I really do not understand why people translate the names of other nation’s cities. In Italy, this city is called Genova. We call it Genoa, the French call it Gens. All we need is some frenchified dude to start calling our town Nuevoporto Nuevos. Or is that Spanish?...
We took a leisurely tour flying from Paris to Genwhatever. We got to see lots of rural France, including a grand canyon much like AZ’s but with more trees. Then, the Alps! Clawing up through the clouds like massive weapons, the snow covered peaks defied the tiny people in the little silver bubble. Descending down the slopes to the Piedmont [literally “foot hills”] our pilot took us far over the sea and round-about to Genova.
As always, The Man had everything under his control. We caught the Volabus, which despite its name did not fly, with tickets in hand that he had purchased online weeks ago. We snapped many photos on our bus trip, gaining an impression of Genova as a working seaport, bombed during WWII but with many remaining Baroque buildings** in various states of repair. [** think Versailles, with curlicues, trompe l-oeil, contrasting trim – usually white-- against plastered walls—usually pastel] All I can say is that if it ain’t Baroque, don’t fix it.
The bus dropped us right at the train station and ½ block from our hotel, a small but elegant place, tall but with a small footprint, which Ron had booked online.
The clerk recommended a trattoria across the street, where we had lasagna Bolognese [meat sauce] and pounded steak with mushroom gravy, as well as salad and house white, sparkling wine. Yes, white with steak; get over it.
Following a hearty breakfast next day, we took a cab to Palazzo Bianco. We circled the building before we found the entrance, since, grand though it turned out to be, we hadn’t seen it.
As with many world class art collections, this one was started by some arch-duke or canny count before being opened to the earth-scum like us. [I’d rather be earth-scum than pond scum.] We took heaps of photos. There were all the old masters, but none of the paintings you ever heard of, except maybe Rubens “Mars and Venus”
Finished, we stepped outside to find the Caffe dei musei. We devoured ham and provolone on focaccia with Coke Zero. My Italian memories will always be of fantastic bread and raging thirst. [We came to learn that “caffe” means “café” or fast food, not “coffee” or “cafeteria”]. Refreshed, we wandered around the winding streets of the old town.
Genova is built on many hills, probably more than the proverbial seven that every city since Rome has claimed. The town streets meander about the hills in a spaghetti-like maze. Ron had brought our GPS for just such an occasion, but we hadn’t realized how tricky it would be to get reception, with the narrow streets and projecting buidings. He successfully brought us out of the maze into a piazza featuring the cathedral of San Lorenzo [=Lawrence]. Oh! It is a most beautiful sight. It is modest compared to Gothic style buildings [like Chartres] but very proportional in the Romanesque style with an Italianate black and white horizontally striped facade. We took time to appreciate its beauty by enjoying Coke Zeros.
We had read enough to know that Italians take their siesta seriously and that most businesses and churches close between noon and three. So we were not surprised that San Lorenzo was closed. We set out to explore some more. Passing an open market, Ron bought a blood orange and I got some peas-in-pod [I have come to believe they were chick-peas] and we munched happily while strolling. During our rambles, we passed San Matteo church and a froth of a church painted with trompe l’oeil in pleasing orange shades.
Returning to San Lorenzo, we found it still closed until one gentleman pounded on the door like Martin Luther nailing the theses. We gained entry.
The interior was restrained Romanesque rather than the later, more exuberant styles. [my preference is for the simple] Amid the Italianate black and white horizontally striped columns and rounded arches [consistent with the façade], were many symbolic grills representing St. Lorenzo. I’m sure you recall, as I did not, that St Lorenzo was martyred by his own church for giving away the church treasures to the poor. They claim he said, “I’m done on this side, you can turn me over now.” Really! Can you believe that?
True to the legend, however, the church treasures were in the back room, costing € to see. So we gave a donation to the poor box and skipped the 1st century chalcedony plate with the 16th century silver head of John the Baptist. [Do you think John asked Salome to dance for him one more time before they chopt off his head? Or maybe, “You shaved that side, go for the other.”?] Speaking of John, we saw more paintings of his beheading in Palazzo Bianco than any other theme except the Holy Family. Come to think of it, he’s included in the sacred family too, sometimes as a toddler and sometimes a grown man with infant Jesus.
Consulting our intermittent GPS, we climbed to the top of the hill and found a ruined church—not what we were looking for at all. However, the open sky gave us a chance to find some satellites and, thus informed, headed all the way back down the hill toward San Donato church. It is completely invisible from any angle, tucked into a low point with only a tiny piazza in front.
On the way there we walked past old castle walls and came to realize that the modern school of architecture was built inside. We followed some exiting students to a charming caffe—Caffe Retro-- where we had Coke Zeros and little cream puff filled with chocolate. Fritteroles? Then 2 more Coke Zeros.
We declined to stop into the Club Quaalude, just down the street.
San Donato was so worth the visit! It has a restored wood beam ceiling and old frescoes, Tiny “arrow loop” windows, modest round window [not yet the Gothic “rose” window], Romanesque apse and only a few Gothic touches. It ain’t Baroque. One side chapel contained the famous ‘Adoration of the Magi’ painting by Joos Van Cleve.
Here I must point out that the Italian army wear dopey hats. They are sort of like a Robin Hood hat, only tall and rounded on top. And they do have the feather. But under the hat are very young men with warrior faces. The carbinieri, the police, wear smart blue uniforms with red stripes on the trousers. The girl-cops wear a skirt with knee high black boots and a white pith helmet.
We returned to our hotel and rested until it grew late enough for dinner [8ish]. We roamed the neighborhood, not finding anything except an unsavory group of young men down a narrow dirty street, so we returned to the Prie de Ma, where I had the beaten steak and Ron tried a veal dish which turned out to look like large slices of olive loaf, but with peas and carrots in it. Surprisingly, the places we ate did not serve olive oil for dipping bread, like the Italian restaurants in the US. We helped ourselves to some sitting on the counter and drew some curious looks. [ Nor was there butter, which did not surprise us.] And there was pizza everywhere, where we were determined not to eat. And we did not try gelato because of Ron’s diabetes and because Carol thought it looked delicious. Besides, there were so many pastry items to try.
N4 36 Genova edition
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