|When we hear the name Genoa it harkens thoughts of dry salami. That's SO not what this city is all about. Our latest Italian adventure would open our eyes to an often overlooked region of Il Bel Paese (The Beautiful Country) -- the Italian Riviera along the Ligurian Sea.|
Click for Genoa's Ancient City Photos
decided to begin our explorations in the oldest section of
the city. As with many towns in ancient times, walls were
built to keep out the invading hordes. Within those walls,
the old city of Genoa (or Genova to the Italians) is the biggest
and one of the best preserved in all of Europe -- and is currently
a bustling community filled with charming restaurants, shops
The ancient buildings and narrow cobblestone streets survived the World Wars much better than most and is in a constant state of renovation. It takes a lot of work to keep a place like this up to snuff.
Click to enlarge photo
|It's not that Genoa was never bombarded, her harbor has taken some severe beat-downs, but her old city remained fairly unscathed. One might even speculate that there was divine intervention because the Cathedral San Lorenzo proudly displays an unexploded bomb that had miraculously spared the church. Sure glad this ominous projectile was a dud -- the cathedral is such a unique architectural specimen -- its loss would have been tragic. Hopefully the priests of San Lorenzo were expert bomb diffusers -- we would hate for their incredible luck to run out while we were snapping a photo.|
Click for more San Lorenzo Photos
plaza facing San Lorenzo is so small that Veronica had to
lie supine with her head propped on an opposite building to
capture a partial photo of this wonderfully quirky cathedral.
Tight as the plaza is, musicians, street entertainers, balloon
artists and art students crowded the steps and cobblestones.
The public is not permitted to tour in the middle of the day, so we whiled away a few hours inspecting the magnificent exterior and watching tourists boorishly climb atop the church's marble guard lions for snapshots as if at Disneyland. Italians rightly expect decorum -- this is a place of worship, after all -- appropriate dress is mandatory and even the school children use polite hushed tones while visiting.
Click for more San Lorenzo Photos
|San Lorenzo began as a small church in the fifth or sixth century and was rebuilt several times before being consecrated as Genoa's main cathedral in 1118. As is often the case with medieval churches, the construction continued for centuries incorporating numerous architects and styles throughout the years. The facade, with the black and white layered stripes of marble and slate is typical of this area, was finished in 1312.|
|An asymmetrical window on the south side of the church stopped us in our tracks. Approaching from the front, nothing seemed amiss, but once we stepped back a few paces we discovered the window had a decidedly lopsided skew. Between it and the bizarre unmatched columns, we were in heaven. We love that kind of stuff.|
final touches inside San Lorenzo weren't completed until the
seventeenth century. It's
a wonderful display of a mishmashed styles.
Black and white continues to dominate the decor, yet the altar area and the pipe organ are bright and colorful -- the contrast strange and wonderful.
the cathedral we went in search of Genoa's most noted native
son, Christopher Columbus. We had heard that his house was
still around so we headed toward the eastern edge of the old
city, googling on the go.
Christoffa Corombo, as he was known in the 15th century Genoese language (a dialect that is still in use today), was probably born here in 1451 but almost certainly NOT in the little tourist trap house by the Porta Soprana.
We decided to skip the house since our research revealed that
the other hand, the towers at the Porta Soprana are more than
worth a look. Built in 1155 when the city walls were renovated,
the two towers stand 100 feet high and frame the eastern entrance
to the historic center of Genoa. A fine example of medieval
fortification if there ever was one.
Walking through the Centro Storico we realized that, although his house is a fake, the man known here as Cristoforo Colombo had a huge impact on this city. Before he gallivanted off in search of
Even though Columbus discovered the treasures of the New World for the Spanish Crown he didn't forget his hometown. He deposited his money in Europe's --perhaps the world's -- first public bank, The Bank of St. George (Banco di San Giorgio) in Genoa. He also donated one tenth of his earnings toward tax relief for the city. Genoa became Spain's banker and piles New World gold and silver started flowing into her coffers. Presto, the return of the spicy cold cut.
are still remnants of those financial glory days, mainly around
the Piazza De Ferrari.
The piazza is dominated by a huge fountain in the center, surrounded by majestic buildings including the regal Palazzo Ducale, the Stock Exchange and several wildly ornate banks. The Palazzo was home to the Doges (dukes) of Genoa for over
that new, modern mobs have overtaken Genoa. Vespas!
Just so happens that our friend Paolo's Mama lives in Genoa and like most Italian Mamas, the woman can COOK. We were invited to do something that we do well, eat! How's that for synergy?
of the many advantages of visiting an Italian home is the
opportunity to try dishes not available or that we would never
order in a restaurant.
Gianchetti is a fine example,
since we can't recall thinking I wish we could find some tiny blanched anchovies. Yup, little bitty boiled baby anchovies -- complete with their little bitty boiled eyes -- not bad actually, just odd. Mainly we just
Guess we'll have to head down to Naples for that -- not that we need any excuse to eat our way across Italy.
David & Veronica, GypsyNester.com