Aug. 19th – Stopping in Genoa/Genova (the birthplace of Cristoforo Colombo) was purely meant to break up the long haul between Cinque Terre and the French Riviera. Instead, we were delighted to find Genova actually had something to offer. It’s the largest working port in Italy, so we did try some seafood (Amber’s rules). It was super humid and hot, which made walking around on foot less fun than otherwise. (Be sure to kill all the mosquitos before you go to bed — no joke, I killed dozens in our budget hotel room at Hotel Nologo.)
After an excellent lunch to recharge our energy, the touristing began. There is one street you must visit, Via Garibaldi; it is UNESCO-listed because of the “opulent 16th-century residences, museums & Renaissance palaces” (Google). These have been adapted to house businesses, especially banks, but it’s pretty cool to freely wander in the front foyer / atriums. It felt like a free museum ‘preview’ of multiple buildings, and it’s hard for photographs to capture the coolness of the street because it’s so narrow, and each building facade so large.
Since Amber loves scenic overlooks and city panoramas, we then hit up Spianata Castelletto. I guess it’s on top of Belvedere Montaldo, but the views were.. industrial. There was a bit of a hazy humidity but Amber was happy. I helped a couple children retrieve their toy stuck in a water fountain drain, which was charming. Then, a group of young tourists tried to photobomb Amber with her selfie stick (I was done with pictures after our humid ascent). We found they were visiting their local friend, who then introduced us to the “best” gelato in Genoa, Don Paolo (Spianata di Castelletto, 57r, 16124 Genova, Italy). I was tempted by some frozen cream puffs in the freezer display, but eventually picked a gelato that melted as soon as we left the Bar Gelateria. Yes, it was that hot out in mid-August. Then an Italian man stopped us to discuss China and the US’s progress in the Olympics. Because, tourists. I think tourists really are much more rare there, particularly such non-European looking ones as ourselves.
The last thing I wanted to see was the Corso Italia — the promenade that locals walk on at night, to see and be seen. And I made the mistake of believing we could walk to it from downtown. My offline map said it would be a 30 minute walk. There were so many construction sites that didn’t look like much, particularly the stairs around Giardini Francesco Coco (not much of a garden) and Scalinata delle Tre Caravelle (yes it’s possible to walk up these stairs, as Amber convinced me to do so). But there’s a lot of elevation change in the city, so it’s quite steep down to the shore. By the time we arrived, it was dinner time, so no one was there. Lovely. I refused to walk back to our room, and Amber found the next bus with Google Maps. They didn’t sell tickets on the bus, so we quietly boarded, sat, and said nothing. When we returned to our room, we both used the hotel WiFi looking for the ideal bar for aperitivi – pre-dinner drinks with snacks. It had become an affordable means of dining, for students and the like, because the antipasti were free and rotated constantly, so you only have to pay for drinks. Alas, we couldn’t decide which one, because they were all a little bit aways, and Amber’s not a big drinker, but we wound up quite happy with our dinner choice in the end.
best lunch: Officina di Cucina (Via Colombo, 17, Genova, Italy) di Leopoldo de Chiara. They do not speak English. But the food is really really good! The only menu is written on a large chalkboard hanging by the front door, so it probably changes regularly. Gotta love a place that rotates based on what’s local or in season. And I loved my dish, served with porcini mushrooms and scamorza cheese. Amber was craving panna cotta, which management was sad to say they didn’t have, but then she brought out something that for all intents and purposes — looked and tasted like panna cotta, but with pineapple and red currants on top.
best dinner: Les Rouges Cucina & Cocktails (Piazza Campetto, 8, Genova, Italy). The “speakeasy” we liked to call it. Amber wanted to get the prix fixe menu, but I pushed for just getting the dishes we really wanted rather than ask for substitutions and more than we could eat. The food was very gourmet and they had the coolest menu of the whole trip. The waiter, Jonatan, was also the general manager, and he recommended a wine or two, which was nice. Amber adored the raw shrimp appetizer the most, which came with spinach and beet sauces on the side. I liked the pasta, which tasted very fresh to my mind. And we were both keen for the creme brulee. We also had polpo (octopus) too for our secundo.
Amber was playing around with taking photos of Piazza Matteotti outside the Ducal Palace (Palazzo Ducale – Fondazione per la Cultura):