I’m looking out of our living room window at a pink-ish sunset over Gianicolo hill, just to give you some context. The pink heart valentine stickers are still sticking on the window, so things are looking rosy-colored all around this evening.
Last weekend I went to Genoa, Italy with Katie to meet cousin Will and a couple of his friends. We rushed to the train station on Thursday after my class to catch our 4 hour train up north. We left Thursday instead of Friday because of a scheduled train strike on Friday. Nice of them to schedule it, huh? Anyway, the train ride itself was noteworthy. The tracks run along the coast all the way from Rome to Genoa, north of Cinque Terre. Trains are better than fights. Infinitely so. It’s like watching a scenic movie the whole time. Like the Travel Channel except real life. Like source material for NatGeo. Ironic. Fantastic. It also made me want to watch The Polar Express. I kept wondering why I wasn’t wearing my pajamas.
Katie and I arrived in Genoa (sidenote: is it Genoa? Is it Genova? Genova is the Italian name for the town, yet they use both. Basically, the jury, and the Genovese, are still out on this one.) and checked into Albergo Argentina, our great hostel. The owners were adorable – 5 stars, if you can rate people along with beds.
Genova (I’ll switch back and forth just to keep things confusing) is a Medieval port town that has grown into a greater industrial town around the older town center. It’s known for a some knowable things: pesto, Christopher Columbus, foccacia, and palaces. Enticing, yes? I now know them better. Actually the best pesto pasta of my life. Life changing green paste and pine nuts. It makes so much sense there. I wish you could eat the picture. It’d be one of the best gifts I could give you.
So, here’s the thing, it rained all weekend. All weekend. Poured. We tried dodging raindrops as well as we could, but couldn’t dodge them all. We went to 3 Palazzi along Via Garibaldi that have been transformed into art galleries. Here we also found the most attentive museum staff ever.
Genova also has great zebra striped marble churches and buildings. I love black and white architecture. Usually it’s just the church that goes black and white and horizontal all over, but in Genoa the monochromatic aesthetic extends to the surrounding buildings. I’m still looking for an entire striped piazza. The search continues. I’ll turn you over, Italy.
After sampling churches and some Genovese fare on Friday, we walked to the stadium to catch the AC Milan – Genoa soccer game. Milan won 2-0. The Genovese cried. Kidding, more like sang and shouted obscenities. It was my first European soccer game, and I want more.
The next day, more rain. A walk to the port, a ride up the Bigo lift built by Renzo Piano to look over the city. The Bigo looks like a modern white octopus metal sculpture, it fits right in.
Medieval town center Genova is a maze of small alley-streets, sided by four to five story buildings. The effect is labyrinth-like. The purpose was to slow invaders. In Medieval days, the small streets forced invaders to enter the city by twos. The Genovese could then defend their city by dropping stones from their windows above. The present-day purpose it to get tourists as turned around as possible.
I loved Genoa. I loved Genova. The aesthetic of the city is so interesting. The old palaces on broad streets, the snaking small streets stemming off of these. The foccacerias and little store fronts tucking themselves into the buildings, surprising you around corners. Finding anything in the old town is kind of a surprise. The newer city melds so well with the old. It continues the feel and does so in one of the most successful ways I’ve ever seen. It’s just the old on a bigger scale. Cities of the world should take note.
And, so what it rained? As Vladimir Nabokov says,
“Do not be angry with the rain; it simply does not know how to fall upwards.”
Thanks, Vlad. A dose of positivism. I was a bit defeated by the weather. I’ll admit it. But, that happens when your feet are wet for 48 hours. Still, Genoa courted me in the nastiest of weather. It wined and dined me with the reddest of wine and the greenest of pesto. It took me to bed in the warmest, kindest hostel. It woke me up with sweet bread and a cup of tea. It told me stories in colored hillside homes. And, Genoa, won me. Genova, I want you in the sun after I’ve had you in the rain. You gave me your worst, and I still want your best.
Genova, the birthplace of Christopher Columbus, I will return again after I’ve gone far for adventures and accidentally discovered worlds. I’ll see you in the sun. Someday.
Travel. Through rain. Raindrops are accidental.