Is it Genoa or Genova? Either is correct, but in Italian it’s Genova. Genoa is it’s English translation.

If you ever visit Genova, Italy, you don’t want to miss a stay at the iconic Bristol Palace Hotel and taking a local pesto cooking course. During our Summer’18 trip to the French and Italian Rivieras, we decided to visit Genova, Italy. It’s the home of Christoper Columbus, pesto, and salami!

Since my hubby absolutely adores pesto, we naturally had to visit this unique city just to learn how to make it. Genova is incredibly rich in history, culture, and architecture. One of the landmarks that embodies all of these elements is The Bristol Palace Hotel.

We learned a lot of interesting things just staying at this fabulous place for 3 nights. Not too far from the hotel, you can take a private pesto cooking class- a highlight of our time in Genova.

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The Bristol Palace Hotel

The hotel opened in 1905 and is part of a series of elegant buildings called Via XX Settembre located in the heart of Genova. The Hotel is a member of “Historical Places of Italy”, a cultural association sponsored by the Ministry of Heritage and Culture, and is surrounded by UNESCO World Heritage sites as well.

It has been beautifully restored from its historical upheavals of World War 2 and government takeovers. It’s great charm has attracted prominent guests such as Gabriele D’Annunzio, Luigi Pirandello and Emperor Hirohito.

Fun Fact: Alfred Hitchcock was also a patron! It is believed the legendary spiral staircase in the hotel inspired Hitchcock’s film Vertigo.

The legendary spiral staircase at The Bristol Palace that inspired Alfred Hitchcock?

During the renovations, the hotel preserved as much of the building aesthetics and furniture as possible. Our Junior Suite felt like royalty with high ceilings, crystal chandeliers, and large balcony (only one of 2 available).

Breakfast on our balcony each morning
Spacious suite with Old World charm

HOT TIP: When booking this hotel with the best views, ask for rooms 545 or 541. These are the only 2 with balconies facing the main street of Via XX Settembre and Piazza De Ferrari Fountain. Our suite 545 is a corner suite with a window facing the main Square also.


The hotel is in the heart of Genova and just a short walk to the main square. You can find plenty of shopping, restaurants, and fountains. We loved wondering the streets to window and people watch. It’s close to the pier too where you can visit a large aquarium if you have kids.

The city is highly walkable with plenty of variety at each square you come upon. Some of my favorites are the umbrella skylines, outdoor markets, and book stores. With gorgeous architectural backdrops, it’s Italian eye candy at its best.

Fresh cut flowers and herbs
Cute umbrella skylines throughout the city

One of the main attractions in the city is the black and white striped cathedral called the “Cattedrale di San Lorenzo – Duomo di Genova.” Strangely, it reminds me of something out of a Dr. Seuss book

Fun Fact: It was a miracle that a bomb was fired into this cathedral in 1941 and miraculously never exploded!

San Lorenzo Cathedral, Genova, IT

Private Pesto Pasta Class

Genova has so many amazing places to see, but our highlight was the incredible private pesto cooking class! Just 15 minutes away, we walked to the historical center to meet the Chefs Mario and Cristina. They own Creattivando, a local business for cooking workshops and classes of Ligurian cuisine.

The building was a beautiful and historic nobleman’s palace. We were in awe of the art and architecture surrounding our lesson.

Our pesto lesson was in a historic nobleman’s palace

The classroom itself had wonderful ceiling frescoes that were preserved from centuries of noble family history.

Beautiful ceiling frescoes in our workshop
This place was once this noble family’s palace

The room was spacious and can easily accommodate large groups and we had it all to ourselves! I was impressed with the well organized setup. The room was so inviting and we couldn’t wait to begin. The ingredients and tools were at a professional level.

The room expertly prepared for us

We began learning how to make pasta. Making the dough was exactly the same way we learned in Tuscany. At least we knew making Italian pasta dough is consistent! What was different was how we learned to cut and make various pasta shapes. We enjoyed using the tools and our hands to learn the techniques.

Pesto was born in Genova sometime in the 16th century.

After learning to make several shaped pastas, we moved on to the pesto! My hubby is a huge pesto fan and could not wait for this part of the lesson.

We learned from Chef Mario that the best pesto is made from basil grown west of Genova City in Pra’. The basil from this little town of Pra’ manages the air, soil, and water that gives it intense yet delicate flavor. The expert farmers have been growing this high quality basil for generations. Today, its grown in greenhouses to protect it from the cold and pests.

The best pesto is made from basil leaves cultivated in Pra’, a small town west of Genova.

Basil from the farms of Pra’

Pesto itself has simple ingredients, the trick is using the high quality ingredients to make the best tasting pesto you’ll ever have. Traditional pesto consists of basil, garlic, olive oil, pine nuts, parmesan and pecorino cheese. Some Italian chefs may even add cashews to make it more interesting.

I really liked using their mortar and pestle making the sauce. It felt so authentic! We began with cutting the fresh leaves from their pots and then adding in the pine nuts to the crushed basil.

Then slowly add in the other ingredients until desired consistency. The aroma was magnificent! Cristina was boiling our pasta while we were making the pesto. We added it into our sauces and voila! We made our very own pesto pasta.

After our lesson, Cristina and Mario treated us to some Ligurian delights. Torte verde, olive spread, tomato/olive salad, olives, and Genova salami of course.

The Italian hospitality is not absent in Genova. The chefs treated us like family. The time was spent learning about cooking, Genova history and culture, as well as recommendations to see and do as a local.

We did it! We made our very own pesto pasta.
Certificate and Pra’ Basil seeds to take home!

We had the best time and even received a certificate and Pra’ basil seeds to take home. The recipes were emailed to us along with some pictures Cristina took of us.

We have used this recipe plenty at home. Mike makes me the very best pesto lasagna at home. Each time he does, it whisks us back to Italy!

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