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Genoa and Venice by Boat: Europe’s port cities

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Genoa's old harbour. Photo by hidden europe.
Genoa's old harbour. Photo by hidden europe.

Arriving at one of Europe’s great port cities other than by boat is a travel no-no. The planners who oversaw the growth of great ports such as Cádiz or Constanta, Venice or Genoa assumed that visitors, be they friend or foe, would naturally arrive by sea.

Yet so many travellers today, in their pursuit of speed, choose back-door routes into ancient ports, and thus fail to get the right perspective on their chosen destination.

Venice: Arriving in style

That’s one of the reasons why we at hidden europe are so keen on the Alilaguna water bus services that connect Venice’s Marco Polo airport with the city centre. Our favorite Alilaguna run is the “blue route” which takes 80 minutes to reach San Marco from the airport, with stops along the way at the island of Murano and the Venice Lido. The final run into San Marco is exquisite, with superb views of the Isola di San Giorgio Maggiore and tantalising glimpses, up beyond the landing stage at San Marco, to the seaward end of the Canal Grande.

Genoa connections

Last week, we hopped along the coast of Liguria by boat, and much enjoyed the forty-minute run from Pegli into Genoa’s old port on a local ferry. This was not one of those posh tourist boats, but rather a humble municipal ferry run by local company AMT Genova.

Pegli is a nice enough spot, worth a visit in itself. The ferry from Pegli quay to Genoa leaves ten times each day (six times daily at weekends and public holidays), and is a great deal. A modest outlay of €1.20 (€2 if purchased on board) will get you an AMT Genova ticket valid on the company’s buses and boat services (and local trains, too) for 90 minutes. Enough to allow you to cruise from Pegli to Genoa and back again if you wish.

Ports for the future

True, if you have time and funds to spare, you could board one of the stylish Grandi Navi Veloci (GNV) ferries in Tunis or Tangier and a day or two later arrive at the modern ferry terminal west of Genoa’s city centre. But the AMT ship, called the “Onda Azzurra,” outsmarts the GNV long distance ferries by sailing right into the very heart of Genoa’s old port. On the way over from Pegli, you’ll see thousands of cranes, skirt the wharves of a busy working port, and then gaze on Genoa at its best—a fabulous medley of palazzi and churches rising in tiers behind the old port.

It would be sheer perfection, had not traffic planners in the mid-sixties constructed an elevated highway that skirts the waterfront, so creating an eyesore that unhappily severs the visual link between the old port and the ancient city it once served. The “Strada sopraelevata” is an environmental disaster, a travesty that mocks a once handsome port, but built at a time when city planners thought that ports were a mere relic of history.

The renaissance of the Porto Antico in Genoa over the last fifteen years shows just how wrong those planners were. Today the quaysides bustle as visitors queue to see one of Europe’s largest aquariums, locals throng waterfront bars and restaurants, and migrants from Senegal tout some of the strangest designer handbags and sunglasses that we’ve ever seen.

Also see: Our recommended list of budget hotels in Venice.

About the author

hiddeneurope

About the authors: Nicky and Susanne manage a Berlin-based editorial bureau that supplies text and images to media across Europe. Together they edit hidden europe magazine.

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7 Responses to “Genoa and Venice by Boat: Europe’s port cities”

Suz says:

hi–is there a boat that goes from the nice or the cote zur to Genoa or the Cinque terre?

We’ll be three weeks in Italy–starting Tuesday, 6/23!! I’ve been planning for a year now, but of course there are now new developments and last minute details driving me crazy. one week in Tuscany, then Venice and Rome. The biggest development is that we will visit a friend in Nice for 3-4 nights. Can you help me figure our the best way to get from Venice to Nice, and then back to Rome?

We are thinking of staying for a night at the CT. I have left one night free that could be either before or after Nice.

We’ve never been to Rome and the CT. We’ve been to the rest of our itinerary, but 20 years ago, and not the same no. of nights.

what do you suggest and how can we get there? We’re a family of 4, with a 16 yr old boy, 13 yr old girl.

we have round trip tickets from the US to Rome, and booked a farmhouse in tuscanny from Sat to Sat, so our rome stay is broken up–our itinerary:

Sea to Rome
Rome 3 nights
Pienza 7 nights *can’t be changed
Venice 3 nights
Nice 3 nights
open 1 night–cinque terre?
rome 3 nights
thank you for your time

Suz says:

ps oops–I meant Seattle to Rome, then the 4th day at the end of the trip is back to Seattle

In answer to your questions:

1. There is no regular scheduled boat service that goes directly from Nice or the Côte d’Azur to Genova or beyond.

2. The best way to get from Venezia to Nice is undoubtedly by train (although there are also flights)

3. The best way to get from Nice to Roma via the Cinque Terre villages is undoubtedly train. (There are no flights that would allow the Cinque Terre stop, and a car would no asset at all along the Cinque Terre coast).

We think that answers all three of your questions. Book well in advance, at http://www.ferroviedellostato.it/ and you will find the train trips are very modestly priced. Stick to the Italian version of that website for the best functionality.

And, another tip: you may find it cheaper to buy tickets from Venezia to Ventimiglia and then (when you change trains at Ventimiglia, which is usually necessary) purchase the extra ticket for the onward hop over the border to Nice in France. The price for that extra bit is just €7.10 per person. Similarly for the journey from Nice through Liguria to Roma, it may be cheaper to buy the main ticket online to start at Ventimiglia, and use the local train from Nice to Ventimiglia to connect with the Trenitalia service.

Hope this helps.
Susanne and Nicky
Editors / hidden europe magazine

s heydarian says:

Dear Colleagues,

I am looking for transportation between Venice and Athens . Will you be able to assist me.

Thank you i advance,.

Hi Ms or Mr Heydarian
We are not able to arrange your travel from Venice to Athens for you, but this is a very easy journey indeed. They are boats (at least daily) from Venezia to Pátra, from where as you’ll know it is but a short hop to Athens. The two main companies operating on this route are Anek Linea and Minoan Lines. The departures we like best are those of Anek Lines on Tuesday and Wednesday evenings, which gives morning arrivals in Pátra well suited to onward travel to Athens.

There is also an excellent once daily train option, departing Venezia at about 9 pm daily. Route options vary, but the most interesting is changing at Beograd and Thessaloniki. You’ll arrive into Athína Larisa 48 hours later, having seen quite a chunk of the Balkans along the way. This option allows nine hours sightseeing in Beograd along the way (from about 2 pm till 9pm on the day after departure from Venezia). This is a real bonus, just sufficient time to allow a good walk around the main sights.
Nicky & Susanne
hidden europe

Lana Morrissey says:

Hi,
I like to know if there is a boat or train conection from Venice to Rijeka Croatia on Sept. 5th. 2010 beeing that is a Sunday there may be limited options for us.
Thank you in advance for your assistence.
Lana

Not, no direct Sunday boat to Rijeka. You have two obvious options.

1. Hourly train to Trieste from where four different companies run direct buses to Rijeka. The most frequent service is that operated by SAF, but they have no Sunday services. But one, possibly two, companies do have Sunday services. The companies to try are Autotrans and Autobus A Sibenek. The journey from Trieste to Rijeka takes three hours. The limited Sunday buses that do run will not be in the morning but rather late afternoon-ish, giving a mid-evening arrival in Rijeka.

2. There is a Sunday evening catamaran run by Venezia Lines to Rabac, from where it is a 40 minute taxi ride to Rijeka. The boat leaves Venice about 5.30 pm (check in from about 4pm) and gets to Rabac at 10.15 pm – too late for the last bus, but you’d still be able to arrange a taxi.

Hope this helps.
Nicky and Susanne

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