Genoa, Italy: Ponderings from a Park Bench


Passeggiata Anita Garibaldi

Back in Travel-mode

When we arrived in Genoa after three weeks on the road it finally felt like we were back in the groove again. We navigated all modes of transportation, found good fresh produce, an amicable butcher, a brilliant baker, and a wine supplier all in the first day. These are important things for anyone; tourist or local. Much of the art of traveling is just about being.

On Palm Sunday, we sat on a park bench along the Passeggiata Anita Garibaldi, an oceanside promenade named after a Brazilian. She was the wife of Guiseppe Garibaldi — an Italian nationalist revolutionary — but she was one tough hombre in her own right. The wide promenade stretched a couple of kilometers along the coast, offered spectacular views, and was the perfect excuse to get out and take a walk with a little picnic along the way.


Figuring Out the Fashion

We watched people stroll by from our perch on the park bench, all bundled up in their puffy coats and fancy scarves. It had to be 70°F (21C). How are they not roasting to death? Pat and I looked terribly out of place with no jacket and a little sweat on our brow. I think Jiffy Pop would have popped inside of those get-ups.

Pat modeling his puffy coat while standing next to his dream car

Our new friend, Mr. Vino

We sat there on our bench, perplexed, while we nibbled on snacks and sipped wine (we are professionals, but feel free to try this at home); fresh focaccia with onions, olives, fried anchovies, and Nebbiolo from our newest, best friend, Mr. Vino. Mr. Vino was our Genovese wine hook up. He did Vino Sfuso (wine by the liter) and had a large selection of red and white wine. We sampled a few of them, then settled on the Nebbiolo as our staple.


The ‘hood

Our Airbnb was in a great little suburb of Genoa called Quinto Al Mare which was well served by buses, trains… and Mr. Vino. The apartment was amazing; clean, comfortable, and well-equipped with a nice outdoor area. The butcher and baker were a short walk away. Not sure about the candlestick maker… The promenade and another pretty park were nearby too. What more could we want? Everything was right there, except the candlestick guy — slacker. It was obligatory, though, that we go see Cinque Terre and also go into Genoa and take a look about.

The comfortable living room at our Airbnb apartment

Cooking in

Relaxing on the patio

Corniglia, perched high above the sea, accessible only by foot, boat, or train

The 300+ steps up to Corniglia from the train station. The little boy ahead of us lost count around 300.

Obligation #1

We picked the next day to see Cinque Terre since the weather was forecast to turn rainy in the middle of the week. What the heck do they wear then? Drysuits with fancy scarves? I checked around on the internet, and a couple of the Cinque Terre villages were very popular, so we picked one of the others; Corniglia. Tripadvisor warned of the ominous 365 steps up to the town from the train station. Perfect. That should scare some people away.

Who is going to throw a perfectly good, refillable, bottle out of the window?

The train ride was uneventful but lacked the scenery we expected. Although the tracks went right down the coast, quite a bit of it was in tunnels. The most interesting bit about the train ride was a sticker on the windows apparently asking people to not throw their wine bottles out of the windows. Really? They feel the need to tell people not to throw their bottles out? Who would do that when you can refill them?! Well, I guess we have to tell people not to pour scalding hot coffee into their laps so I shouldn’t cast the first stone.

Corniglia was very cute and prettily perched at the top of a promontory overlooking the sea. We arrived early and walked the narrow, car-less, streets before the sea of tourists flooded them. When the flood arrived, it was time to find some goodies and a bottle of wine and hit the trail. The five villages of Cinque Terre are connected by footpaths. We didn’t have enough time to hike all the way to the next village so we found a place off the beaten path, literally, and had snacks with a very nice Vermentino; a crisp white wine from the Cinque Terre DOC.

Obligation 1: Cinque Terre, check.

Piazza de Ferrari, Genoa

Obligation #2

Next obligation: Historic center of Genoa. We were compelled to leave our comfortable little suburb the next day when Pat discovered a spot in all of his Cinque Terre photos in the same location in every one. The lenses and filters were clean, so it was obvious that something had gotten on the sensor inside the camera. We hopped on a bus and took the sick camera to a professional at Photo Cameras Service S.N.C. They had it all cleaned up in half an hour and charged a reasonable rate. Excellent! Back on the bus and into the heart of Genoa we went.

The streets of the old city were narrow and winding. There were shops in every nook and cranny. You might imagine cobblers and blacksmiths, but it was more high-end clothing and jewelry. We spent the day randomly walking and coming back upon our trail more than once. It’s quite the labyrinth. The streets have more kinks than a Rastafarian’s dreads.

Obligation 2: Genoa city center, check.

Ahhhhh! Back to our little oasis in the ‘burbs. We didn’t get on another bus or train the rest of the week. We spent all but one or two days (we had a little bit of rain) walking up and down the promenade, picnicking, people watching, and patronizing our favorite shops.

Where did the puffy coats go? Are those bare arms? No scarves???


Puffy Coat Mystery

All was status quo until Easter Sunday. We set off on our walk with a pack full of goodies and wine, dressed in our puffy coats, trying to fit in. It was a little cooler anyway, so we thought we could wear them and not completely melt. The puffy coats lasted all of about 15-minutes when we decided to shed and carry them. We found a well-positioned bench to make our perch for people-watching, then noticed something. The puffy coats and fancy scarves that had been ubiquitous throughout the entire week were conspicuous in their complete absence. Where did they go? There were shorts and sandals, bare arms and shoulders, and even a few shirtless boys. What gives? Is it like not wearing white after Labor Day? Is it inappropriate to wear puffy coats and fancy scarves after Easter? I googled ‘Italian puffy coat etiquette’ but came up empty. We still don’t know why, but the puffy coats were gone.


We Went. We Saw. We Were.

Our week in Genoa’s Quinto Al Mare seemed to evaporate into thin air. Before we knew it, it was time to go to Florence. The visit to Cinque Terre and the old town in Genoa were both nice days, but our favorite days were the ones spent in our little community, visiting the food shops and Mr. Vino, and hanging out on the promenade. It was good to just be. We have the same plan in mind for Florence. We are looking forward to “being” there.

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