Genova felt like a hidden gem amongst the other famous Italian cities. The port city is set against a hilly backdrop, resulting in interesting buildings and roadways constructed following terraces along the hillside. Amazingly the city of Genova is 38km wide running from west to eat, but about 2-3km in its widest portion from sea to hill.
Great place for panoramic views of the city was from Belvedere Montaldo. One can look out to the seaport & iconic “Laterna” and many splendid buildings along the hilly terrain. Genova city is famed for its collection of historic buildings in Medieval, Rennaisance & Baroque styles located amongst its narrow & hilly streets. Interesting sites included 16th century palaces built by nobility along Strada Nuova (New Street), Piazza de Ferrari, little house where Christopher Columbus lived and seafront promenade.
(Looking out to the port & Laterna from Belvedere Montaldo)
(Genova city & its hilly surroundings)
I was fortunate to spend 2.5 days with two Genovese, Senja & Massimo who took time off to show me the sights in and around Genova. Even had the pleasure of spending dinner with Massimo’s family & 2 other friends. Food was excellent – started with Lasagne with Pesto, followed by roast pork marinated with rosemary, fried lamb cutlets and fried potato balls, and finished with walnut cake. The dinner reminded me so much of a typical family back home – everyone was busy talking amongst each other while digging into the delicious fare. Enjoyed how Italians display so much emotions in their conversations with hand gestures.
Spent early part of Tuesday walking around the city centre. One of the highlight was lunch at a simple eatery called “da Maria Cucina Casalinga” located at Vico Testadoro. Very popular amongst the locals, even attracting the office & banking staff. Tasted several marvelous dishes e.g. Seafood soup, Artichoke Quiche, Aubergine stewed with beef mince & tomatoes and their homemade dessert akin to tiramisu. Delish!!
Drove eastwards after lunch towards Portofino, an exclusive village set in a small harbour. Apparently a playground for the rich & famous – the village exudes an air of sophistication and poshness. There are even plans to recreate the entire village, down to the exact shops in Dubai.
(Portofino gleaming with posh beauty)
Next village was Camogli, about 2miles west of Portofino. Preferred this coastal village compared to Portofino, as it was more laid-back and lively. Saw the big pan in the middle of the town centre, which was set up for the Sagra del Pesce (Fish Festival) on Sun 10th May in honour of the patron saint of the fishermen. The 4m wide pan will served up heaps of seafood, attracting swarms of local people because it’s free. Reminded me of the typical crowd back home during ‘buka rumah’ session.
(Camogli with the giant pan ready to cook up its annual fish feast)
Spent the whole of next day exploring the other villages lying to the west of Genova city. Drove for over 2 hours towards Menton, French town just after the Italian border. The drive there was interesting – we passed by some spectacular engineering creations as the motorway made its way through various elevated bridges and long tunnels. Menton itself was a typical French Riviera town – long promenade besides the clean, pebbly beach and town centre filled with restaurants & gift shops.
After a simple lunch of ham & cheese crepe, we headed back to the Italian soil. Nearby was the Hanbury Botanic Gardens – created back in 1867 by Sir Thomas Hanbury (www.amicihanbury.com). Huge garden with plenty to see – it was interesting to see the array of exotic plants thriving there in the mediterranean climate. Always enjoy walking around gardens, only wished i harbour deeper interests with the plants & flowers instead of just enjoying their lovely sight & smell.
(One of the lovely walkways inside Hanbury Botanic Gardens)
Next stop was more fascinating – exploring the abandoned village of Bussana Vecchia. The hilltop village was partially destroyed by an earthquake in 1887. It was only in the 1960s when a group of artists began to inhabit the place and slowly created a creative community there. Today there are about 60 people making Bussana Vecchia as their home & workplace – amazing walking along the narrow alleyways and discovering artistic creations in various nooks & crannies. Perfect place to chill out and spend the time taking lotsa photos.
(Alleyway inside the labyrinth of Bussana Vecchia)
Last village stop for the day was Cervo – simple medieval village famous for its music festivals and terraced olive groves. The gem of the village was the Baroque Church of San Giovanni Battista, spectacular baroque style building in this part of the Ligurian region.
(Baroque church in Cervo)
Finished our driving adventure at Savona, industrial port which has been a strong rival to Genoa since the olden days. Didn’t get to see much of the town as we arrived late in the evening. Nevertheless, the main aim was to sample the local specialty – farinata (pancake made from wheat or chickpea flour). Settled at a local eatery famed for its farinata, and sampled other delicious Italian dishes for our main course e.g. uncooked sardines marinated with olive oil & lemon juice and fleshy fish cooked with tomatoes, olives and capers. Food was so good that all the last bits were soaked up with bread.
(Enjoying the farinata in two versions – chickpea and wheat flour)
Genova will be remembered for its wonderful coastal villages and warm hospitality extended by my italian friends. Really enjoyed the fact that over-commercialisation has not hit this city compared to other touristic Italian places. Ciao!
Picture album – http://picasaweb.google.com/wyeyim/CinqueTerreGenoa#