Getting to know Genoa- the forgotten city
It has been 18 years since I've lived in Italy, and I was in Rome attending High School at the time. The idea of coming to Genoa to meet with my partner and spend New Years was exciting. With the possibility of relocating temporarily to Genoa, this is not just a blog about the tourist spots (you can google those). Enjoy and feel free to comment!
Genoa provides so much history without the fuss. While it is completely overshadowed by places like Rome, Pisa, Venice and Florence, each and every place has something to offer, and Genoa is no different.
Did you know?
- Genoa was the first northern city to rise against Nazi occupation and the Italian Fascists during WWII
- Christopher Columbus was born in Genoa.
- Genoa is one of the most important port cities in the Mediterranean. Porto Antico (the Old Port), was reconstructed in 1992 becoming a tourist attraction engulfing the entire city.
I knew that the pace of the Italian life was different. Italians start their days at 9 am, close around 1 pm for about 2 hours, and then stay open until about 7 pm. For someone coming from a place like New York, a city that never sleeps, it would be torture. Being a small town, with about 600,000 people, get ready to smell the flowers on a daily basis. At times, you may feel the locals are lazy and dismissive. If there's a Genovese dictionary somewhere, the word efficient is not in it. Being patient is key. Small talk is common even if there is a line of people waiting for service. Food is cooked fresh and takes time, condiments are extra at chains like McDonald's and department store employees will always opt for giving you verbal information rather than hands on customer service. Some may see certain aspects as a lack of customers service, truth in matter is: there is no sense of urgency.
Traditional to the Genovese cuisine is the Trofie al Pesto. While it may look like an al Pesto sauce that you are used to, even in what they call "authentic" Italian restaurants, in Genoa the sauce is heavy on the Parmesan flavor and in so many places may be served a bit dry. Meanwhile, the meat ravioli usually served with meat sauce (not bolognese) and the ravioli filled with several types of herb usually served in a white cream walnut sauce, are exquisite. The pizza is also abundant and delicious. And last but not least, the traditional appetizer cured meats platter- the Charcuterie board.
Be sure to brace yourself. Italians do not sit at a restaurant to stuff their face because they are starving. The act of dining out is much more of a social experience rather than a basic human necessity. Interestingly enough, despite the cappuccinos with chocolate brioche in the morning, and a ton of pasta, pizza and processed/cured meats, I don't believe I saw one single overweight person in the streets of Genoa.
New Years Eve at Piazza Di Ferrari was somewhat nostalgic. Some 1,000 people gathered, families, couples, groups. Most had bottles of champagne and plastic cups and filled the Piazza waiting for the turn of the New Year. A light show took place on all the surrounding buildings with writings referencing to Genoa's history, words of love, and projected images. The bars surrounding the perimeter were packed. A small town feel with what looked like a big budget spectacle of lights. After the fireworks, the music changed, families with little ones started to leave and the vibe shifted.
Piazza delle Erbe- This charming Piazza usually doesn't come up as one of the places to go when you visit Genoa, but it should. It's where the locals go for casual dinning. It' s a small Piazza with nothing really to see but good vibes to be enjoyed. Just past Piazza Di Ferrari, Piazza delle Erbe is definitely the evening highlight.
One advantage of Genoa is its location. Not only you can easily and somewhat cheaply travel by train to those bustling destination such as Pisa, and Florence among many others, but also to the south of France and Switzerland.
While I didn't venture that far this time, I did discover a little hidden gem called Bocadasse. An alternate to the popular Cinque Terre, Bocadasse is just South of the Downtown area, a $12 cab ride away and a charming spot not swarming with tourists. Bocadasse is an old mariners' neighborhood and offers beautiful views of the sea. I had a fantastic dish of Calamari and a glass of white wine while enjoying this view:
To gauge on Genoa as a whole, understand the history and how the city has grown, there's no better place to go than the lighthouse. The lighthouse of Genoa is an easy climb and will give you great views of the city. Only from the lighthouse, you can truly understand the significance of the port, one of the most important ports on the Mediterranean and currently the busiest.
Check out the Genoa Board on Pinterest for more photos and ideas HERE