For several reasons, Genoa (Genova in Italian) seems a fitting choice as Aisling's final port in the Mediterranean. First, Genoa was the birthplace of the great explorer Christopher Columbus, who "discovered" America. It's true that he thought he was in Asia when he got there, but you have to give him bonus points for the fact that he managed to sail back home with two out of three of his ships. He also returned to the Caribbean three additional times, albeit never realizing that he had discovered two new continents. Another interesting fact about Genoa is that the first denim-like fabric was developed here, and blue jeans probably took their name from this city. This may be of little interest to most of you, but is of great significance to the skipper of this boat, who earned his living in the world of jeans and fashion for more years than he likes to admit. We've also seen Genovese forts scattered in numerous locations throughout the Mediterranean, evidence of the time when Genoa was known as "La Superba" and was one of the most powerful Italian city-states. In spite of all this, Genoa had never been on our list of must-see cities in Italy. It quickly became obvious that it should have been.
I should mention that we'd actually visited Genoa briefly last year. We drove through with our friends Ni and Krissy on our way back to Italy from a boat show in France. We even stopped for a pizza at the Pizzeria Del Ponte (highly recommended). But although we'd stayed in Liguria for several days, we'd focused our attention on Santa Margherita, Portofino and Portovenere, then made our way to Tuscany. It's too bad that we didn't write a blog about that trip, but you can click here if you'd like to see some photos of it in our gallery.
Photos of Liguria and Tuscany 2015
Rick says he doubts he'll ever find a place in Italy that he doesn't like. True, but some Italian cities are nicer than others. Genoa seems to get a bad rap in a lot of guidebooks and online articles. They sometimes use articles like "gritty" to describe the city, and then qualify it by saying that if you dig deeper you can find wonderful things to see. But we kind of like that the small alleyways of the historic centre have not been gentrified like those of towns where tourism is a major focus. Genoa is a genuine, living city, with an abundance of history, architecture and masterpieces reflecting the staggering wealth of its former citizens. There is so much to see that it's hard to know where to begin.
Let's begin in the port, at the Marina Molo Vecchio, where we tied up our lines at 6 a.m. on the morning of our arrival, with the help of a friendly German cruiser who happened to be out walking his dog. From Aisling's deck, we could see the famous Lanterna, the third oldest lighthouse in the world, and the 5th tallest. Interesting that the name of the ship that appears beneath it in the picture is "La Superba".
We are in the heart of the old port, which has been completely modernized with numerous tourist attractions. These include a large aquarium, a biosphere housing a small ecosystem, an old galleon and a scenic elevator that sits inside a weird looking spidery contraption that looks as though it is made of masts.
On the opposite side of the port, an old cotton warehouse houses a children's amusement centre as well as a nice choice of restaurants and bars. In front of the warehouse, the dock is lined with superyachts. Diego, a staff member at Marina Molo Vecchio, tells us that one yacht belongs to Steven Speilberg but the largest, Serena, belongs to a "Mr. X" ( a Russian vodka baron, we later learn). We are across the water from the superyachts but near the "Wallys", which are mere toys compared to the immense boats of the enormously rich. In fact, the only part of the port that doesn't seem to have been modernized is the building that houses the marina's shower and toilets, which are dismal and dirty.
The real treasures are in the heart of the historic centre, with its palazzos, museums and churches. And the restaurants, of course. Genoa must be a contender for a "best food in Italy" prize: high praise, as you can appreciate. This is the home of focaccia, which you can buy plain or topped with onions, cheese, olives, peppers, or numerous other delicacies. Liguria is also the birthplace of pesto, which is so good here that it scarcely resembles the stuff we buy in jars at home. Naturally, our first outing was to go out to lunch, at the Trattoria Rosmarino near the Piazza Ferrari. The lunch was a nice experience, but the better meals were yet to come.
On our way back to the port, we walked through the Piazzo San Lorenzo and had our first glimpse of the beautiful Gothic cathedral, with its black and white marble striping. The two lions, sculpted by Carlo Rubatto, are exceptional.
If we run out of things to do, we can always watch "the Greens" from our cockpit. Directly across from us is a section of dock where three boats with lime-green paint are docked: a sailboat, a motor boat and a weird looking houseboat. All the boxes on the dock are painted lime green. The older man, whom we assume is the owner, wears lime green shorts. Rick has spent a considerable amount of time trying to figure out what the Greens are doing over there. Running a sailing school? Taking people out for day sails? Or maybe this is just the Green family compound. I suppose we could ask someone at the office, but that would spoil the fun.
During the journey from Sicily, I'd looked forward to our arrival in Genoa with great anticipation, but mainly because I couldn't wait to get the boat cleaned up. During our first few days in Genoa, we did very little sightseeing, instead working to clean up the mud from the Sicilian scirocco (sirocco) that had deposited mud on our sails and throughout every crevice above decks on the boat. Since we'd left Marina di Ragusa in a hurry while the effects of the sirocco were still unfolding, we hadn't been able to clean Aisling properly. To make matters worse, we had picked up a lot of black volcanic dust from either Mt. Etna or Stromboli, or perhaps both. So after we arrived here, sails had to be washed and dried, then removed, folded and stored. The sheets, halyards and other lines had to be washed. Thankfully, most of the dirt seemed to have blown off the standing rigging, but the decks, cockpit and all the fittings had to be cleaned. The stainless steel was also a sad sight, having suffered the indignities not only of the sirocco but from the salt crystals deposited by 600 miles of upwind sailing. Thankfully, we have access to unlimited water here.
We finally have things looking almost normal. Although we know that some jobs will have to be done again on the other side of the Atlantic, we want Aisling to look her best while she is here at the dock. And she could be here for a long time. Having first cancelled the boat to Sydney at the end of June, Sevenstars has now cancelled their mid-July shipment from Genoa to Pennsylvania. We've been given a new, supposedly "firm" booking for the end of July. But the small print said "agw, wp", meaning "all going well, weather permitting". That doesn't sound quite as firm as we'd like. Here's hoping it works out. In the meantime, this is a very nice place to wait. Next up, the palazzos of Genoa. They're unbelievable!