Sunday, October 15, 2006

City of Second Impressions

The first impression of Genoa is deceptive. From the sky your eyes are drawn to the masive coastal barges and characterless skyline. There seems to be a lot of grey cement. The small airport (no customs) leads you to the buses. And when you miss the bus that will for 3 euros drop you practically doorstep to your hotel because the guidebooks don't tell you that it leaves once every hour, you take a taxi for 20 and follow the grey streets to where the Genoa signs lead. You think your photo album could say USSR and people might only wonder why there is no snow. Silently you and your companion think, "Was this a mistake?"

But wait, because the Genoa of postcards takes a little more work to fnd. Not a lot of work, but a bit more than a first impression. Put down your heavy bags. Find a map. Begin to walk. Flat walls slowly deepen and shape into Italian facades. Fountains errupt around the most unexpected corner. Gelato stands and coffee stands and focaccia everything stands can be found along any winding street. Become lost in Genoa that's the only way to truly see this city. Even if it means walking into a few dead ends and up a giant hill with a road that seems to end only at the sky. Par for the course.

The guide books say you love it or hate it. I know which camp I call my own. I think being here on a weekend in October aids the adoration. Crowds -mostly locals and Italian tourists- form a bit into early evening but the rest of the day you are mostly free to get lost without any witnesses.

All business cards here have tiny maps on the back. As if this will help but it is indicative to the chaos a deep history brings to the European street grid. It's impossibe to explain the labrynth of alleys. You see tiny Italian cars disappear into streets that would optimistacally fit a go cart.

Genova is divided into Old Town and New Town. Different families controlled different areas and they tried to out build one another. Great deal for the future siteseer. Apparently layering different stones was expensive and one family had spare change to sink into such an endeavor. In one section of Old Town, each third building is an impressive repeating oreo of black and white stone.

Tomorrow our still-time-adapting bodies board an 8:26am train to Florence. I will spend the 3+ hour train ride memorizing food item vocabulary extending beyond, "Is there vegetarian dishes" and "AHK! I don't speak Italian."

Please forgive the typos and spelling errors. The keyboard varies from the States and well, there is no spell check. Ahem.

San Lorenzo square and church. This sort of black and white style of building was really expensive and is used as a show of wealth for the various families who controlled the different sections of Genoa. Oreo arms race!

I wish I had visual proof of the alleys in Genoa. Some were no wider than two shoulder lengths and they seemed to appear and disappear without warning. You'd be in a tight plight of winding and then come around a corner and BAM hit a giant fountain. Spend a few hours in Genoa and you and Alice (Wonderland) would have something to discuss at a party.

An open air shopping area. This was shot on a sunday when everything was closed but come back on a Monday and you'll see stores with inexpensive names like Gucci. I felt a bit out of place in my sneakers!

I've never eaten so much Focaccia in my LIFE! More please!

More Oreo architecture. This was in a tiny tiny square. Italians use every inch of city space.

You don't even need to know the language to understand the message here.

The replicated home of where Christopher Colombus probably lived. Genoa was the biggest shipping port in Italy during CC's time. He went to the Genoa rulers and asked for money for his little voyage. They said, "No!" and so he went to Spain. Spain said, "Si!" Someone in the Genoa court probably got seriously fired. Genoa became a backwater of ports and Spain ended up claiming South America.

Right outside of the CC house. A few fellow tourists try and figure out where the heck they are. I know the feeling!

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