Thursday June 26
Well, not exactly lost, but I liked the title. Genova (Genoa) has been on my list of places to see for quite a while now. Everytime I have stayed somewhere on the Ligurian Coast, I have always thought of doing a daytrip to Genova, but never managed to tear myself away from the beautiful seaside where I was staying. After getting some information on the train stations in Genova on the Slow Travel forum, and getting a good map here in Santa Margherita Ligure at the tourist information office, I finally decided to take the train to Genova. The woman at the tourist information office showed me how both of the main train stations were options as far as where to depart, depending on what I wanted to see first. I did my homework and read up on Genova, remembered seeing wonderful photos of the Duomo, and got more ideas from Jan's blog. I decided on the Genova Brignole station as my starting point since I would need to change trains there when heading to Acqui Terme next Monday. When I arrived, I checked out the train schedule to see which binario (train track) I would need to go to to catch my connecting train for Acqui Terme. I was so glad I decided to do this since my train will be leaving at one of those adjacent areas instead of the regular binari (tracks). I first learned about these tracks after missing a connecting train in Bologna a few years ago.
Once I got myself oriented to the train station, I headed out with map in hand to explore the city of Genova. I tried to map out my route while on the train, but was immediately side tracked when I saw this huge arch up ahead. Genova is a big city with cars everywhere. Much of the city is not very pedestrian friendly. I worked my way to the arch and then noticed these beautiful designs on some grass with steps that went up to this wall covered with greenery. I will definitely post photos of this when I get home. It took me a while to get to the steps. I was ready to climb them when I realized that I was now far off of the route I wanted to take. I changed my mind about the steps since I was going to be doing a lot of walking already and headed back to the street I needed to be on to get to the Duomo.
Back on track, I headed down Via Settembre, which was a very busy street. After walking a few blocks, I came to Piazza de Ferrari and a beautiful fountain. There were also a few beautiful buildings surrounding the fountain with one of them being Palazzo Ducale. For some reason, I thought that Palazzo Ducale was open to tour. After wandering around the inside of the building, I found a ticket office. I was told only the old prison and the tower were open to visit. All you have to say to me is "tower" and I am there. I paid my 4 euros and then went in search of the entrance. I finally had to go into another office where this nice man took me to the elevator and told me that I needed to go to the 4th floor.
Once I finally found the entrance, I was greeted by a man and a woman. The woman ripped my ticket and then grabbed an orange hard hat and put it on my head. Yes you are reading correctly, a hard hat! I thought to myself, what the heck was I getting myself into? All I could think was that this tower was going to be quite a challenge to climb. The man decided that the hard hat the woman chose was not a good fit. He took the hard hat off of my head and tried 3 or 4 more on me before finally being satisfied that I had one that fit correctly. I headed off into one of the rooms, which ended up being the tower. I climbed up one flight of stairs (up a ladder) and came to a room with windows on 3 sides. The next ladder was blocked off and that was basically it for the tower portion of the tour. Needless to say, the tower experience was not one of my favorite and now I was 2 for 2 on this trip with "blah" towers. At least I still have the tower in Bologna to make up for these disappointing towers.
I headed back to the spot where I was given the hard hat, and the man told me that I was not yet done. There were many more rooms to explore - the prison area. All the while, I was thinking, that I probably looked ridiculous in this hard hat and why in the world did I have to wear one anyways. It was at that moment that I learned the reason for the hard hat. As I ducked to go into one of the rooms, I whacked my head on the top of the stone doorway. Thank goodness I was wearing the hard hat. I whacked my head two more times after that even though I was being so careful as I ducked. I probably would have been out cold if not for the hard hat. Although the prison itself was not so thrilling and I would probably not recommend it to anyone else, it was my first ever tour in a hard hat.
I got just as lost getting back out of the building as I did finding the tour in the first place. In Italy, the first floor is not always the first floor. It could mean the second floor. So, when I got back in the elevator, I was not really sure which button to push. I ended up choosing the first floor and could only find one doorway out which definitely was not the doorway I went in. I finally figured out where I was, went back inside the building and found a bar where I used the toilet and then ordered an espresso machiato. When paying for my drink, I asked the guy at the bar for directions to the Duomo. He said I was close to it and took me outside and pointed me in the right direction.
The street leading to the Duomo (the Cathedral of San Lorenzo) was a pedestrian only street. It was nice to not have to worry about the cars. I arrived at one of the side entrances to the Duomo first. I went inside and was amazed at the incredible beauty of the inside of the church. I took few photos although it was pretty dark inside, and so I am not sure how they will turn out. I exited out the front door and again was amazed at the beauty of this church. My only disappointment was that the sun was behind the church. I can just imagine the colors of the carved stones when the sun is shining on the church.
I took quite a few photos and then headed down to the waterfront and the old harbor (Porto Antico). I wandered around the waterfront for a while. I found a place that sold focaccia on a side street and bought a peice with tomatoes on it. It was HORRIBLE!! I couldn't even finish half of it.
By this time, it was hot and my feet were tired. I had read that the aquarium in Genova was the largest aquarium in Europe and so I decided to check it out. The cost was I believe 16 or 18 euros. I can't remember exactly. There were also options to combine the ticket with other tours for a higher cost. The fist stop inside the aquarium was a 15 minute 3D movie on sharks. A turtle narrated the movie (all in Italian). It was a fun movie and at times the 3Dness of the movie made it seem like fish and jellyfish were swimming right at you.
After the movie was over, the next stop was a huge tank of jellyfish. The jellyfish were amazing. I took a little movie of them for my class since we always do a unit on sea life and talk about jellyfish. After the jellyfish, there were tanks of fish, sharks, seals, dolphins, more sharks, a huge turtle, and tons of other sea life. There was another room of just jellyfish with a few types I have never seen before. The aquarium was huge. I ended up spending a couple of hours there.
By this time, my feet were very tired. I was ready call it a day in Genova. With map in hand, I headed toward the Genova Principe train station which was supposed to be close to the waterfront. I ended up getting slightly lost (slightly because I was only one street away from the street that led to the train station). After wandering around this street that did not seem to be a good street to be on, I found a guy with a drill in hand ready to start drilling some hole in the street and asked for directions. He was very nice and walked me around the corner, pointing me in the correct direction. As I walked up the street, I came to the Palazzo Reale. I went inside but found out that it was closing in 15 minutes. For some reason, I mixed up Palazzo Ducale and Palazzo Reale. Oh well, my feet were tired and hurting and it was time to return to Santa Margherita Ligure.
I continued on to the train station, and was in luck. The next train departed in 10 minutes. I got my Genova fix was happy to head back to Santa Margherita. I ate my nectarine on the train ride back, which I forgot all about (which I slipped in a napkin at breakfast) and then stopped for a gelato and bought a coconut yogurt on the way back to my hotel. When I got back to my hotel, I realized that both of my feet were swollen! I could not believe that once again this was happening to me (my right foot was swollen last year while I was in Rome and never figured out the cause). I took a couple of cans of orange juice out of the mini bar in my room and put them on my ankles while watching the news.
There was nothing good on the Italian stations, so I turned on the BBC and watched the strangest story about these huge rats that were being used to find mines. The news woman was as amazed as I was with how huge the rats were. She also mentioned that the rats were too light to set off the mines and mentioned that hopefully no one would feel the need to write in about the rats being mistreated since they would not be blowing up. Strange story!
For dinner, I decided to try to find the pizzeria place (Ristorante Pizzeria dal Baffo) that I ate at the last time I was in Santa Margherita. I remembered that it was near the hotel I stayed at. It ended up being easy to find. I ordered a pizza margherita with pepperoni (peppers). The restaurant was filled with locals which is always a good sign. The pizza was excellent and I enjoyed having dinner there.
Since I have arrived in Italy, the weather has been hot. There was even a story on Verona being the hottest spot in all of Italy on Wednesday.
After a long day of walking in the hot weather in the city, I headed back to my hotel to watch the rest of the Spain-Russia soccer game and fell asleep as soon as my head hit the pillow.