Tuesday, April 22, 2014

The Sights and Sounds of Glorious Genova.

I arrived in Genova on a dark drizzly evening on Friday, February 7th, 2014. 
Walking out of the station into the piazza I looked back at the beauty of the building.
Just across the square was a fabulous statue that turned out to be Christopher Columbus. Genova is a port city and was  pivotal in the times of the explorers and sea trade.
I walked from the station to the Manena Hostel as it wasn't far. They had sent directions and they were pretty easy to follow, despite the fact I was not yet used to how Italian cities post their street signs, and how irregularly these signs are actually posted. lol
I was surprised when I turned onto the main road leading to the hostel as it was called Via Garibaldi, and my hometown of Maple Ridge is one of the gateways to a large park called Garibaldi Regional Park.  All along the Via Garibaldi were buildings that blew me away, even in the dark.  I couldn't wait to see them in the light of day.
The hostel was down a side lane that I initially missed, but when I backtracked I found it quite easily.  This was my first hostel stay of my trip and I was so happy to see it had a lovely sign over the door.  It looked very welcoming.  I took this pic the following morning when it was light :-)

I was pretty wet and exhausted after my 16 hours of  travel from Carcassonne and as I trudged up the staircase with my luggage, I was thankful I had decided to travel light.  
The hostel manager was very welcoming and businesslike. He explained that for my first night there I would be sharing with eleven university students over from the UK. They were studying architecture and were currently out on the town. The following night would be a quiet one.
He showed me the kitchen.
 All I wanted was a cup of tea.  I had brought tea bags and he kindly offered me some milk, so I was in Pam heaven.
This was my first multi bed dorm experience on this trip. I had stayed in one ten years before when my daughter Beth and I had toured Ireland, but I was now ten years older and alone.  I hoped I would fit in..
My bed was at the bottom right down by the window. 
I did some email work on my phone and eventually fell asleep around 1:30. I slept like a log and awoke to the students being roused as they had to leave to catch their plane.  It was quite amusing observing them getting organised and off in time to catch their bus to the airport. I was lucky my bed was right at the far end of the room, by the window, so I could just pretend I wasn't there. I just stayed in bed until they had all gone and then got up to an empty hostel. Peace and quiet.
After breakfast the hostel manager gave me a map of the city and pointed out the special places to see. 
Before I could head out to see the city I needed to clear some space on my phone and so I began a process that would become common practice for me as my jouney progressed.  I was able to relax in the common area as I worked. 
I had to create a blog draft and then upload the relevant pictures to the draft in my blogger application on my iPhone.  Then I had to upload all of those pictures onto facebook, creating a new album on my My Beautiful Life page, created as a place to archive my photos and share my videos and experiences with anyone who was interested in my trip. Finally, when this was accomplished, I could delete the pictures and video from my camera roll and head out to take some more pictures and video. 
When I was on the train coming into Genova, the lady who helped me out had told me that Genova was not a great city, saying it was nothing special. She also had warned me that there were lots of thieves and pickpockets, so I didn't know what to expect when I ventured forth.
I left the hostel at 11:00 as they closed for cleaning from 11-1:30.  
As soon as I got out of the door I heard accordian music.  This was the beginning of a very special day for me, my first full day in Italy. It also dispelled any qualms I might have had about Genova, it was love at first sight.
I walked up the hill towards the Via Garibaldi and there right around the corner were two musicians playing so beautifully and joyfully.  I had to get a stand and witness video of them and I stood and enjoyed their music for a while.
It was a clear day and I just followed the road around to my right.  I had my map and I just strolled along the beautiful Via Garibaldi. It is famous as the street with the beautiful buildings and I can see why. I have more pictures of this street further down the blog.

You have to understand this was my first experience of the beautiful architecture Italy is so famous for.  I was awe struck as I came to my first piazza.

I was also captivated by the narrow streets and alleys that were everywhere. Seeing the gorgeous building at the end of this street was magical for me.

I loved how the scooters were all parked down this obscure alley.

Suddenly I entered this amazing piazza and I was in the midst of beauty; a vision of scuptures, fountains and the buildings, that surrounded the huge square. 
The first thing my eyes fell on was the massive sculpture of a man on  a horse and when I walked over to see who it was, it was Garbaldi, the very man himself.  

There were wonderful buildings with domes and sculptures everywhere.

Across from the Garibaldi statue there was an impressive fountain. I was speechless to say the least. I wandered in a daze attempting to absorb this scene and took more pictures. I was already overwhelmed, and I had only just left my hostel a few minutese before. 

This stunning building had an art display  featuring the work of Edward Munch. It was a work of art in itself.

The magnificent walkways were splendid.

As I turned and walked away from the piazza I noticed an outdoor market. What a fairy tale setting for a market, just look at the backdrop.

It turned out it was behind the gallery building.

Everywhere I turned I was faced with another amazing sight.

Finally I managed to focus on the market itself and it was so picturesque.  So Italian.  Here was a man selling a huge selection of cheeses.

And the fruits and vegetables were so fresh and beautifully displayed.

I had never seen anything like this stall selling meat.

It was an Italian delicacy, a specially cured pork, and he carved it right in front of you.

I noticed he was also selling sandwiches, so I decided to taste my first authentic Italian food.  I had a pancetta bun.

I went and sat down at an outside cafe and ordered a latte.  This was heavenly. I was in Italy and having genuine Italian food at an outside market with a delicious cafe latte. Sitting quietly gave me an opportunity to take it all in; the beautiful buildings sruuounding the market square, the frothy coffe and the superlative flavours of my sandwich. 

Suddenly I heard some more music. It was really familiar.   I remembered it was   a melody my Dad had on an old LP by The Harmonicats, one that he used to play for us on Sunday afternoons. It was a Parisienne song, a standard for accordians.  
My first instinct was to bolt my food in order to get to the music, but I made myself take a deep breath and allowed myself to savour the moment. After tenderly scooping all the delicious creamy foam from my glass (somthing I never felt the need to do at home in Canada) I went in search of the music.
There were three musicians playing right at the edge of the market, just on the pavement.  I got there and they stopped playing, taking time out to let some tourists pose with their instruments for photographs.  This  was an incredible act of generosity I thought.
Soon they reclaimed their instruments and began playing again. There was a violin, guitar and accordian. I got a great video of them playing but I cannot add video content to my blog using my phone. I did upload a video of them playing onto my Facebook page. They had great charisma and people couldn't help but move to their music. One fellow even started playing percussion with his box of candy. It made me so happy to be surrounded by all this joyful energy. 
All of a sudden it started to sprinkle and they packed away their instruments.  By this point I think I was drunk with the energy and the Genova experience. 
I set off walking and just a few steps down the road, I rounded a corner and WHAM, The Cathedrale de San Stefano. 
 What in incredible building created out of  multi coloured marble. The detail and ornamentation was phenomenal to me.

Here is one of the splendid lions guarding the steps.

And here is a close up to try and communicate how detailed the marblework was. It was so breathtaking.

And there were also sculptures on every corner. 

I didn't even think to go and look inside, I was in such a daze. Also I think I can only take in a limited amount of visual stimulation at once. 
So I continued on my way, exploring the city streets.  

`I passed another majestic arched walkway. 

Then I came upon this building covered in frescoes as I made my way towards the harbour. And here was another market, overshadowed by the wonderful art on the walls above them.

Just opposite the ornate building with the frescoes was an very old medieval structure.

I also came across this darkened arcade that was filled with noisy shoppers and small fish stores and bakeries.

It seemed a bit dark and threatening so I decided to take the outside route down to the Porto Antiqua. I had to cross a large square with a major highway travelling overhead.

I got to see the frescoed building from the other side.  

While walking under the highway overpass I had to take a picture of the graffiti I found there. A different type of art.

As I neared the harbour I looked back and got a shot of the overpass and the contrast of this modern structure with the classical older buildings. 

The ancient port was a beautiful place and despite the light rain I really enjoyed walking there, taking in this avenue of palm trees.  
The walk along the seawall reminded me of being at home in Vancouver.

Imagine my surprise when I came upon a sign advertising whale watching tours.  This is something I am used to at home in BC, but I had no idea you could do that in Italy. 

And here is the whale watching boat!
Leaving the marina part of the port I walked all the way along the seawall enjoying the views. I passed the big Aquarium that my friend Laurie had told me about.
Then as I approached the end of the pathway, I couldn't believe my eyes.
A magnificent tall ship. It all seemed surreal to me.
I don't know the history of this vessel, whether it was created for a movie, or if it is a replica of some ship of the past.  But it was extraordinarily beautiful and had amazing carvings and detailing.

The other great thing about being in the port was the view of the city as it climbed up the hillside.
The rain got heavier and I decided it was time to head back to the hostel.  It seemed a good time to explore the darkened covered arcade that I had avoided previously, as now I needed some shelter. lol  
I was so happy I did because I discovered this amazing bakery with pizzas and treats freshly made.  

I bought myself a pizza and a struedel for my lunch and supper.

Leaving the ancient shopping arcade I found a random fruit stall and got some bananas and an orange. I was all set.
Further along I spied a great music shop. I was missing my guitar by this point, I had not played for over two months. 

After gazing at the musical treasures for a while I moved on.

The rain was falling heavily now and I headed home to dry off, following my original route .

I was able to see inside a beautiful church on my way back.

Back at the hostel I charged my phone up as I had a nap.  When I woke up a young man had arrived, originally form London.  This was my first experience making friends with a fellow traveller in a hostel.  I was initially a little worried as to how all the young travellers would respond to having an old lady in their dorm, but he was very kind and friendly and we exchanged instagram accounts :-) Also I got to hear of his escapades on the Italian trains and how he arrived late in Cinque Terra to find empty, dark streets with no one around to ask for directions to his overnight stop.  He told me that in Italy you need to validate your ticket before you get on the train.  This was good to know.  He had been stopped and put off the train as he did not know this, and needed to go and validate his ticket. Because of this he arrived in Cinque Terra when it was dark. 
Once my battery was recharged, and before it got too dark, I ventured out again. I was hoping to take in the Edvard Munch exhibit.  It was pouring by this time, but it was my kind of joyful, splashing rain.  The exhibit was actually inside the Palazzo Ducale.  That was the name of the building I had been raving about earlier.

Inside the main doors was a courtyard open to the sky.

It truly was magnificent.  Behind this door  was a room with an installation of Munch's famous painting the Scream, complete with audio screaming effects.  It was very cool. 

I climbed the stairs and this was the view looking down into the courtyard.

I discovered the exhibit was too expensive for my budget and so went back downstairs. 
There the columns continued. It was a superb space.

The doors were huge as you can see.  Everything was on a very grand scale.

Looking out of the doors I could see the market I had visited earlier.

And here is the huge iron door handle/knocker.

The stairs from the exhibit were elegant and calming.

Their elegance was reflected in the detail on the ceiling.

The emptiness and stillness was wonderful.
Leaving the Palazzo Ducale I turned homeward. Walking back to the hostel I got totally drenched, and was continuously accosted by men trying to sell me an umbrella.:-)
I gloried in the rain bouncing off the road. It reminded me of my home in Maple Ridge, or as it was commonly known as I was growing up there, Rainy Haney.
Seeing as I was already soaking wet, I carried on to the market and got some milk and tea bags and donated some spaghetti to some kind ladies collecting for the poor.  They were very beautiful ladies, radiating love.
I spent the evening dealing with organizing my pictures and also found a train that would take me to Milan leaving at 1:25 the next afternoon.  This was perfect as I wanted to go up in the finnicula to the top of the hill and see the view over the city.
The next morning I had the hostel breakfast and then packed my bags and headed off to find the finnicula.
I took my last walk down the famed Via Garibaldi.  The sun was shining and I got some great pictures of the beautiful buildings. 

I even got a peek inside some of them.

I just fell in love with this place.  It almost looks like a cloister, set up there.

As you can see I was really attracted to this place.  There was ornate detail as well as columns.

Each building seemed to hold such a sense of importance and purpose.

These enormous stone sculptures were so powerful to behold.

And this building was so much lighter in contrast.

I was using my map to try and find the way up to the viewpoint. It said to turn right off the Via Garibaldi and that led me down a very long tunnel.

At the end of the tunnel  I arrived at a very busy main road. I crossed it and headed left. When I reached a crossroads, I wandered around in circles for a bit and then I saw a doorway to the finnicula.  It amazing how things always work out.
The driver of the finnicula kindly helped me to get my ticket and he punched it for me.  
The finnicula is a little train that takes you up the hillside. 
There were lots of passengers, many reading the morning paper.

Here was one of the stops on the way up.

 I sat next to a very friendly lady who volunteered to show me the way up to the view point.  She was walking that way to get to work. :-)
The views were incredible.

I could see the entire port area and much of the city.

Also I had a great view of the Italian Alps.

The sea seemed to go on forever.

Soon I was walking back down the hill to the finnicula station. I had to take this picture for my friend Diane who loves Guinness.

Across from the station was this shrine.

And there was the now familiar graffiti on the station wall.

Before entering the station I decided to walk across the street and see the view in the opposite direction.  I was surprised to find a river there.

I waited for the finnicula to arrive and it was so colourful and full of character.

On the way down I managed to get a  picture of some buildings we passed on the hillside.

Before I knew it I was walking towards the railway station, following my trusty map.
These gates are so grand and elegant.  This building was once a theatre I believe.

I also passed a banner for some up and coming street festival.

And finally the station came into view.

I walked past the Christopher Columbus statue one last time and entered the station. This picture is a detail from the larger statue. 

I was off to Milano, but that my friends, is another story. :-)

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