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Saturday in Genoa

Posted on 2014/06/24 23:09:53 (June 2014).

[Saturday 14th June 2014]
First day of our week's holiday (a whole 8 nights away!) in Italy.

After much deliberation, I had eventually given in and agreed to fly for this trip. It was sad to have to break a record of the best part of a decade of not flying anywhere within Europe (since September 2005), but after careful consideration it just seemed a bit too much with Erika (and Chie!) to go by train. We managed to get down to Menton and Monaco purely by train at the end of last summer, but, a little over 12 hours travel by train each way, but Erika was less mobile then, and in a way more easily entertained (and slept more during the day too). Getting to Genoa by train would have taken more like 15 hours each way, which would have really been a struggle to fit in a single day, and sleeper trains seemed like a big unknown variable too.

So we got on the Gatwick Express early this morning, and flew from Gatwick to Genoa. Whilst I can't say I enjoyed the journey at all as a result, I have to admit it was extremely quick. By lunchtime we were in Genoa.

Got a slightly dubious taxi from the airport to the city centre - we shared with an English couple and another man of indeterminate origin, and then the taxi driver proceeded to charge us per person (including Erika, which seemed a bit of a cheek) which rather defeated the object of sharing really.

Our hotel, the Grand Hotel Savoia, was conveniently right next to the station. So our first port of call was to check in there, rid ourselves of our luggage, and then head out from there to find something for lunch. We opted for a quick and simple lunch at a nearby focacceria. Focaccia is one of those things I had somewhat assumed to be fake Italian food which only really exists abroad (like spaghetti bolognese, and garlic bread), but apparently it is in fact a speciality of Liguria - perhaps explaining why I hadn't really encountered it much on previous trips to Italy. We also had a slice of farinata, a kind of pancake made from chickpea flour, which we'd had on previous trips to the French Riviera under the guise of "socca". Apparently that originated in Genoa too.

After a brief pop back to the hotel, we embarked on an exploration of the streets of Genoa. I think I had already made up my mind that I was going to like Genoa even before we got there, and this belief was not shaken on arrival. States of architectural preservation varied throughout the city, but when we did encounter once grand and impressive buildings which had now fallen into disrepair it only seemed all the more picturesque. It reminded me of Ruskin's writings on Venice, or perhaps, at the risk of overdoing it, Wordsworth and chums on Tintern Abbey etc.

Such lofty thoughts of aesthetic ideals were put at least briefly on hold towards the middle of the afternoon, as we stumbled upon a gelateria called Profumo di Rosa, which I had read about whilst researching Genoa in preparation for this trip. We were just hours into our holiday, and already this was probably one of the highlights of the whole week. Not just did they have really interesting - and delicious - gelato on offer, but the lady behind the counter (who I think was also the owner) was so sweet to Erika - she gave us a "Happy Gelato" bib for her, as well as her own little toddler sized portion of "fior di latte" (plain milk) gelato in a cone, with a spoon. Erika looked so content digging into her very own gelato all by herself and it was a delight to watch. Although we'd given Erika a spoonful of ice cream now and again before now, this was the first time she'd had one just for her, for which this will always be remembered as the place she was properly introduced to it. The rose flavoured gelato I had is also something that will be a lingering memory, no doubt.

Next we headed down to the harbour, and decided to visit the Neptune, a mock pirate ship. For something which is primarily a tourist attraction it seemed impressively large and realistic. To add to the drama, whilst we were on board the clouds burst, and there was a thunderstorm and quite a heavy downpour. It was actually quite a hard job to find a place to shelter on the boat itself - most of the floor boards (deck boards?) had gaps between them, and the rain poured straight through. We eventually made a bit of a dash for the ticket office, which was a bit more enclosed, and spent a while waiting there for the rain to die down a bit. Rather sweetly the lady who was selling tickets gave Erika her chair to sit on.

Went back to the hotel for a bit after that, and then headed out again once more in the early evening for dinner. I thought we should probably try out Genoa's Metro system, not least because it was still raining on and off, but it felt like we spent longer waiting for a train than it would have taken to just walk. It's not a particularly huge city. Erika dozed off again en route so we decided to take the opportunity to have a bit of grown-up time, and go for a pre-dinner drink somewhere.

After some wandering about we eventually ended up, almost by accident, at Caffe degli Specchi (the cafe of mirrors) which is actually on my list of historic cafes in the city I wanted to visit. There we ordered a couple of Aperol spritzes, having almost forgotten about the (I believe fairly recent) Italian trend of aperitivo which means when ordering drinks at this time of day, you tend to get quite a lot of accompanying snacks for free. We weren't really sure what a lot of the little nibbles were exactly but it was all very nice. I liked the interior of the place too - the mirrors from which the cafe takes its name looked reassuringly old.

We decided to go for dinner at I Tre Merli in the Porta Antica (old harbour) which I think is quite a well known restaurant in Genoa, and appears in all the guide books etc. There were lots of Ligurian/Genoese specialities on offer here, which meant pasta with pesto for me (the traditonal Ligurian way - trofie with green beans and potatoes), as well as their "focaccia col formaggio pizzata" which was an unusual sort of pizza where the cheese was inside the bread. I had a couple of glasses of Vermentino, the local white wine, to accompany, and I think we both agreed this was probably the best meal of our time in Genoa, and one of the best of the trip.

It was also rather special as this was Erika's first time to have pasta (one of her favourite foods) in Italy - they made trofie with tomato sauce for her.

Headed back to the hotel after that, it had been quite a long day and we were all quite tired!

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