Next summer, Rich and I will walk out our door in Seville, stroll to the train station with our rolling luggage, and board a train to begin a journey that will last several months and cover thousands of miles. We won't have any reservations anywhere, just a Eurail pass and an iPad full of information about possible destinations. We'll wend our way by easy stages through Central and Eastern Europe, winding up in Transylvania and some of the more obscure Balkan countries, seeking offbeat side trips and weird, wonderful stories and adventures. We hope to connect up with locals and expats all along the way. If you know someone in one of our destination areas – even better, if you ARE someone in one of our destination areas – send us an email and we'll see about meeting up. I'll post a map when we've firmed up the general route. We have decided to begin by taking the train to Barcelona, then the ferry across to Genoa, Italy. And here's what I've learned about that destination city...
Nearly every Genoa tourism website starts off by pleading, “Please don’t rush through here on your way to Florence or Rome. No matter what you’ve heard about us, we really are worth a visit! Really! Please say you'll stay!!!” OK, I’m paraphrasing a little, but that’s the gist. Apparently Genoa is the Newark of Italy, a place most people arrive in only to depart as quickly as possible for more glamorous destinations.
So what does Genoa have to offer? It's a gorgeous old city with lots of historic buildings and museums, promoted with such awkwardly translated prose as: “Thought then to the birthplace, even though few of them remembered their location, so that at first it was a walled marble plaque in memory above the entrance of a building facing.” Hard to understand how that could fail to entice tourists...
Struggling through the prose, I discovered some real (or possibly fake) gems. For instance, the Museum of the Cathedral of San Lorenzo houses the actual platter on which Salome placed the head of John the Baptist after his decapitation. Now THAT’S something worth seeing! Naysayers may question its authenticity, but I for one am ready to believe.
The museum also contains the Ark of the Ashes of John the Baptist, a splinter of the True Cross, and a chalice that was believed to be the Holy Grail when it was brought back from the Holy Land by a crusader. It’s easy to scoff at such ignorance today, now that we all know the Holy Grail was actually found by Indiana Jones.
While some of its ancient relics may be suspect, Genoa does boast a genuine haunted house. Now known as the Ca ‘de Anime (House of Spirits), back in the 18th century it was an inn situated on a lonely road outside of town.
The genial hosts were a family of robbers who killed their richer guests, relieved them of their possessions and buried the bodies nearby. The mysterious disappearances of so many of the inn’s patrons gave rise to rumors that the inn was haunted, but investigators later exposed the guilt of the robber family and executed them all on the spot. That's when the real haunting began...
The inn remained vacant until a desperate family moved in during World War II. The new occupants managed to ignore mysterious sounds and inexplicable broken objects around the house, but when a strange girl seemed to materialize out of the 18th century, they fled the house never to return. Rich and I will be reviewing The Exorcist and Poltergeist in preparation for the visit.
But what about modern Genoan life? The region is famous for its salami and pesto, but what other pleasures could we expect at the Genoan table? I discovered Giada De Laurentiis' wonderful recipes for two regional favorites, Orichiette with Sausage, Beans and Marsarpone and Genovese-style Artichokes. The orichiette (pasta shaped like little ears) was delicious, but the true hit of the evening was the artichoke dish. We stuffed the artichokes with a mixture of garlic, onion, ham (we substituted good Spanish jamon for the prosciutto), Parmesan cheese and parsley.
Then we put them in a deep pot, wedged together to say upright in a pool of white wine, and let them simmer 45 minutes on the stovetop until they were tender and had soaked up the wine flavor.
Rich and I decided that Genoa may have its issues with public relations, artifact authentication and online translation programs, but when it comes to the pleasures of the table, it’s a city second to none. Looking forward to making your acquaintance, Genoa!
If you know someone living in Genoa – even better, if you are living in Genoa yourself – send us an email and we'll see about meeting up. We're looking for insider information about the city and its quirkier aspects. First round of drinks is on us.
11/6/2012 07:17:28 am
Your plan-less trip sounds much like the one we are also un-planning for next year. In celebration of my milestone birthday we are planning to do Europe, the routes change as rapidly as the hours go by. Perhaps our paths will cross. . .we were thinking of starting in Spain and heading to Greece, or seeing Italy, of course there's Slovenia, and Montenegro. . . and Croatia. . .
11/7/2012 03:34:32 pm
You should find lots of adventures by climbing without ropes, and we will be the happy recipients of living them through you!
11/9/2012 05:58:26 am
I'm SO looking forward to the story behind the haunted inn. Your plans sound intriguing and exciting and I'm looking forward to the blog posts which go with them. Polly
3/6/2014 02:05:26 pm
My daughter 31, will be getting married and they will be living in Genoa..her husband to be has a Ph.D in engineering and it seems probable he will be hired by the Italian firm. Do you have any insights into living in Genoa? I'm trying to find cost of living Internet sites but am not finding anything recent. I know Italy somewhat. Lived there when very young but have been back numerous times. I simply love it!!
3/8/2014 07:33:17 am
Italy is marvelous, and I'm sure your daughter and son-in-law will have a great time there. Adjusting to any city is challenging, of course, and that's especially so in a foreign country. I can't offer anything specific to Genoa, but sites such as http://futureexpats.com/ can help. InterNations is a wonderful organization that helps expats connect with each other and with locals; more at internations.org. And for general practical advice on relocation, I have a booklet that's free when you sign up for my mailing list or available on Amazon for 99 cents; it's 101 Ways to Enjoy Living Abroad. Please wish you daughter good luck for me as she sets out on this grand adventure.
3/18/2015 04:08:01 am
I lived in Genoa (Genova is its real name) for 1-1/2 years once and 3 years a while later, and am itching to move back -- currently stuck in Thailand. There are more things to discover in Genova than most visitors would ever imagine, not least its second city in the sky. I only discovered that a few months before I left the 2nd time (gotta make money every so often). Midnight walks through the old city can be breathtaking, and while a little dangerous are more than worth it. I mean, what do you live for? The place at night is more evocative than anywhere else I've experienced. Then there's the best food in Italy, outside Roma of course... and Nervi and other little towns to the southeast are out of a fantasy book.
3/18/2015 05:24:44 am
It's so great to hear from someone who's lived there and loves the city the way I do! It is breathtaking and evocative as you say, Kent, and I hope more people take the time to discover its charms.
4/26/2015 06:10:02 am
Hi nice to hear all your comments, I am coming to Genoa in a couple of weeks with my daughter. Just a bit worried about all the reports I have read about crime. Will we feel safe?
4/26/2015 07:34:44 am
You'll want to be careful, but it's not terrifying in any sense. During the time I was there my apartment was broken into once, in the middle of the afternoon -- they literally smashed through the door, leaving it hanging on one hinge. The neighbors on either side claimed to have heard nothing, but they also didn't want to talk to me. On the other hand I hadn't secured the door as strongly as I was advised to.
4/26/2015 11:42:31 am
Hi Pat, Rich and I certainly felt safe the whole time we were there, and never had anything happen to us that was even close to the incidents Kent wrote about. We were a bit anxious, having heard all sorts of wild rumors, but the people of Genoa have been working to clean up the city and seem to be doing a great job. Everyone we met was quite friendly, and we never even saw any nefarious characters. Of course, it's a city, and you'll want to take sensible precautions, but I certainly wouldn't feel anxious about going.
11/5/2019 10:59:59 pm
My partner and I visited Genova specifically. We spent a week there, living in a converted 12th-Century convent above Piazza del Carmine, and tried to live like locals. We went to the Sicilian market down by the pier to get our produce, used the hop-on/hop-off bus as our transportation around the city, walked a ton, enjoyed aperitivo at several bars and restaurants (our absolute favourite is Bar 8 Rosso...we had a magical evening there once, as several families were enjoying dinner at the bar, kids were playing soccer with one of the cooks in the piazza, and three little girls were bombing their push bikes through the middle of everything).
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TO I'm an American travel writer based in Seville, Spain.
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