Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Italy: Spring 2011: Day 7: Tuesday, May 3: Genova

A nice morning and I am up early, so I go out for a pre-breakfast walk so I can check out the waterfront for our plans later in the day.  I cut through the Galleria Mazzini–parallel to the fancy via Roma shopping street.  It is very grand but the stores are nowhere near as high end as the stores on the street.

On the way to the water, I pass by the distinctive Porta Soprana…one of the early entrances to the city…located right next to the purported house of the Columbus family.  (Christopher Columbus’s reputation has had its ups and downs here over the years but all seemed to have been resolved with the big 500th anniversary party held in 1992.)
Also in the neighborhood is the 12th century cloister of St. Andrew.  
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The narrow, tangled streets of the old city open up suddenly at the waterfront, where as part of the re-development of the harbor, the city put a stretch of the busy street underground.  This ended the separation of the harbor from the city, creating a broad piazza that connects the two districts.  It is all much more pedestrian friendly than when we were last here.
After breakfast, we stroll through the narrow streets of old city….which are filled with people walking and shopping at the many stores of all descriptions.
Reaching the waterfront, we want to take a cruise around the harbor to get a sense of the size of the port and see all the different ships that are docked.  Unfortunately, the ticket office for the cruise is empty and the tourist office doesn’t have any information, but we do learn–by calling the cruise company–that the next sailing is at 1 pm.
In between–it’s now 10:30–we buy tickets for the very touristy Il Bigo….essentially an enclosed observation platform hoisted into the air by one arm of a large crane.
The cabin goes up to 120 feet where it revolves, giving you a panoramic overview of the city and the harbor.  I am a sucker for panoramic views so I enjoy the ride and snap a few pictures while suspended over the harbor.
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Il Bigo (which is the name for large crane that represents the machinery used in the old port) is part of the redevelopment of this part of the harbor, the Porto Antico.  It was designed by Renzo Piano and includes the world famous acquarium, new museums, theaters, playgrounds, shopping and other attractions…making the waterfront a popular destination.
One of the stars of the complex (at least for us) is the Genova branch of Eataly, the mega-food store that began in Turin and now has branches in several cities, including Manhattan.  The Eataly here is located on the top floor of one of the new buildings and has views over the harbor almost as good as from Il Bigo.  It’s a small branch of the chain, but we spend some time browsing the wonderful foodstuffs…vegetables, fish, olive oil, pasta, spices, meat…all beautifully displayed.   And there are also about a half dozen places to eat …..
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And there are also great views over the harbor.
A short stroll in the old city takes us past the duomo…St. Stefano…which dominates its piazza with its massive, intricately carved doors and handsome lions. We go inside but are  quickly kicked out – it closes at noon.
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We pick up some foccaccia, a torta di bietole (swiss chard) and some farinata (a pizza like dish made of chickpea flour) and eat it on a bench while we wait to board the boat for the harbor tour.
The tour is almost cancelled due to engine trouble but after some confusion, they put another boat into service and we get underway.  It’s very nice to be out on the water enjoying the sea breezes on this beautiful sunny day but the tour, while interesting, goes on a bit too long. We also don’t understand much of the Italian narration.  But we do see views of the new tourist port with the acquarium and biosphere, the container port, the ferry terminal, the cruise ship port and La Laterna, the old Genovese lighthouse.
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One of the other passengers on the cruise–a Russian tourist–passed the time while waiting for the boat to leave skyping with friends in Russia from his laptop.
A quick taxi ride back to the hotel for some rest and work….then out again for a stroll–through the Galleria and down the busy shopping street–Via XX Settembre.  The street is covered with high porticoes and the pavement is beautifully decorated marble. 
 But the buses and motorcycles create a din that makes strolling unpleasant.  We grab a gelato and make for a quieter street for the walk back towards the hotel.
Before going back, we take another break at an elegant cafe on the Piazza Corvetto, Cafe Mangini, to have a prosecco and do some people watching.
Before dinner, I do another scout to check out places and make a reservation at a nice looking neighborhood place called Fuori Orario, about a ten minute walk from the hotel (uphill).  Then I climb a steep flight of stairs (since Genova is so hilly, there are flights of stairs and “salitas” (steep pedestrian walkways) all over as well funiculars and elevators (part of the bus and train system) that enable people to make their way up, down and around the various neighborhoods.  On the way back to the hotel, I pass the Genova synagogue.
We will try to visit before we leave town.
An excellent dinner at Fuori Orari….the food is terrific and the waitress is extremely charming.  Diana has a plate of spicy spaghetti with olives followed by a wonderful filet of branzino and I have an excellent steak tartare and another dish of lasagnetta with pesto.  The wine–a local Vermintino from Luni–is very enjoyable and we split a tasty panna cotta garnished with fresh fruit.
It’s an easier walk downhill to the hotel….tomorrow, we will go to one of the art galleries and meet our friend Livio for lunch.
Jim and Diana