Monday, April 21, 2014

Easter in Genova

I was up bright and early at 6.15 on Good Friday to catch my train to Genova. I've got the bad (?) habit of booking very early trains when I go away, without thinking about what time I'd then have to get up to catch it. I'd decided to go to Genova more by a series of elimination than anything, I wanted to go to somewhere I hadn't been before, and didn't cost a fortune to get there. I had no idea that I'd find Genova so fascinating!

I'd booked a first class ticket for the journey down to the coast, as it cost only one euro more than second class! The seats were very fancy - almost like proper armchairs! The train left from platform 17 in Milano Centrale, and as much as I try not to let Italian superstition get to me (17 is the equivalent of number 13 for the Italians) I was a little bit worried. And it didn't take too long for my first bit of bad luck of the journey. We were stuck in one of the two stops before Genova for around 15 minutes due to some kind of fault (I had my earphones in and didn't take them out in time to catch the details). After arriving in Genova I went on a wild goose chase trying to find the left luggage at Piazza Principe station (which currently resembles more of a building site than any kind of stations), and after giving up I got on the metro - who knew Genova had a metro system eh?? - to go to the second train station in the city, Brignole. From there it was a short walk down to the sea.

My friend Roby grew up in Genova, and she'd given me loads of tips on where to go and what to see. For Friday I'd decided to go for a nice long walk along the coast, as it was the day when the weather was meant to be at its best. I walked all the way down Corso Italia and back, enjoying the view out to sea. There was a beautiful smell of jasmine everywhere. There were people rollerblading and running everywhere, and people on the beach were preparing for the upcoming summer.

After lunch I went to reunite myself with my case and on to my hotel on Via XX Settembre. It's one of the main shopping streets in Genova, and a great central base for getting around the city. I'd booked a room at the Hotel Olympia, a one-star but with glowing views on Tripadvisor. And here came more bad luck. When I arrived I was greeted by a visibly stressed signore who explained that I had to go and stay at another hotel just down the street for the night as the tap in my room was broken! So off I went down the street to Hotel Bel Soggiorno, where there I was greeted by a barrage of Italian which was a bit too much for my tired brain!

One of Roby's tips was to take the lift (ascensore) that goes from Piazza del Portello up to Spianata Castelletto. The view took my breath away! You go up in an actual lift and arrive at the top of Genova, and see the city and the bay below you. The ascensore is part of the public transport system, and you can buy tickets at a machine before getting on. Whilst you're up there have a gelato from Don Paolo, the fruits of the forest flavour I had there was amazing!

Friday night a massive thunderstorm rolled in and it was still raining in the morning. I had to pack my things and go back to Hotel Olympia to spend my second night in the city. I was met by the owner, a very kind an apologetic Signor Antonio, and his friendly dog Tommy. By that point I still hadn't had breakfast, and after deciding to brave the bad weather I found my saviour in the shape of a golden M (don't knock it, they do a mean Italian breakfast!). Fueled up I battled the rain and headed over to Via Garibaldi. It's a very interesting street, full of grand buildings. After a couple of hours though I felt like a drowned rat and went back to the hotel to dry off.

In the afternoon I went exploring around Genova's centro storico, the old town. It's the largest in Europe, and it's a laberinth of little streets and boutiques. It's fascinating how different Genova is from one area to another! I walked all the way down to the porto antico - the old port - where an international market was being held. It was a shame that it was so windy down by the water!

My bad luck continued Saturday night. Exhausted after two days of walking around the city I was woken up around 3am by the guest next door snoring. This wasn't any kind of snoring, this was the I'm-going-to-blow-down-the-building snoring. At least it didn't last long.

I opened the shutters on Sunday morning to see the sun! I met up with a friend who I hadn't seen in a long time, she was in Genova with her family and had seen my photos on Facebook! We spent the morning wandering around the porto antico and having coffee. We visited the Biosfera (5 euro for adults), which is basically a spherical greenhouse full of tropical plants and animals. Small, but interesting. Our last stop of the morning was the Neptune galleon, which is a replica of a 17th century galleon and was built in 1985 for the film Pirates. 5 euro to feel like a pirate - bargain! I had a quick lunch of focaccia, which traditionally being from Genova is a lot tastier down there, from some chatty bakers who wanted to get me involved in the love life of the lady working with them! Before leaving the port I went up in the Bigo, the crane-like lift which takes you 40 metres above the port and gives you a great view out to see and of the city. Four euro well spent!

Before I knew it my time in Genova was up. I went back to the hotel to pick up my case, said goodbye to signor Antonio and Tommy, and went to get my train back to Milan. And surrounded by an Italo-Latino family in a cramped second class Intercity cabin, the journey home was anything but relaxing...


Canedolia said...

I've "almost" been to visit Genova a few times. The opinions I've heard about it have been mixed, but your post has encouraged me to make sure I get there next time! said...

Thanks for the Travelpost! I feel I need to visit the city again - the view from the top is really amazing and something I missed the first time!

Jenny P said...

We've not made it to Genova either, but thanks to your post I'm now determined to do so over the next month or so. Your verdict on the hotels?

Nerys said...

My favourite was the Olympia, Antonio makes you feel right at home. My room was quite small, but it was clean and the bed was comfortable, so no complaints. I found the staff at Bel Soggiorno a bit cold, maybe they had a bit of an attitude because I hadn't originally booked to stay with them, who knows... The room and bathroom were very spacious though. That street's a great place to stay, it's close if you're arriving by train and you can walk to everywhere easily.