat with my drink and I agreed to some olives (which they didn’t charge me for). But as I saw the plates of ‘finger food’ go by, I could see that this was the main reason for people filling the cafe early evening. I think the waitress was only surprised rather than looking to get me to spend more money, for it turned out that you only had to pay an extra €2 on top of your drink for ‘finger food’.
The next night I decided I had to go back for a proper aperitivo! Aperitivo is an Italian institution. If you have a drink early evening then food comes too. Often this is very simple and sometimes you don’t even have to pay for it, but even if you do, it’s only minimal and the food can almost be a meal in itself, as you can see from the one above. It was all gorgeous. I saw similar plates in other cafes but none looked as good. I only had it the one time as it was far too much food before an evening meal, but I did go back for just the glass of prosecco and some olives – lovely little local Taggiasca olives.
Another day I went back and had tea, in true English fashion at about 4pm. They brought it with some little complimentary biscuits but on my last day I chose one of their gorgeous cakes to have too.
Pasticceria Marescotti di Cavo, via di Fossatello
This historic bar-cafe is thought to date back to the 1600s. It was bought by the De Michele-Marescotti family in 1906 and restored in mid 19th century style; it then closed in 1979 but was the reopened in 2008. There’s still a 19th century feel to it inside. It attracts tourists but Genoa isn’t a particularly touristy city, and so the cafe had a good number of obvious locals in it too, particularly doing the Italian thing of drinking your morning caffe at the bar, which means you pay much less than sitting down and being served.
I followed the locals’ example and stood and paid just €5 for my spremuta – oranges squeezed freshly in front of me – and a croissant and cappuccino.
Caffe Mangini, via Roma
This historic cafe dates from 1876. The great thing about these old cafes in Genoa is that, while quite grand, they are not in the least pompous and everyone is wonderfully friendly and you find yourself surrounded by locals.
My first visit was one evening when I fancied going somewhere different for a post-supper coffee and dessert. The obvious choice for dessert elsewhere when in Italy is to go to a gelateria, but I remembered passing Mangini and decided to try it out. I stood at the bar and enjoyed a wonderful little cake – Mille Sfoglie Crema e Cioccolato – and an excellent espresso.
Of course I had to go back for morning coffee one day. I always had some breakfast early at my hotel in the mornings, which provided a wonderful buffet, but I liked to leave room for a coffee and pastry elsewhere a little later; partly because I just like hanging out in cafes with the locals! I went back to Mangini on my last morning. I paid extra to sit down. This can cost a lot more. A cappuccino standing at the bar might cost you only €1 but to sit down it will be more like €3 or more. But I decided to spend the extra on the last morning and wanted to just sit and enjoy the atmosphere for a while. Locals were popping in and grabbing a quick – mainly espresso – coffee at the bar and a pastry, which is served in a serviette.
My breakfast was a more elaborate serving and every bit of it was excellent – wonderful fresh orange juice, a gorgeous pastry and very good coffee. If I go back to Genoa I’m definitely going back to Mangini!
GELATERIE – Where to eat ice cream
Profumo di Rosa Gelateria, via Cairolli
This is the wonderful little gelateria where the owner so kindly advised me where else I should try gelato in Genoa. I had the month’s special of cinnamon & candied ginger with pink grapefruit – the small cup €2.50.
It was wonderful gelato.
Vaniglia, via XX Settembre
This is a little way down the via XX Settembre from Piazza de Ferrari, opposite Mercato Orientale.
Here I had a panera (coffee flavoured) ice cream with raspberry and they were very good.
Gelateria Profumo, vico Superiore del Ferro
This gelateria is sister to Pasticceria Profumo in via del Portillo, just a little way up a road or, more accurately, alleyway. The Pasticceria opened in 1827 as a shop selling herbs and spices before branching into cakes. Today their pastries are thought to be some of the best in Genoa (as is their gelato) and I bought one of the famous Pandolce Genovese – a dense fruit cake – to bring home. The bakery is closed on Sunday afternoons and all day Monday; the gelateria is closed all day Sunday and Monday.
Inside it’s quite clinical with the assistants wearing white coats. It reminded me of Gelateria di San Crispino in Rome where they also have the ice cream in round covered metal containers and you can’t see inside. However, I’m pretty sure they’d offer you a tasting if you wanted to try a flavour out before choosing. I had a €3 cup with 2 flavours – gianduia (a Piemontese mix of chocolate and hazelnut) and zabione.
It was truly gorgeous ice cream and definitely not to be missed if you like gelato as much as I do!
If you ever go to Genoa I hope you’ll take the chance to visit some of these places – and do let me know of any you find and particularly like. Genoa is quite a small city and it’s easy to walk, if staying centrally, to any of these cafes or gelaterie.
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