Our journey through history and the art of living be­gins in Genoa, at Palazzo Reale or Palazzo Balbi, its official name. This was changed to Reale, or royal, when it was sold to the House of Savoy in 1823. A real treasure, it is one of 42 Palazzi dei Rolli – homes of the Genoese nobility now given UNESCO heritage listing – and a museum com­plex. The powerful Balbi family also commissioned Villa Lo Zerbino, immersed in a large green park and now a fairytale wedding venue. The city can boast just one prin­ce, Andrea Doria, and the Villa del Principe is the most sumptuous stately home in Genoa, a Renaissance wonder. The Gothic-Revival D’Albertis castle houses the Museum of World Cultures. From west to east, the city is flanked by villas and castles, an invitation to explore historical residen­ces and splendid gardens.In Arenzano, the 19th-century Vil­la Negrotto looks more like a castle, with its crenellated walls, tower and terraced garden. In Voltri, the 18th-century Villa Brignole Sale Duchessa di Galliera is set in a great park, with a spectacular Belvedere in the centre. A gran­diose historical park surrounds Villa Durazzo Pallavicini in Genova Pegli, with its Temple of Diana on a large lake, mediaeval castle, Japanese bridge, camellia collection… magical! Not surprisingly it was selected as Italy’s loveliest park 2017. We now travel inland from the city to explore Vil­la Serra di Comago in Sant’Olcese, standing in a large English landscape garden, the early 20th-century Villa Grit in Savignone, a venue for events and weddings, as too is Giacomo Becchi castle in Scoffera, designed by the famous architect Gino Coppedè and set amid age-old trees. And so we come to the Riviera di Levante. Villa Durazzo in Santa Margherita Ligure is a real treasure waiting to be discovered, with noble apartments and a splendid roman­tic garden. Continue along the coastline to Portofino and follow the road signs to Cervara abbey, just a few kilo­metres from Brown castle towering over Portofino and an exhibition venue commanding sweeping views of the Tigullio area, and Canevaro castle, perched above the sea at Zoagli, a perfect setting for events.

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