Today we went for a walk around the old town of Genoa using Rick Steve’s self guided tour, a downloadable app. We also used the local city map which had three walking itineraries, Medieval, Renaissance, and marine. The journey up and down the hill from the hostel is never boring. It’s quite amazing how early kids are dropped off at school in this city so early mornings on the road is absolutely crazy. There’s cars double parked everywhere, parents and kids crossing the road, and people heading to work. To add to the mix hundreds of lunatics on motor scooters. As soon as the traffic slows the scooters are up over the gutter and away. It’s like being back in Cambodia. My riding instructor Gibbo’s words “Own Your Lane” comes back to me riding in this traffic. That’s right look bigger than you are, and don’t allow anyone into your space.
The satnav took us right into the centre of the old medieval section of the city, down all sorts of tiny cobbled lanes. Eventually we decided to park up amongst a heap of bikes. Leaving the bike we started down the old medieval section of the city with its tiny lanes and narrow streets. All sorts of boutique shops have made it into this area including strangely enough a Scottish Shop. It was a nice walk, however, we had no clue where we were as the streets didn’t appear on our city map. Eventually we found a street on the map and made our way to Piazza St Lorenzo outside the Cathedral.
The St Lorenzo Cathedral dates from the early 1100’s. It’s quite amazing with all the fabulous white marble on the facade. Supposedly there’s a dog carved into the facade somewhere but try as hard as we could we just couldn’t find it. On the inside black and white marble arches top granite pillars which really are quite stunning. Some beautiful frescos from various famous Italian painters adorn the ceiling.
One odd feature in the Cathedral is an unexploded bomb. HMS Malaya shelled the city on February 9th, 1941. A 15″ armour piercing shell landed in the church but failed to explode.
After a coffee near the cathedral we headed to Fountain at Piazza De Ferrari. It’s a bit of a landmark for tourists and a magnet for hawkers selling all sorts of trinkets. It’s a nice spot to relax in the sun with a massive circular fountain.
Palazzio Ducale overlooks the fountain and it’s the former stately home which has been transformed into an art museum.
Across from the fountain a statue of Garibaldi sits on a horse. He was the General who had a huge role in unified Italy. At certain times of the year we’ve heard locals dress the statue in a red cape.
On the local city map there’s three walking itineraries, Medieval, Renaissance, and marine. We decided to follow the medieval itinerary, which starts and ends in Piazza Matteotti, which led us to Porta Soprano, the North Gate of the old city. It’s all that remains of the city walls and overlooks Christopher Columbus’ house. The ivy covered medieval two storey house which was the site of Christopher Columbus’ boyhood is now a museum. It’s tiny inside and most is locked off so after seeing the price of €5 we walked straight back out. At the rear is a small roman style forum, with marble columns.
Wandering up through the old city gates the streets are narrow and quite rambling. As this area dates back to medieval period and it seems that no planning went into this part of the city. It’d quite easy to get lost around here. However, there’s lots of cafe’s and restaurants along the narrow streets so although lost you’d never be hungry.
When we returned to the cathedral we headed towards the waterfront to start the renaissance itinerary.
The waterfront was really dead and the only thing which seemed full was the carparks. Restaurants and cafe’s were closed, some even looked abandoned. Even the area around Caiata Cattaneo, the big sun umbrella art installation, (which you’d think would be popular) was deserted.
The Renaissance Itinerary took us along Via Garabaldi, which was pretty spectacular. Along the street are the former palaces of the rich merchants of Genova. The palaces date from the late 1500’s into the 1600’s and the sheer size of them in the middle of the city is quite mind blowing. These days they’ve been converted into museums or are home to different banks. Its great to see that they’ve been carefully preserved.
The tour led us back to where we parked our bike so with sore feet we climbed aboard and headed back up the hills to the hostel. It’s a nightmare negotiating the roads up the hills at night. Lots of switchbacks, cars double parked, scooter riders that pass at every opportunity, and one lane roads. It’s so good to get back, put the feet up and relax.