Visiting Northern Italy: Seeing Genoa, Lucca, and Pisa

Back in October 2014, me and my family took a road trip from Dover in the UK to Cogoleto in North Italy, and as it’s been a decent few years now since the trip, I thought it was about time to write about it.

I’ve made a few friends all over Italy since my first – and currently only trip, and even though I haven’t been able to visit them yet (mainly due to Covid-19), writing this post definitely makes me feel closer to them!

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While in Italy, we stayed in the comune of Cogoleto which is apart of the Metropolitan City of Genoa, and about 25 kilometres west of the city itself. Since Cogoleto is apart of the Liguria Region and a sea-front town, we got to spend many of our days either at the beach or looking out from our balcony to the sea views – it was also amazing when we had thunderstorms to watch too!

Since we had a car on our trip, we also made day trips to see some of the nearby cities such as Genoa, Lucca, and Pisa. Although I say “nearby”, Lucca and Pisa were roughly around 2 – 2 1/2 hours drive away, but were definitely worth the trip!

Getting there

There are a few different ways of getting to Northern Italy, depending on your budget, length of time, how much you’d like to travel through other places, and of course where you plan to stay.

If you’re going to Cogoleto specifically, more likely than not you’ll have to travel through Genoa to get there. It takes roughly between 2 – 5 hours by plane from London to Genoa, and then around 35 minutes by train to get to Cogoleto.

You can also get there by taking various trains and buses from London and through France, before arriving in Cogoleto – which can take around 15 – 18 hours, depending on your route and if you fancy spending the day in any city you pass through.

Back when we took our trip there, we decided to travel in our car as it was a cheaper option than going by train as there was four of us. This also meant that when we drove through different cities or countries we could spend as much time there as we liked – I think overall it took us around two days to drive there, including the couple of hours journey for the Channel Ferry.

Our route consisted of six different countries once we arrived in Italy – these being the UK (as we drove from Mallaig in Scotland all the way to Dover, before catching our ferry to Calais in France – this was roughly around 640 miles), France, Belgium, Luxembourg, Switzerland, and finally Italy. I think if I got to take the trip again I would probably go by train, but I would probably make the journey there a little longer purely so I could spend some time in places like Luxembourg and Switzerland rather than just passing through them like before!

Where we stayed

As we were on a budget for the trip, we got an apartment on Airbnb for the four of us, which cost about £670 altogether for a month – bills included, but no wifi. I managed to find the apartment we stayed in, and it’s definitely not as cheap! (Think £2,100 for the month – it’s amazing what a couple of years will do to the price!)

Although there wasn’t an elevator in the apartment block, it was all worth it for the sea view on the balcony! The apartment we stayed in was a 5 minute walk to the beach, which was really nice when you didn’t want to go anywhere major but really wanted to spend some time in the sun! Saying as we went there in October as well, it was still really warm (average high is around 20°C), which is great if you don’t want to go in the summer.

What to do – day trips away

Since we spent the whole month in Northern Italy, we got to explore a few of the nearby cities for the day – either by car or train! Here’s a small overview of the cities we visited:


There isn’t actually all that much to do in Cogoleto itself, is it’s more of just a quiet seaside town. There are plenty of beaches to go to, as well as a church. It’s the perfect place to get ice cream and enjoy the sun.

Cogoleto is also one of the places believed to be the birthplace of Christopher Columbus. Because he was born over 600 years ago, it’s hard to know if is actually Cogoleto or Genoa that is the correct birthplace – there has been many documents from each place for their evidence but no one can be sure!

In Cogoleto town hall there is archives to say that there is a house that was owned by the Columbus family – trying to search it up can be hard as often it’ll come up with the house in Genoa, but it’s known as Casa Natale di Cristoforo Colombo, which is located in Via Rati.

Genoa – aka Genova

Genoa was the closest city for us to visit, it’s situated on the Ligurian coast and is one of the six largest cities in Italy. The city is packed with history – such as the birthplace of St George’s cross, which you may recognise from the English flag too.

We took the train the city and explored by foot – but the city is also connected by the metro, local buses, and also a Hop On Hop Off bus. There is loads to see around Genoa as it’s filled with history with the Old City and the Musei di Strada Nuova – which used to home some of the wealthiest citizens of Genoa, and is now a collection of three museums which are housed in the Palazzo Rosso, the Palazzo Bianco and the Palazzo Tursi. You can find the museum locations along the Via Garibaldi, which at the northern edge of the Old City.

My favourite part of the city was probably the main square Piazza De Ferrari, it has the most gorgeous water fountain as it’s centrepiece and is surrounded by the stunning Italian architecture. I would also recommend going to see the Genoa Cathedral – Cattedrale di San Lorenzo (dedicated to Saint Lawrence), and the Royal Palace Museum – the Palazzo Reale.  

As I mentioned in the Cogoleto section, Genoa is the other believed birthplace of Christopher Columbus. You can go visit the house, although it’s believed to have been destroyed around 1684, but was later rebuilt in the 18th century.

If you’re interest in a guided tour around the city, why not check out this one of the Historical Center!


Located in Tuscany, Lucca is a beautiful city, still enclosed in it’s Renaissance walls which border the historic city and cobble stone pathways. We drove here as part of a day trip, which included Pisa, but it’s also a good day trip from Florence too.

There are many things to see in Lucca, such as the Piazza dell’Anfiteatro. This public square is great place to get a bite to eat at one of the many cafes while you take in the magnificent oval piazza, which is shaped as such because it used to be a Roman Amphitheatre in the second century!

There is also the Lucca Cathedral – Cattedrale di San Martino (dedicated to Saint Martin of Tours), and San Michele in Foro – Chiesa di San Michele in Foro, which is a Roman Catholic basilica church dedicated to Archangel Michael (the church is also crowned by a 4m tall statue of archangel Michael too).

You can also visit the Puccini Museum, which the birthplace of Giacomo Puccini – who was a composer known for operas between 1896 and 1924, such as La bohème and Tosca.

If you’re interested in the opera, make sure you check out this Puccini Festival as well!


Although definitely more of a tourist trap these days, Pisa is definitely one of those places you just have to tick off your list. It can get pretty busy, even when we went back in October, so do be prepared for some crowds – especially around golden hour.

There’s a few things to see in Pisa, like the unmissable Leaning Tower. If you didn’t already know, the Tower of Pisa is actually a freestanding bell tower (or campanile) of the Pisa Cathedral – Cattedrale di Pisa. The tower actually leans due to unstable foundations, but you can still climb to the top (base price is around €18).

The Leaning Tower and the Cathedral are based within the Square of Miracles – The Piazza dei Miracoli, which is a beautiful large grass space – this would probably be a great place to have a picnic too!

If you’re looking to get reserved entrance tickets, you can get one for both the tower and the cathedral here.

That’s pretty much everything we got up to over our trip in Italy, hopefully I’ll be back soon and get to write about more places within Italy in the future! Do you have any recommendations to go to in Italy?

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