Italians might not consider Genoa a great city to visit in Italy, but it was my first experience in Italy and I loved it.
Genoa wasn’t on my original plans to visit in Italy. I ended up in Genoa from Barcelona as the ferry between the two was the cheapest transport I could find. It wasn’t the fastest way to travel, but the 16-hour ride through the Mediterranean at night was fantastic. The ferry is also where I met Catherine, a fantastic new friend for life, and a wonderful travel partner. She was Turns out she had booked a room on the ferry which ended up having three beds, one of which she offered to me. So I got an upgrade on my ticket, but that was far from the best part of meeting her.
It’s hard to describe how much fun the ferry ride was. At one point we both looked at each other with the same thought “Wow. We’re sailing through the center of the Mediterranean. Always wanted to do that!” It was also to find how many amenities the ferry had. While not all of them were open, the ship had a pool, a spa, a discotheque and several restaurants. The food wasn’t the highest quality, but the pizza was Italian style and actually quite decent. The best part of the ride by far was standing out on deck in the wind, watching Barcelona dwindle in the distance, then later watching a spectacular sunset, getting to see the myriad of stars uninhibited by light pollution, and finally watching the sunrise over Genoa as we arrived.
Initially, my plan was simply taking the ferry to Genoa, and then going straight down to my Workaway host in Sarzana. But Catherine’s train to Milan wasn’t until dinner time, so we chose to explore the city instead. I am so glad that we did.
While there wasn’t time enough to find my usual free walking tour (and I don’t even know if they had one), we still walked 6 miles around the city, which isn’t that big to start with.
Our first stop was for lunch (breakfast) at the top-rated sandwich shop in town right on the harbor. It was our first taste of true Italian food, and boy was it good! We started with an espresso Italian style and a ham croissant. So rich and so good! Then we ordered our sandwiches. There were far too many selections of meats and cheeses to choose from, so we just asked to be surprised. We were. In fact, as the chef was preparing the sandwich, she was giving us samples of the meat and cheese she used in the sandwich. All natural ingredients, fluffy Italian bread, fresh meats, exactly what a sandwich should be. And only €5 ($6)!
We walked out on the dock to enjoy the first half of our sandwiches sitting in the harbor. Besides the view of the town being wonderful, the water was also very clear and schools of fish were clearly visible beneath the surface. A great experience but the best part was still the sandwich.
Then we explored more of the town, visiting the Duomo and other churches, wandering around several small streets, seeing the fountain in Piazza de Ferrari filled with yellow water (couldn’t find why it was yellow no matter how much I looked), seeing Christopher Columbus’ house (one of them), seeing the pirate ship in the harbor and finally taking an elevator ride to the top of the central hill for a panoramic view of the town and the second half of our sandwiches.
The elevator ride is quite interesting. There is a tunnel into the center of the hill, and then you can the elevator to the top. It seemed it should be paid for, but we couldn’t figure out how to buy tickets, and there was no one around to collect them. So it was a free ride, and definitely worth it. Best views of the town.
Finally, we headed back to the train station, but not without getting a cannoli on the way.
And that was Genoa. Not a lot, and only lasted for a few hours, but it was worth it. It was a great introduction to Italy and many more great cities to come.