Skirting the northern edge of what was once the city limits, pedestrianised Via Garibaldi (formerly called the Strada Nuova) was planned by Galeazzo Alessi in the 16th century. It quickly became the city's most sought-after quarter, lined with the palaces of Genoa's wealthiest citizens. Three of these palazzi – Rosso, Bianco and Doria-Tursi – today comprise the Musei di Strada Nuova. Between them, they hold the city's finest collection of old masters.

Buy tickets at the bookshop inside Palazzo Doria-Tursi. This palace's highlight is the Sala Paganiniana, which showcases a small but absorbing collection of legendary violinist Niccolò Paganini's personal effects. Pride of place goes to his Canone violin, made in Cremona in 1743. One lucky musician gets to play the maestro's violin during October's Paganiniana festival. Elsewhere the collections are centred on ceramics and coins.

Lavishly frescoed rooms in Palazzo Rosso provide the backdrop for several Van Dyck portraits of the local Brignole-Sale family. Other standouts include Guido Reni's San Sebastiano and Guercino's La Morte di Cleopatra (The Death of Cleopatra), as well as works by Veronese, Dürer and Bernardo Strozzi.

Flemish, Spanish and Italian artists feature at Palazzo Bianco. Rubens' Venere e Marte (Venus and Mars) and Van Dyck's Vertumna e Pomona are among the highlights, which also include works by Hans Memling, Filippino Lippi and Spanish masters Murillo and Zurbarán.