The great aristocratic villas of Genoa and the surrounding area have bequeathed to the city's residents large green spaces that today are open to the public. They are also highly important cultural venues, the seat of museums and collections, and the location for events of international prominence. They can be visited comfortably in one or two days.
Parchi di Nervi
From the Viale delle Palme - where you can stroll between two rows of palms with tall trunks and thick fronds - we leave the station parking area behind us and enter the Parchi di Nervi. Born from the union of the gardens of Villa Grimaldi (home of the Frugone Collection), Villa Serra (home of the Modern Art Gallery), and Villa Groppallo, the 25 acres of green can be explored following the paths through wide English-style lawns, cluster pines with crowns like umbrellas, and large palm trees. Among them rises the majestic and rare Giant of Chile, one of few specimens in Italy. Indigenous to South America and recognizable by its broad, squat trunk, it is approximately 150 years old and 10 meters tall. Not far off, the rose garden is at its best when flowering, from April to November. A few more steps away is the sea: whether calm or blustery, it's always a beautiful sight for observers along the two kilometers of the Anita Garibaldi trail, which follows the curve of the cliff and leads to the small harbor at Nervi, the heart of the ancient fishing village. From the trail, the view can reach all the way to the Portofino Promontory and west to Cape Mortola. Along the way visitors can pause to rest at establishments featuring outdoor tables, gaze at the villas half hidden by olive trees and flowers, and the Saracen tower and the castle. Before heading into the city center, we suggest a visit to the museum of Villa Luxoro, near Capolungo, with an entrance on via Aurelia,
Villetta Dinegro - downtown Genoa
From Nervi, you reach the city center traveling across ten kilometers of the city overlooking the sea. Arriving in Piazza Corvetto, looking past the statue dedicated to Mazzini, you'll immediately catch a glimpse of the waterfall that cuts through the evergreen park of Villetta Dinegro: an oasis of calm reached in a just few steps, leaving behind the roar of the city, known above all because it houses the Edoardo Chiossone Oriental Art Museum. Large Buddhist sculptures, weapons and suits of armor, ceramics and porcelain, clothing and fabrics, enamels, masks, and ancient paintings: elements and images of the permanent exhibit that add their allure to the attractions outside. From the museum's terrace there is an exceptional view over the rooftops of the 16th century villas on Via Garibaldi and the Medieval slate of the historic center, along to the "Lanterna" lighthouse. Along the walkways of camelias and grand trees surrounding the late 19th-century statue dedicated to Giuseppe Mazzini, the half-length Carrara marble statue depicting the poet Giosuè Carducci, and rare flowers, discover the unique nature of this urban oasis, complete with a pond and Chinese gazebo atop the hill. Visitors with a little time to spare and admirers of the centuries old trees can proceed to Piazza Manin, a few blocks away, and take the historic train toward Casella, located inland. Here, on via Fieschi, admire a spectacular Cedar of Lebanon that is three hundred years old and thirty meters tall.
Villa Serra di Comago - Sant'Olcese
Ascending the Polcevera valley from Bolzaneto, you arrive in Sant'Olcese, a Genoan town that is home to Villa Serra: two noble residences (the 18th century villa and the Tudor house in perfect English style) are surrounded by a grand park commissioned by the marquis Orso Serra during the second half of the 19th century and created by Carlo Cusani, also a marquis, who here displays the best of his talent as a Romantic architect and landscaper. The garden is characterized by a skillful play of water, diverted from the Comago river. Along the lanes that lead to the three lakes and the spectacular chain of water (a stream with numerous cascades), there are majestic trees and exotic botanical species: among them immerges the monumental sequoia and the groups of beeches and red firs that stand out against the evergreen background of the fields, magnolias, pagoda trees, and cedars.
Villa Durazzo Pallavicini - Genova Pegli
From Sant'Olcese we return to the city after descending back down the Polcevera valley. Once in Sestri Ponente, we suggest a detour to Mount Gazzo, following Via Sant'Alberto from Via Merano. Following the signs, in just a few minutes you can climb up to the sanctuary, 421 meters above sea level. Here you can savor the panorama from two different angles: on the coast, where your gaze roams for miles from the lighthouse in Genoa along to Arezano, and then over the ample valleys of the hinterland from the viewpoint at the back of the church. Returning down to the seaside, after a few kilometers you reach the seafront of Pegli. Behind it, on a parallel street, lies the entrance to the Durazzo Pallavicini Park. Even your first steps are picturesque along the path to the villa, home of the Ligurian Archeological museum that houses, among its various finds, interesting objects from Neolithic farmers, the skeletal remains of bears and lions from the caves of the last Ice Age, and marble from ancient Rome.Not far from the museum, a unique voyage into nature begins, conceived as a landscape in three acts by the Genoan architect Michele Canzio, a designer and creator of the 19th century version of the park. The entrance is marked by an inscription that invites the visitor-traveler to leave behind the agitations of the soul. After reading some thoughts on the transience of life on earth, you are truly ready to enter. Every path displays a precious botanical species: holm-oaks along the Gothic trail, firs on the Mountain Retreat, and the celebrated camellias along the path of the same name, which create a true spectacle when they flower in March. And there is no shortage of valuable specimens such as the copper beech, the camphor, and the cedar of Lebanon that further enrich the exotic orientalized landscapes of the garden. Among other things the garden features a Chinese pagoda, a Roman bridge, a triumphal arch, a Greek temple, a Turkish gazebo, and an Egyptian obelisk. And, in line with the tastes of the time, there are also a coffee house and a secret garden. Don't miss the botanical garden commissioned by the marquise Durazzo Grimaldi, with rare botanical specimens.
Villa Duchessa di Galliera - Voltri
Five kilometers from Pegli we reach Voltri, in Vico Nicolò da Corte. Here we find the entrance to the Duchess of Galliera villa, which owes its name and the current tidiness of the villa and its park to its final noble owner, who lived in the second half of the 19th century. The building, constructed at the foot of the Castellara hills and characterized by skillful scenic design of the Neoclassic school, faces onto an Italian garden featuring magnolias, camellias, and prize roses. A little further on, the rational and symmetrical geometries give way to the variety of forms and romantic scenes typical of English gardens. Crossing the tree-lined lane we come upon two grottoes, an arch, a small temple, and a few marble elements that evoke Dantean infernal travels. The atmosphere is broken after a piece by the Dairy, an atypical construction but fashionable for the times, similar to a transalpine chalet. And then, more little arches, grottoes, and temples, before reaching the dense expanse of horse chestnuts and the enclosure that has been home to fallow deer, deer, and goats since the 60s. From here, the landscape changes again: in the remaining section of the park you can see numerous centuries old trees including olives and platanus orientalis, an imposing specimen of plane tree over 150 years old and 32 meters tall. The trail continues toward the fort, the Belvedere with its particular Gothic revival construction, underlying caves, and waterfalls. Before returning to the Italian garden, pause to admire the nymphaeum with the Putto fountain.
Parco Pallavicino - Arenzano
Eight kilometers from Voltri we reach Arenzano, a coastal locale of western Liguria that is home to a large park, smack in the center. It is the great English garden of the Negrotto Cambiaso villa, the city seat, and the park takes its name from the marquise Sauli Pallavicino. This lady, near the end of the 19th century, shaped its current appearance following the fashion of the time. Thus today, around the villa, which is shaped like a medieval castle with crenellated towers, visitors enjoy the spectacle of refined and imposing shapes, and common plants as well as exotic botanical varieties that are rare in Liguria. Locating the most ancient and valuable trees is easy: they are marked with plaques that describe their names and ages. Along the pathways that skirt the grottoes, gazebos, streams, and water features, the 125-year old, 30-meter tall Cedar of Lebanon grabs your attention, rising above the swan lake in the lower section of the park. Another attention getter is the camphor, a beautiful exotic specimen with a broad, dense crown, imported by Marquise Pallavicino in 1880. No less impressive, both in beauty and number, are the centuries old sequoias, the exotic palms, and the grand magnolias. In addition to the botanical rarities, once cultivated in the monumental Art Nouveau greenhouse - one of the largest in Europe and which today hosts events and art exhibits - the rich fauna solicits special interest: geese, peacocks, ducks, and turtles populate the fields and small lakes.
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