Sunday, November 5, 2017

Found that authentic Italian local feel in the medieval old town of Genova

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Genova, Italy - I once had a short-lived life in Northern Italy. It was Spring and almost every weekend I was hoping to find myself bathing in the sun at the Ligurian Riviera. The opportunity never came but the dreamful images stayed strongly imprinted in my mind. Fast forward to three years later, KLM invited us to join their campaign #KLMtop10 uncovering KLM destinations around the world and which also included a visit to Amsterdam Airport Schiphol. After some considerations, Michelle and I harmoneously agreed to extend this years non-existing Danish summer with an Italien heat escape to the ligurian capital Genova and the coastal villages of Cinque Terre.

Genova, we said? Yes - Genova...
Genova is one of those fascinating Italian cities that oddly enough remains off the tourist radar: World famous as the birth place of Christopher Columbus, yet widely unrecognised.
During our two days we mainly stayed in Genova's medieval old town. We had our inner-compasses and sense of direction taking us around this historical centre, eventually causing us to get lost several hundred times, only slowly realising how infact all historical sites are within close walking distance to each other. We were advised by our friend Winnie, who frequently visits Genova with her family, to do exactly so to experience the city’s true beating heart. So we passed through the numerous dark passageways (caruggi's) the way they should be discovered - with bewilderness and curiosity, constantly fascinated by the play of light and shadow being casted between the tall buildings.
Strolling around the narrow streets of Genova is the best way to really get that authentic Italian local feel
We paused at the quiet squares of Campo Pisano and Truogoli di Santa Brigida, caught a drink at the lively Piazza delle Erbe and watched how past and present fused around the fountain at Piazza de Ferrari. Along our way we savoured the Genovese basil pesto and were entranced by the smell of neighbourhood focacceria (we fell in love with the small shop, Le Fantasie Di Gio Sas on Via San Luca! ♥).
Some of our Italian bread cravings got fulfilled at the lovely focacceria, Le Fantasie Di Gio Sas
In the very heart stands the noble Cathedral of San Lorenzo with its contrasting black slate and white marble stripes. We used this beauty as a reference point for our intricate maze adventures and were happy to discover that one of my favorite gelato dealers "GROM" was located right next door. Several other churches and belfries were squeezed tightly among the residential houses: Chiese di San Donato, Chiesa di San Matteo, Chiesa di San Pietro - all of which made a splendid surprise as we stumbled upon these hidden houses of God.
Several churches are scattered around Genova - such as San Lorenzo (1), San Pietro (3) and San Matteo (4)
Genova has throughout history been defended by several walls, which remains are still visible today. The Barbarossa walls was the second defensive wall to be build and includes the monumental Porta Soprano situated next to Christopher Columbus' house. I loved the semi-circular towers of Porta Soprano, which made its appearance different depending on which direction you were coming from. Porta dei Vacco, the grand entrace to the neighbourhood we lived in, had a similar appearance. Whenever passing through these gates we immediately noticed the strong architectural transition from modern city to medieval old-town.
The towers of Porta Soprano seen in the background of Christopher Columbus' house in which the explorer grew up in
Initially, we wanted to visit The City Park of Walls (Parco Urbano delle Mura) that includes the imposing and most outer wall “Mura Nuove” together with its fortresses - all built along the ridge of the hills enclosing Genova. Since we did not want to rush we decided to leave the park for a future hiking trip to be able to experience it in more depth.
The streets of Genova was made for walking, so that is just what we did - walking and exploring
Art and cultural exhibitions are something both Michelle and I enjoy - and we do not limit such experiences to rainy days. As so we spent one afternoon among the gorgeous 16th century palazzi of Via Garibaldi (UNESCO World Heritage site). These palazzi were build by Genoan aristocrats and showcase an extravagant lifestyle poles apart from life experienced among the numerous carrugi's. We visited the three museum buildings Bianco, Doria Tursi and Rosso Palazzo, where we looked at fine ancient art and gasped at the noble architectural features and interior design.
Admiring art and architecture while playing with light and photography at the museums on Via Garibaldi
At Rosso Palazzo we took the elevator to the rooftop and had an incredible 360° view of Genova and its tighly packed roofs strecthing from the mountains to the sea. Unlike various view points we have experienced in other cities, we did not have to fight with a herd of tourists for time at the top. Remarkably, we had the spot all to ourselves. We spun around like two cats on a hot tin roof and happily stayed up there for a little while to just chill in the sun.
An incredible 360° view of Genova from the small platform on top of Rosso Palazzo
From Via Garibaldi we went directly up Salita di San Francesco to the neighbourhood of Castelletto with its famous belvedere. From this wide terrace on the hills we had yet another striking view of the city which charm merely multiplied by the glow of the setting sun.

This was the highest point we reached but Genova's dense hills have so much more to offer. How we wished to have had more days to crisscross the hills by its secret narrow slopes of bricks and stones (creuze) and to enjoy more rides with the city's multiple elevators and funiculars, which whiz you inside the mountains. Unfortunately, we did not have time to ride the perculiar Ascensore Montegalletto that changes midpoint from horizontal to vertical, and brings you close to Albertis Castle, home of the Museum of World Cultures (Museo delle Culture del Mondo).
We walked up the somewhat steep street hill of Salita di San Francesco to reach the panoramic viewpoint at Castelletto
Cityscape of Genova with its roofs and towers from Spianata Castelletto
Genova certainly charmed us with its authentically local feel. It was wonderful to walk the alleys peppered with tiny shops selling local products and delicacies and to dine among Italien conversations criss-crossing through the air. Genova reminded me in so many ways of my days in Turin and left me with the same feeling of experiencing 'real Italy'. We only experienced a fraction of what this seaport city has to offer, but I am sure that if we had time to dig deeper we would have found even more Genovese gold.

The Ligurian Riviera is plastered with fine destinations (eg. Camogli, Portofino and Sestri Levante) and Genova makes a splendid starting point for discovering the surrounding coastline and mountains. After days well spent in the capital city, we jumped on the train towards the famous Cinque Terre to continue our Italian trip for a couple more days.
Collaboration information
The trip to Genova, Italy was arranged as part of the #KLMtop10 campaign, uncovering KLM destinations around the world, and made in collaboration with KLM Royal Dutch Airlines & Amsterdam Airport Schiphol.