When Life Gives Us Focaccia

Well – it happened again. My penchant for not planning has reared it’s ugly head. Usually, it’s just one minor bump in the road — I go to a city, and some museum or other is closed on a given day, so I have to reorganize slightly. Even when well planned, I have had this happen. Usually I find that a large smattering of attractions is closed, but today I found that almost everything in Genoa is closed on Monday.

Of course I didn’t discover this immediately, but had to work up to it. First thing this morning, after coffee with my host, I headed into the claustrophobic ancient streets of this town. The streets, such as they are, are impossible to differentiate from alleys, with barely room for two to walk abreast, and the buildings are tall enough that only the barest splinter of daylight penetrates to the level of the pavement. With no point of reference but the stone walls of the buildings around us, even the slightest turn can be missed, so a walk between two points in Genova is anything but a straight line.

As with any Italian town, there are piazze, upon which stand the churches. But the piazze and churches are all downsized for the local environment. 

Consulting my map, I frequently found myself off course. On one such occasion I paused my trek briefly for focaccia, which is eaten any time of day here. There is traditional focaccia, with just oil and salt, but there are also more elaborate varieties, the most common being topped with onions or olives. There is also focaccia di Recce, which is stuffed with cheese. All of these are thinner and more delicate than the very thick bread that they call focaccia back home. Much like pesto, we don’t understand focaccia.  

My host has pointed out to me that in all other parts of Italy breakfast is sweet, but here in Genova, breakfast is savory. There are no sweet focaccie, although apparently some children put nutella on it.

After focaccia (and espresso), I returned to the pencil thin streets of the historic center, and following an incredibly indirect ascent, my tired feet at long last stepped onto Via Garibaldi, where I blinked away the harsh light of day. 

This is the street for which Genova is most well known, and the grand palaces really are breathtaking. Broader than the other streets in this town, via Garibaldi is still quite narrow, and difficult to photograph. You’ll have to take my word for it.

Many of the palazzi now house museums, and these were on my list of objectives for the day. The first I came upon had a sign posted indicating closure on Mondays. Uh oh. So I headed off to the tourist information booth at the end of the street, where the pattern became clear. There I found a list of things to do, and one by one I read them off. “Lunedi Chiuso.” Literally, “Monday Closed.”

 This put me onto plan B: Aimless wandering. Fortunately in cities like this, it can still be a fruitful way to pass an afternoon.

 

The churches, for one, are open almost every day, and they harbor incredible art. This is San Lorenzo, the local cathedral.

 

Within is the treasury. They have a cup reported to be the holy grail, but it was out for cleaning.

 

They say this houses the ashes of St. John the Baptist.

 

Beyond the churches, the architecture of the city itself is often a work of art.

 

And then there are the piazze, such as Piazza de Ferrari. Who can argue with Ferrari Square? 

I worked my way to the port, for the one thing that was open today, the aquarium. It wasn’t initially on my list, but given the suddenly-open schedule I decided to go, and it really was spectacular. It is the largest aquarium in Europe. They have fish here from all over the world, but I was bemused to find no freshwater fish from North America. Mostly there were saltwater fish, but the freshwater species were all from Africa and South America.

There were manatees and dolphins. The former, and some of the latter, were definitely from North America.

 

Back in town, Genoa has two of its medieval gates remaining. This is the eastern gate, known as Porta Soprana, near which sits the house of Christopher Columbus, closed today.

 

Not far from there is the Palazzo Ducale. This houses museums, also closed today!

Notwithstanding my poor timing and planning, it really was a spectacular day. I can spend hours on end walking aimlessly around a beautiful city, learning her streets and her sights, so I wasn’t upset at all at the change of plans. Besides, I always have tomorrow to spend the day indoors if I want.

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