The Day The Museums Opened

Today was Tuesday, which meant that all those museums I missed yesterday were open.

Of course, now that I knew they were open, I didn’t really want to go to the museums. The sun was shining and there was nary a cloud in the sky. Ivo, my host, had spoken reverently about the towns on the Italian Riviera, so I decided that would be my route.

Portofino, he said to me, was where all the tourists went. He went into great detail explaining that I could take the train to the town of Santa Margherita, and from there a bus would take me to Portofino, although I could walk, and it would only take 15 to 20 minutes. He states that he goes sometimes, and he prefers to walk. I imagined a precarious Italian road, and me walking on the nonexistent shoulder, dodging Fiats along the way, but Ivo reassured me that there was a path. As he continued the description, he advised me to buy lunch in Santa Margherita, as the restaurants in Portofino are all overpriced.

I then asked him where he likes to go. “Oh I go to Portofino sometimes,” he stated, “but usually I go to Camogli. Not so many tourists there.”

So I began with a walk to the train station. My first stop on the way out of town was a visit to Giuseppe Verdi’s favorite cafe, which took me just a few small blocks out of my way. The day was still young, so there weren’t many prostitutes out on the street yet.

Focaccia in hand, I headed west to Stazione Piazza Principe, where I had first arrived in Genoa. The platforms here lie below the level of the surrounding streets, and the tracks emerge from the gaping black maws of massive tunnels at one end, only to disappear into similarly opaque passages at the opposite end.

The train took a leisurely pace heading east along the Ligurian coast, passing numerous small stations and neighborhoods. After 45 minutes, I arrived at a petite station, so insignificant in size that I wondered if I had made a poor decision.

Once here, I looked around, uncertain where to go. On the train I had read a guidebook, which had only a few paragraphis on Camogli. The authors suggested little here, but did note that “A trail from the train station leads … up countless steps to the church of San Rocco di Camogli: follow the two red dots.” This sounded good.

Climbs don’t intimidate me, as we have already established, but in this case the description was fairly cryptic. Still, I started by following along this stream, the music of its trickling waters accompanying my footsteps.

Crossing to the opposite side, the water and I eventually parted ways, and after a great deal of walking, just as I was about to turn back and was convinced I was on the wrong path, the promised red dots appeared. And so did the steps.

Up and up I went, sweltering in the early spring sun. The light jacket I was wearing came off, and I continued further on and farther up. Periodically I would pass some workman or other on the path going the opposite direction. The town disappeared behind me.

More red dots, and more steps, and I continued on my way, stopping every once in a while to consult my phone for some clue as to my destination.

Finally, the path opened up ahead and the church stood in front of me. My phone has an activity tracker. Since leaving the train I had traveled upward 53 flights, but forward only 1 mile or so. This explained my exhaustion.

It was a very nice church.

 

The view of the coast, however, was the real prize here. Toward the far left of the image is Genova.

 

Behind me I found a sign describing my options from here: I could continue forward or go back. Now the red dots made sense, as they delineated a path to the town of San Fruttuoso. Going that way would take 2 and half hours more of the slog I’d already been through. Not for me, I turned back, down the path to the town of Camogli. I headed this time toward the beach.

 

Along the beach I found a string of restaurants facing the sea, painted in the muted warm colors of a Mediterranean fantasy.

I bought a simple dish of tortellini with ricotta and spinach stuffing, sauced with walnut cream and I sat on a concrete wall eating this for lunch, all the while immersing myself in the sounds of the seashore. Gazing upward to my left I saw where I had climbed. No – not the big hill, just the small hill in that image. Still, it was quite a distance.

 

Following lunch, I wandered along the shore, and out to the end of the breakwater.

 

I sat for some time on the breakwater, just resting and enjoying the afternoon. At long last I returne to the city behind me, exploring a bit more. As I wandered, I gathered in the sights of this little coastal town and partook of yet more focaccia, this time stuffed with cheese (Focaccia de Recco, Recco being the town next to Camogli).

 

With that I boarded the train back to Genoa, this time disembarking at a different station, Genoa Brignole. The building is absolutely beautiful, which I didn’t realize until I was walking away.

 

On my way back to Ivo’s I made two more stops. The first was at the home of Christopher Columbus, which was still closed.

And finally, I visited a museum! At Palazzo Ducale, there was an exhibit by the photographer Henri Cartier Bresson. I remember learning about him in 10th grade, and his distinctive style of photography. He described it as trying to capture “The Decisive Moment,” something at which he was incredibly successful. This was a special exhibit, and I really wanted to see it when I heard about it. With that I returned to Ivo’s waiting apartment, and ultimately dinner. 

 

 

 

 

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