I had to change trains from Cannes to Genoa Italy and the Italian guard was not friendly when I tried to confirm the destination of the train – but his unfriendliness couldn’t curb my excitement at being back in Italy. When I boarded the second train there were no seats available. I tried to perch on my bag but a friendly Italian lady insisted I take her seat. I didn’t say no because I had to work out how I would get from Genoa train station to my accommodation.
Genoa is not an easy place to navigate using the free Maps.me app. With just a pointer it doesn’t consider the masses of water that surround Genoa or how it is structurally built. Nicholas Walton perfectly described Genoa as a ‘tiered wedding cake’. A fifteen-minute walk turned into an hour exploration of the city. Again, my enthusiasm couldn’t be curbed. I was back in Italy!
Once I found my air b and b I almost squealed with delight. I loved it – I had a balcony that looked out to the port and my host was an artist and the little touches around the place made me feel like I was in an art studio.
Genoa is famous for its port, Christopher Columbus, focaccia and pesto sauce. The food was the best – I was never a fan of either focaccia or pesto sauce but I had never tried it from the original source. My days started with coffee and focaccia just out of the oven – the soft savoury bread with pockets of oil was delicious – you can snack on this all day. The pesto is served with pasta which was originally served to bid farewell to departing sailors – with fresh pasta and wine it was delicious.
At night the Port came to life with a food festival and entertainment. I’m not sure if it is there all summer but it was fun to be part of it both nights I was there. I liked watching the salsa dancing.
In the day, I explored the town – no one told me to steer clear of any areas. I got lost in the narrow alleyways in the historic city centre. It was the only time on my trip that I felt a little scared. I felt like I was in a maze and the more I walked the more lost I became. I stumbled upon the area where prostitutes waiting for their customers. They looked out of place in the deserted alleyways in their high heels and painted faces in the late afternoon. I was relieved when I found my way out. Apparently, prostitution has a long dark history in Genoa. Prostitutes were known as candle woman because the duration and fee of their performance was determined by a notch etched on a candle.
I spent my last afternoon in the port museum. My favourite place was the rooms filled with maps. I don’t like maps. I can’t read maps very well but those maps intrigued and I ended spending hours there. These were the maps that guided the first explorers like Christopher Columbus to discover other parts of the world. To me these explorers were brave. I wouldn’t have been able to find my way out of the port!
I became intrigued with learning more about Christopher Columbus when I got back to my air b and b that night. In Genoa, he is a hero. He led a voyage into the unknown. Christopher Columbus wasn’t the first to reach America but his voyage led to the first European contact with America. Christopher Columbus claimed the lands of America for Spain in 1442. Italians see him as building a bridge between Italy and America. Later many Italians would immigrate to the US. As I did some research I found that the current Mayor in New York has opened a debate about whether the statue of Christopher Columbus should be removed. Christopher Columbus spearheaded the transatlantic slave trade – he has been accused by some of genocide.
One of the greatest lessons of my gap year has been to be very critical of the history we are taught. It is usually the perspective of the conqueror.