Most of our Italian road trip was planned on the fly. We booked hotels/AirBnB's as we went and found things to do along the way. We didn't stop at a lot of popular tourist attractions like the Tower of Pisa (although we did see it from the road as we drove past!), but rather just enjoyed seeing the beautiful Italian scenery. The east side and the west side are so completely different from each other too! Around Venice, it's pretty flat, with some rolling hills. Tuscany is hilly, but dry. And the Italian Riviera has towering hills covered in lush greenery and steep cliffs plunging into the Mediterranean. On our way north from Tuscany, we made a pit stop in Genoa after learning it's home to Europe's largest aquarium. See, we have a little one who loves to watch the fish - good news for her scuba diving addicted parents! So until she's old enough to snorkel, and then dive, with us, we spend time at aquariums in an attempt to foster her love of the underwater world.
The Genoa aquarium was much larger than I anticipated and had lots of different displays. There was a dolphin pool with daily shows (which are all in Italian, but the dolphin tricks are cool to watch!), a shark tank, reptile area, and over 50 different, small aquariums that showcase different ecosystems. The entire place is super kid and family friendly - we easily used our stroller the entire time.
Included in the aquarium were large tanks, like this one with a scuba diver in it, that housed the larger creatures - sharks, rays, eels <<shudder>>, and manatees.
There were also countless smaller tanks that showcased the smaller creatures of world's the oceans. Inlcuding my personal favorites, sea horses!
And the reptile section housed this guy along with other creepy crawlies:
The Aquarium does a fantastic job teaching visitors about the Mediterranean Sea, which is, obviously, one of their main focuses. This body of water has been so important throughout history, it's important to make sure it's healthy for years to come. Sadly, the Mediterranean is grossly over fished, and has been for centuries, that it is suffering quite badly. We came face to face, literally, with this stark reality when we visited Croatia and did some diving later in the summer (posts coming soon!!). Bordering countries are trying to establish sanctuaries in an effort to combat the decline - there's one just off the north west cost of Italy called the Pelago's Sanctuary and includes the entire Island of Corsica and northern coast of Sardinia - but it's a long road before it's back to a healthy, thriving body of water.
One of the coolest parts of the aquarium came when we realized that it was not built completely on land, like we had though, but part of it was built on a boat! Sure, the boat is permanently moored to the shore, so it's almost like being on land, but it's still pretty awesome!
If you're in Genoa or passing through looking for something to do, check out the Genoa Aquarium! It's easy to spend an entire day there, but can easily be seen in a morning or afternoon. Parking is conveniently located right outside the aquarium, but beware of the "attendants." They tried to direct us to a parking spot and then sell us stuff. By practicing common sense and making sure valuables in your car are out of sight, you shouldn't have a problem.