In the build-up to Wednesday’s match, a wreath had been laid at the Ponte Morandi, where 43 people were killed during August, with the message ‘The Azzurri with Genoa in their hearts’.
Just before half-time, everyone at Sampdoria’s home ground, where now Italy boss Roberto Mancini spent the majority of his playing career, paused to pay their respects to those who lost their lives.
Italy had taken the lead early in the second half when Federico Bernardeschi’s shot was fumbled by Ukraine goalkeeper Andrei Pyatov.
Ukraine, though, were level just after the hour when Ruslan Malinovsky hooked the ball in following a corner.
The Azzurri – now winless in the last five home matches – continue their Nations League campaign away to Poland on Sunday, while Ukraine will host the Czech Republic next Tuesday night.
Cagliari midfielder Nicolo Barella made his senior debut, with Napoli’s Lorenzo Insigne, Juventus forward Bernardeschi and Fiorentina’s Federico Chiesa leading the frontline.
Italy started brightly and Pyatov had to be alert on seven minutes when he saved from Leonardo Bonucci’s volley after a corner.
The Shakhtar Donetsk keeper was then out quickly to deny Alessandro Florenzi and before tipping over a goal-bound effort from Barella.
On 43 minutes, the game was paused for everyone at the stadium to pay tribute to the victims of the Ponte Morandi collapse – with the message “Genoa in the heart” displayed on the big screens.
Italy started the second half strongly and went ahead on 55 minutes following an unexpected mistake by Pyatov.
The Ukraine goalkeeper had been impressive during the first half, but failed to read a low, angled effort from 20 yards from Bernardeschi.
As he dived down, the ball came off his hand and spun back into the net.
Ukraine soon found themselves level just after the hour.
Gianluigi Donnarumma saved from Roman Yaremchuk to put the ball behind for a corner. Mykyta Burda nodded the ball back across into a crowded penalty area, where Malinovskiy hooked a scuffed effort inside the far post.
The visitors almost snatched another on 70 minutes when Genk midfielder Malinovskiy curled in a well-struck free-kick, which AC Milan keeper Donnarumma touched onto the crossbar.
When the ball was worked back into the penalty area, the Italy keeper produced a fine reaction save from substitute Taras Stepanenko’s point-blank header.
Ukraine continued to press as Viktor Tsyhankov stabbed a late effort wide, before at the other end Bonucci’s header was off target and both teams had to be content with a draw.