Monday, August 20, 2007

GOA Travel Article

By Fritz Faerber
Associated Press

GENOA, Italy (AP) -- Genoa, if you ignore the debate amongst scholars, is the birthplace of Christopher Columbus. But after visiting the famed historic port, you might wonder why the explorer ever left.

Tricked out in all the wealth of the Middle Ages and Renaissance, it must have been stunning. Even a half-millennium after its heyday, the Italian port cuts an impressive figure.

This Italian city follows closely behind two of my other favorite cities, San Francisco and Barcelona. Like both, it has lovely hilly terrain and a seafaring tradition. Yet, for some reason, Genoa slips under the radar of many guidebooks. The books we used in two previous trips to Italy carry nary a mention of the city. Our last trip was centered in the Piedmont region around Turin and we decided to add Genoa and the Italian Riviera. I'm glad we did.

Though Genoa can't elbow past Rome, Venice and Florence amid Italy's must-see cities, it is a fabulous spot. The prices are reasonable, it is less crowded with tourists, museums abound and it offers wonderful cuisine, with an emphasis on seafood and the local specialty, pesto.

A stroll through the Medieval center peels away the centuries. The labyrinth of narrow streets lives in nearly perpetual shadow as 500-year-old buildings lean in until they almost meet. No street follows a straight line for long and it's a challenge to keep a sense of direction. But getting lost is part of the fun. Every twist and turn reveals a surprise, from 500-year-old palaces and glorious churches to thoroughly modern Internet cafes and trendy little restaurants or the seedy red light district. There's the occasional surprise of a mini-traffic jam as determined Italian drivers inch past each other in the impossibly narrow streets.

Genoa was an important trade center by the third century B.C. Its sailors have plied the world's trade routes since the Phoenicians and Greeks. Genoa offered a jumping off spot for the Crusaders. And, it was a major player in European politics from the 13th through 16th centuries. Its merchants dumped their profits into stunning palaces lining the renamed Via Garibaldi. Back then, it was called the Via Aurea, or golden street, an appropriate name. Many of the 16th century palaces are now museums. And others have courtyards open to the public.

As a determined (some might say stubborn) hiker, I insisted we keep walking the coast in search of a perfect restaurant (many were closed during our off-season visit). We found perfection in the town of Bogliasco, at the restaurant il melograno (Via G. Mazzini 96 T 010 3474226). The seafood menu changes with the day's catch. We split what I awkwardly translate as a seafood sampler plate of delicate anchovies, shrimp scampi, oysters and a white fish I couldn't translate, followed by lobster ravioli and a whole grilled fish. Everything was so fresh, I half-expected it to swim off the plate and into my mouth. A very friendly regular, Silvio, coached us through the menu and spent the afternoon chatting with us over a decanter of Spumante, a refreshing Italian sparkling wine.

Though Genoa likely won't overtake its more famous peers among Italian destinations, it deserves a visit in an extended Italian vacation, or on one of the subsequent trips after Italy has won your heart and frequent returns.


Virginia M Byers said...

Thanks a million this is JUST what the Genova sick student needed.

btw my car is STILL in the shop from our little flood!!
See you this weekend.

meg said...

Ha, my parents emailed me this article :)