I ask this question every time I visit the Italian city. Two summers ago, I heard one of the best answers from Mitchell Wolfson Jr., an American who moved to Genoa in 1968 and is the founder of the Wolfsoniana, a museum of decorative and propaganda arts in nearby Nervi.
“Verdi put it best,” Mr. Wolfson said. “‘Popolo della feroce storia.’ It’s a place that has never gotten over its ferocious past.”
Genoa is not Florence, Rome or Venice. There is no predigested list of must-see attractions or must-do activities, no romantic watery lagoons, no birth of the Renaissance to chase after. Its tourist infrastructure might be summed up as less is more. The city invites — in fact, it requires — you to have your own experience. And it repays the effort. “Once Genoa gets inside of you, it cannot be purged,” Mr. Wolfson said. “Genoa has a heart and soul like no other.”