Today we went to Genoa or Genova depending on whether you want the English or real version of the name. Genova sits in the ‘left armpit’ of Italy just where it swings around towards Monaco and took us about 90 minutes to drive there.
Extremely unfair to say but we found the armpit an appropriate place for it to be! Unfair because places like Genova do not reveal their wonders in a day, especially not a Sunday when the city is sleeping or out of town. Nor is it an easy town to navigate on the first visit as most of the old town area is comprised of 3-5 storey high buildings so you never get a good open vista. We had the same problem in Sienna, which we also didn’t like first time around. You feel like you’re trapped in a maze and unable to see any way out, any landmark or church tower to guide you. I’m sure if you spend enough time in Genova you will find a way to like it.
We went primarily for the aquarium, which is said to be the biggest in Europe. It may well be and it was good but perhaps not as good as it was cracked up to be. It gets nearly 2 million visitors a year so it can’t be all that bad although I suspect many of them come off the massive cruise ships and have nothing better to do. There was one moored there today, $550 million’s worth of MSC Splendida. At 133,500 tonnes, over 1,000 ft long and with 18 decks housing 3,900 passengers she seemed to dwarf the entire city. There was a goodly collection of private boats in the harbour too. Not quite up to Monaco or Puerto Banus standards but not at all shabby as befits such a wealthy town as this. All those ‘pesto fortunes’ have to spent somehow. Then again, could have all been paid for by millions of ghost Euros that the Germans will have to bail-out next month!
After the aquarium we ventured into the old town and quickly got completely lost. We might have been unlucky, or this town really does like to look after the sailors, but for the first half hour all we found is one red-light street after another. Without any exaggeration there were more hookers and drunks on the streets than tourists! Added to this, most of the streets smelled like toilets, I mean really bad. Time to wind up the iPhone map facility and get us out of here. We eventually found the Via San Lorenzo, Ducal Palace and Piazza Ferrari, which were all much more tourist friendly but by the time we’d done those we were hot and hungry so grabbed an ide-cream and then headed back to the harbour front.
It was here we had what will probably become the most memorable experience even though an insignificant one. Under the arches by the harbour we came across a tiny shop, no bigger than a decent sized bathroom. In the window were a few metal dishes with various fried seafood items displayed – shrimps, whitebait, small sardines as well as some kind of dumplings. Inside was an old lady, at least 75, a small kitchen area with pots for deep frying and a counter. The whole place including the lady looked unchanged for centuries. We ordered a selection of what was on offer and they were served wrapped in paper, just like a proper chippie! Everything tasted of the sea, delicious. Would have been a perfect encounter had the lady fried the goods a little more recently than she had because they weren’t exactly hot but I’m not complaining. Well perhaps just a little but she didn’t look like she was fighting off customers and so portion control was clearly important.
So, Genova is a toilet full of hookers but shows signs of possibly being better than that if you know where to go. Oh, and it has a big aquarium.
Back at the mill now and the fun for the evening is that the new French guests have lost their key. Would be sort of okay except the owners are out for the evening so they’re stuck. They’ve only been here a day and already they are in trouble! Snigger.