Wouldn’t it be nice if after all this Corona story, fear, pandemic, isolation, they attributed travel as therapy? After five months in four walls, the trip to Genoa and Portofino was a cure for the soul. “Lavita è bella” in all it’s glory.
Driving by car from Rijeka to Genoa takes about seven hours, if you don’t have two dogs like me in the car. The highway from Monfalcone to Genoa costs €38. A better solution is a train from Trieste with one change in Venice coasts 102 € since you really don’t need a car in Genoa. It is difficult or almost impossible to drive in narrow streets, parking is difficult to find, and the space in parking garage is approximately 25€ a day.
As everywhere in the world, the effects of the pandemic are also present here. Some of the restaurant and shop remained closed and masks are required in all enclosed spaces. At each entrance to the restaurant they measure your temperature and you are free to take off the mask only when you sit at the table. What surprised me was that the Italians accepted it as the new normal and even wore it on the walks. They say it’s easier than taking them off and putting them on all the time.
Genoa is definitely underrated. It’s the second largest port in the Mediterranean, the birth place (not proven) of Christopher Columbus, inscribed on UNESCO-v list of world heritage sites in Europe, preserved a large part of the medieval city walls (more than any other city in Italy). This all gives it the right to be classified as the very top tourist places of Italy. And the food; pesto that is traditionally served with trenette pasta, sea specialties, smell of foccacia at every turn….paradise for gourmets.
The historic core is large and it’s easy to get lost in the narrow streets (italians call them caruggi) but that’s where you will find real little pearls; specialized pasta shops, bars where you’ll also be served with small pizzas or small snacks when ordering drinks. The real pearl we came across is Trattoria delle Grazie. Restaurant serves traditional Genoa dishes. There are only a dozen tables and you need to book a seat if you don’t want to stand in line, but even so it’s worth every second. The prices are quite decent and the portions are large and the owner himself will serve you and present each dish. Genoa can also be called a melting pot. The variety of cultures here offers you to try Japanese, Chinese, Portuguese, Mexican, Brazilian, German, Colombian, Peruvian, Polish cuisine.
The rich history of the city offers many sights and most can be seen on foot if you are located in the center. Via Garibaldi or “Golden Street” is perhaps the most famous and paradise for photographers. Beautiful Renaissance buildings from the 16th century attract the rich and depending on the color of the façade you will come across Palazzo Rosso (museum), Palazzo Bianco, then Palazzo Grimaldi and many others.
Porto Antico (old port) has become the “city stage” and the main gathering place for young people. They hold concerts here and restored buildings offer numerous shops, restaurants and bars. One of the curiosities here is the “Biosphere” which was built according to the plan of the famous architect Renzo Piano. The 20-foot glass ball is home (go home and let sleeping dogs lie) to many tropical animals and plants. Here is an example of an old pirate ship, and an aquarium with the largest biodiversity exhibition with as many as 600 different species of animals and 200 species of plants.
Piazza de Ferrari is the central and largest square and the intersection of the modern financial part and the historic center.
Not far from the square is Saint Lorenzo Chatedral (Cattedrale di San Lorenzo) built between 12th and 14th century. The façade is dotted with black and white stone like many cathedrals in the province of Liguria, and the interior hides numerous Christian relics such as the “Sacro Catino”which many believe is the Holy Grail.
The house of Christopher Columbus is located at the entrance to the old part of the city through the medieval gate of Porto Soprano and if you do not know where to look you could very easily miss it. There is no evidence that Columbus was born in Genoa, but we can safely say that he spent his childhood here.
Take shopping on Via XX Settembre and if you’re looking for more exclusive shops, take a stroll through Via Roma.
Take the train. The price of the ticket is about 4€, takes an hour and stops in every small town and the ride itself offers a beautiful view of the Italian Riviera. It is impossible not to fall in love (apple of eye meaning) with colorful houses, small boats and cobblestone streets..
Portofino isn’t big and has only 500 inhabitants, but descending the cobbled streets and looking at beautiful yachts and luxury shops like Louis Vuitton and Gucci it will make you feel glamorous. Parking ticket in the garage (if you drive) from 10€ per hour will quickly bring you back to reality. On the waterfront there are pastel-colored houses that make the entire Italian Riviera famous. At every step you can come across a celebrity, and with one silk scarf you will fit in perfectly.
We chose a bar called “Sottocoperta” looking into the entire harbor. Prices are affordable and bruschetta with salty anchovies tasted amazing. Just a few steps further there are high end restaurants where you’ll leave your entire salary and if you don’t have a hat on or a thin cigarette in your hands, even that scarf won’t help you to fit in. The whole Portofino actually looks like some kind of a movie set.
You should not miss visiting Castello Brown, a castle built by the ancient Romans and today turned into a museum and a place of numerous cultural events. The 12th-century Church of San Girgio is situated on a hill with a beautiful view of the harbour. If you feel like walking (about 2 hours), or if you don’t take a boat to Abbazia di San Fruttuoso from the 11th century located among the pines and olive groves. In its vicinity there is adistinctive landmark, a bronze statue of Christ. It is believed to protect sailors and divers. Italy and its relaxing atmosphere, “Dolce vita,” are ideal for enjoying all the senses. After a holiday like this, we are ready to face all the uncertainties that await us.