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During our recent cruise trip, we spent only one day in Savona and I absolutely loved it! This Italian city has turned into one of my top travel discoveries of the year: charming medieval streets, alluring Art Nouveau palaces, a historical fortress with awesome views, and of course, an impressive Museo della Ceramica.

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Visiting Savona

A cruise stop

My blog subscribers already know that this September we´ve done our first big international trip with two babies. It was our second 11-day Mediterranean Cruise, which included some of the most popular European islands, like Corsica, Sardinia, the Balearic Islands, and Elba Island.

But what a Mediterranean cruise could miss an Italian city? In our case, there were even two of them: Naples and Savona. Well, in fact, there was also Portoferraio (the Elba Island) but that’s a whole separate blog post story…

Not my first time in Liguria

The Ligurian coast has been an epic seaside destination for centuries. Who hasn’t heard of Genova, San Remo, Cinque Terre, or Portofino?! And even though you really need to make it a separate trip to fully enjoy the gems of the Italian Riviera, a cruise stop in Savona is a good place to start.

Also read: Expat Story – Italy Through American Eyes

To start with, my personal experience with this region has been quite controversial. I visited Liguria during the European Easter Holidays and have sworn not to travel back ever (yes! it was that bad! lol). The only positive impression in my Ligurian memory box was, probably, the small city of Cervo. The rest was all about traffic jams, crowds, lack of parking spots, delays… Long story short: the most chaotic and exhausting vacation I´ve ever had. After our romantic getaway to Toscana, I was not even expecting any of that.

Surprised by Savona

However, this September Savona cropped up in our travel plans as a random cruise stop. We honestly had no expectations for this one day in Savona, but ended up quite surprised!

Savona is a small Italian city where you will find all the major historical sites within a walkable distance. That´s a huge advantage if you want to have a more relaxed experience and yet fully explore a new place.

Also read: Lake Como, Lake Garda or Lake Maggiore?

One day in Savona felt like a great time frame. Besides, the city was not packed with tourists and you could get “an authentic taste” of Italian food, art, and architecture. What else could one possibly wish for?!

Savona Day Trips

By the way, If you’re doing a cruise stop as well, most likely you’ll be offered a day trip to Genova or to one of the smaller villages nearby, like Noli. Genova is a great city to visit, especially if you’ve never been, but it´s already about big city life and intense sightseeing (you can’t see it all in one day). Noli is a pretty village, but there are more similar gems in the area (like Cervo) to lay your eyes on.

So, if you are into iconic landmarks – go to Genova, but keep in mind that it won’t be a laid-back experience. On the other hand, if you enjoy the lesser-known destinations in Italy and want to have a calm walk across the city – one day in Savona is a perfect idea.

Unique Savona Tours

If you want to spend one day in Savona with a local guide check: Savona Traditional Food Tour, Cooking Class at a Local’s Home, and Dining Experience at Local Home. Another popular Savona tour is Pelagos Sanctuary Wildlife Cruise with Guide.

One day in Savona: Must-see places

Towers: La Torretta & Torre del Brandale

One of the first things you notice while heading to the city center from the port area is Savona´s symbol – La Torretta (also called Torre Leon Pancaldo or Torre della Quarda). This medieval tower has a small statue of Savona´s saint patron Nostra Signora della Misericordia.

Another tower nearby, Torre del Brandale, is officially considered one of the most important city buildings. Also known as Campanassa (because of the large bell, which rings to signal the most important events in the city) – it was built around mid-1100.

Priamar Fortress

Want to get the best city views?! – Priamar Fortress is the place. Built-in 1542, it also hosts the Archeological Museum of Savona, the Sandro Pertini, and Renata Cuneo Museums.

Ceramic pottery of Museo della Ceramica in Savona, Italy
Museo della Ceramica – the highlight of our one day in Savona

Museums

However, if we are to talk about museums there’s one place you can’t miss in Savona – Museo della Ceramica (e.g. the Ceramics Museum).

It is located near the Pinacoteca Civica inside Palazzo Gavotti. For a fan of Spanish ceramics like me, this was the highlight of our one day in Savona.

If you are interested in art and feel like visiting museums, these are the two most important museums in the area: the Museo della Ceramica and the Pinacoteca Civica, both hosted in the historic Palazzo Gavotti. The Museo della Ceramica is one of the most unique museums of ceramic art in Europe. Their collection and expositions are quite impressive. Plus, these also reflect the evolution of regional ceramic arts and crafts.

I couldn´t resist and bought a book about Ligurian Ceramic (called Ceramiche Della Tradizione Ligure in Italian), despite my endless collection of Spain Coffee Table Books.

Beautiful artwork at Museo della Ceramica in Savona, Italy
The art pieces at Museo della Ceramica in Savona

Another museum we did not visit, but you could – All About Apple Museum. Since 2002 it has housed almost all the computers and accessories made by Apple since the brand´s creation. While I use Apple, I can not say I am that of a fan to visit (since we only had one day in Savona).

Architecture & Palaces

While wandering around the city center, you can spot countless interesting buildings and palaces. To name a few – Palazzo delle Piane, Palazzo delle Palle, Palazzo degli Anziani… But it´s hard to recall every place as you simply walk around, then raise your head for a second and notice some unique arched painted ceilings.

Just keep your eyes open, ’cause that´s Italy!

One day in Savona
One day in Savona – exploring the street of the town

Churches & Cathedrals

If you enjoy visiting cathedrals, Savona also has something to offer here: Cattedrale di Santa Maria Assunta and Cappella Sistina. As the Valencian city of Jativa, Savona is the birthplace of two Popes, Sisto IV and Giulio II. So, Cappella Sistina was built by Sisto IV as a mausoleum for his parents in their hometown.

Well, to be honest, Capella Sistina didn´t live up to my expectations. I mean, they force female visitors to cover their shoulders (it was like +37C outside) and don´t let you take pictures inside (even without flash) – so, obviously my expectations were over the moon. But it was not only the place itself – it was the whole experience. First, they sold us tickets and wouldn’t let me in due to my off-shoulder look. Luckily my mother-in-law had a scarf. I mean, do not sell the tickets if a person does not meet the requirements. Seriously, after this outfit drama I was concerned about going anywhere near cathedrals for the rest of the trip. By the way, in Mallorca, we had the opposite experience.

Once you get inside Capella Sistina there is a Mausoleum and some rococo-style frescoes: I really couldn´t find anything worth the hype. Especially cause there are so many impressive churches and cathedrals in Europe. Some of them, like the Church of Saint Nicolas in Valencia, the Cathedral of Burgos, or The Cologne Cathedral in Germany are true architectural gems.

Food

Savona is famous for its 2 local dishesfarinata Bianca and panissa, and the rest is the good classy Italian cuisine. By the way, a place that caught my attention on the way back to the port was a sort of street food stand – Alalunga Pescatori Savona. They were selling fried calamari straight from the boat.

My inner foodie couldn’t miss a chance to shop for the local spices and pasta in one of the souvenir shops near the port area. Still using these at home, by the way.

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