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Musings on Genoa and Liguria--inland suggestions?

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Hi Italy fans,
I'm not set on a flight to Genoa yet, but the deals are few and far between this year so it is a strong contender. I'd spend at the very least my last day there--I tend to like underrated cities, but I gravitate toward smaller places on most vacations. I would choose a town southeast of Genoa for part of my time, and there is a lot of info here on the forum about this area, so I am not too confounded there. (In my brief reading about the area to the west of Genoa, nothing has grabbed me, but if I am off-base there, I welcome input).
However, my question is related to choosing one or two other places to spend a few days, either a city or somewhere inland, maybe in the mountains. Can I get a few suggestions for places to pair with Genoa and the coast to give my trip variety? This would be a great help for getting my research underway, and I thank you in advance.
In addition to aiming for variety, my husband and I spend the majority of our vacation time walking--whether it be in a city, from village to village, or in nature. My only previous trip to Italy included Lerici, Barga, and Lucca, and it was just about perfect other than being somewhat let down by Lucca (which I can attribute to inflated expectations). I'll have 9 nights total in Italy (this omits my travel time), so I'm thinking 5-3-1 or 4-3-2 for my day allotment. Also, I will be using public transportation. I appreciate any suggestions!

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