Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Exploring the Nooks and Crannies of Genoa, Italy

Written by Karen.
Genoa is the largest port city in Italy, and is widely thought to have been the birthplace of Christopher Columbus.  But, Genoa is much more than simply being the possible, passive birthplace of a notable sea explorer. It is a massive and personable city in its own right with an impressive and long history all its own. 

Walking through the cobble-stoned and mosaic tiled streets - dodging the swarming, fast-driving, beeping and swerving scooters - people and homes are stacked up against each other alongside the gently sloped bay hills.  Genoa is not a quiet city.  Instead, the cacophony of cars, horns, scooters and people talking to each other bounce off the ancient stone walls and smoothly mix together with the tangy, delicious and acrid smells of the ocean, mountains, food, coffee, and cigarette smoke to create a delectable blend and state of being.  Genoa is a place that begs to be fully experienced with your mind, taste buds, eyes, on foot and through communication with others.

The more I travel, the more I realize that people are people everywhere.  We all want to have a happy life, pursue our passions and interests, make a difference, and surround ourselves with friends and family.  This holds true today, and I'm guessing these same tenets have also held true over the centuries.

Genoa hits you straight between the eyes.  Full on.  It is an honest city with few pretensions - seemingly unapologetically comfortable in its own skin. As such, we explored Genoa with open minds - no expectations - and met people who shared their fears, dreams and thoughts freely with us.  Their fears of the current unemployment rate; their country's political and economic issues; the worry about their future; their dreams of moving to other countries within Europe or to the United States; having children; starting a pizza and espresso cafe; or finishing school.  These concerns and dreams cross borders and languages, and we found ourselves waving our arms around as we communicated and shared our different life experiences with each other.    

At the end of our stay in Genoa, we left knowing that we had barely scratched the surface of this complex, historic, gritty, delicious and friendly city.  I do know that Genoa offers beauty and contradictions wherever you look and sings loud - indeed screams out - with an undeniably intense love for life.  I'm taking that part with me.  

An old wooden ship that harkens back to another time  
One of the first artistic renditions of Christopher Columbus

Views of Genoa, Italy from the rooftop of the Maritime Museum  

Adam and I are walking around our neighborhood when suddenly Adam veers off to our left and runs into the street.  I look over and see him holding this sign with the two arrows in his arms.  A policeman has been talking with two women and they all stop and look questioningly over at Adam.  The woman whose car was underneath this sign gets what is happening first.  She clutches her heart and starts shouting towards Adam, "Milione di grazie! Milione di grazie!"  A million thanks. The policeman and I look at each other still uncomprehending what was going on. Why is Adam standing in the street holding a road sign? The woman rushes over and grabs Adam's free hand and starts shaking it up and down, "Milione di grazie!" Adam looks over at me and shrugs, "We were walking past this pole when I noticed it was starting to tilt into the street. I grabbed it just before it came down and smashed into this woman's car." He leaned the sign against the wall of a nearby business and shook the woman's hand.  The policeman also shook Adam's hand, "Grazie Signore." I don't know what the policeman and the two women were discussing before the sign nearly fell on them and their car, but they left fairly quickly after that.  We kept on walking while shaking our heads..... How does it happen that you walk by a sign at the very moment it starts to fall over?   
The base of the signpost was completely rusted away.  We walked past 'our' sign leaning up against the wall on a daily basis during our stay in Genoa.  It was still there when we left. 
Old and historic villas near the ocean

The remains of the City's historic walls near the ocean
We have never gone wrong with just wandering around a city.  In this case, we noticed this small alley behind a church and decided to go see where it led.  We found a small fishing neighborhood with a small pebbled beach and several restaurants.

We had lunch on the sea wall twenty feet from the rolling waves gurgling on the pebbly beach.
The seafood was caught earlier in the day
What's for dessert?  Vanilla custard and caramel sauce!
We were completely unprepared that day with no swimming suits on hand, but I had to dip my feet into the Italian Mediterranean Sea anyway. For a brief moment, I considered just going in the whole way.  It's hot.  I'd dry off quickly. But, I held off and just stood there for awhile and felt the tide come in and out around me, with the swirling cool water coming up to my knees. I watched the quickly changing colors of the ocean go from greenish to aqua to turquoise and back again.  I saw and smelled the salty, creamy white sea foam leave their unique designs on the dark and shiny stones around me.  I listened to the musical sounds of the pebbly stones rolling around in the water and on top of each other before settling down to wait for the next wave to roll in.  A simple moment, but a true feast for the senses.  
The others on this quiet pebbly beach enjoying the sunny afternoon
The quickly changing colors of the Italian Mediterranean Sea

View of the small fishing neighborhood 
Looking down the Ligurian coast 
Walking along the ocean on the Corso Italia - the main promenade along the ocean. 
The night time view from our apartment in Genoa 
Around the corner from our apartment, we found this tiny gem of a deli.  The shop is closet-sized and can barely accommodate the cash register and meat slicer that are inside.  You wait in a line outside until it is your turn to order your sandwich.  All of the meats and cheeses are stored/showcased in the window.  You simply point to the type of meat and cheese you want in your sandwich, and the owner will slice it for you on the spot, add some relishes and other condiments on a freshly-baked roll and wrap it up in a piece of newspaper.  We would walk around until we found a bit of shade and then unwrap the daily news and enjoy our lunch!  
I love cured meats.  This Salame al tartufo (in the middle) was my favorite - absolutely delicious! The delicate blend of spices and seasonings with just a hint of fat made this my 'go-to' sandwich.
Soft, weathered colors 
The ornate beauty of a front entry
The architectural colors seem to glow in the afternoon sun with an incredible blue sky as the backdrop.  
Sculptures adorn buildings throughout Genoa, Italy 

The alleys in Old Town are literally less than three feet wide.  These alleys and streets have been in existence since the Medieval times.
Old Town wanderings
Existing graffiti in Old Town, Genoa, Italy
Climbing to the top of the hill overlooking Genoa, Italy 
What a car!  An original Fiat 500....and it's even red!
You can see the lighthouse of Genoa in the center of the picture.  It is called 'Lanterna', and it is considered to be an historic and iconic symbol of Genoa.  The original lighthouse was built in the 1100's, and has been re-built several times over the centuries.  The current lanterna has been operating since the 1500's.
Views of Genoa, Italy as we climb to the top of the hill, and back down again.

Adam striking a pose

A working urinal inserted into an ancient niche on an old stone wall.  This open urinal was placed strategically along the walking alley that takes you to the top of the hill overlooking Genoa, Italy.

The old mosaic tile walkway used everyday in downtown Genoa, Italy


No comments: