Our first breakfast in Melia Hotel was in a rather sombre room next to the bar. There was an urn dispensing unappetising coffee and a variety of food-stations tucked into various corners, so collecting breakfast involved lots of walking, and the crockery provided did not necessarily correspond to the food it was next to. There was a good selection of food though, and if you ignored the fruit flies hovering above the watermelon, it was all very nice.
Emm had failed to find a walking tour (our plan for the morning) so I looked online. I was distracted by a review of Giavanni, one of the tour-guides. The review said he spent too much of the tour looking for English words in his dictionary, tended to speak while walking along narrow lanes so no one could hear him, and did not appear to actually know anything about Genova anyway. In his defence, Giavanni said that he had never claimed to have any knowledge! I didn’t feel he was the guide for us, though Bea was quite keen.
I wrote down all the places listed by the walking tours, and we decided to visit them on our own (because one of the main advantages of walking tours is that they show you places you would otherwise miss). Jay plugged the places into his phone, and we set off. We saw lots of interesting buildings, many of them rebuilt in the 18th century, including the apparent birth place of Christopher Columbus.
We went into the cathedral, which stands tall and proud in the centre of the city. It claims to hold the ashes of John the Baptist, which were taken there during the crusades (I am making no comment here). The church was very ornate, with lots of gilt and statues and paintings. It didn’t feel very holy to me, and I thought it was a sad place—so much had been spent on decorations when the city was full of slaves.
We wandered along narrow lanes, past old houses, through tiny squares—each one with a church. We ate ice-creams before walking up Via Roma, which had coloured windmills strung above it and was lined with expensive shops.
We ate dinner at a Mexican restaurant. It was quite a long walk from the hotel, through an area which did not feel especially crime-free, but it meant we saw more of the city. There were many massive staircases, Genova is built between and on the hills, and your legs get lots of exercise. We passed beautiful flower beds, and the huge arch of Arco della Vittoria, inscribed with the names of the war dead.
Sunday August 18th
Jay and I found an English-speaking church within walking distance and set off after breakfast. The rest of the family went to the aquarium to see the poor trapped dolphins and other fish (no judgement here).
We went to Le Chiesa di Santo, The Church of the Holy Ghost, which is an Anglican church, and I was unsure what to expect. It is the most welcoming church I have ever attended. As we walked in, we were given books, and a brief explanation of how to use them throughout the service. It was a communion service, and we were told that if we wanted to take part we were welcome to, whatever our usual church. The congregation was a whole mix of people, a variety of ages and colours and dress-styles. There was a sermon, by an enthusiastic black preacher, who I couldn’t understand because his accent was very strong, but what I heard I think I probably disagreed with—but somehow, the sermon wasn’t what mattered. What defined this church was how welcoming, how loving, it felt. There was a time when people offered ‘the peace’ to each other, and I think everyone in the church, from the toddlers to the vicars, offered the peace to everyone else. People seemed genuinely pleased to see each other, and genuinely pleased to have visitors amongst them. The singing was almost non-existent (us and the vicar sang, while an excellent musician played the violin, but everyone else sort of mumbled their way through the hymns). The children took the offering, and forgot to go to several pews, and had a minor disagreement half-way round. The building was big, old, and falling down in places. But again, none of this mattered—there was just something holy and loving and attractive about the place. When the service ended, we were offered wine and crisps—but we are English and unfriendly, so we left (and afterwards, as we were walking back to the hotel, we wished we had stayed). If ever you are in Genoa, visit this church. I hope to go again one day.
We ate a picnic lunch on our balcony. Husband and Emm ate Italian bread and olives and cheese and tomatoes (though I think the cheese was Swiss, but they tried). Emm said there were more people than fish at the aquarium, but the dolphins looked very happy in a big tank. Bea said she had needed to set a time-limit on the interesting facts offered by Emm about every fish they saw—and I think Husband had photographed every single fish…they will be looked at many times in the future, I’m sure.
We walked to the Galata museum. This is a museum all about boats, but it’s surprisingly interesting, with a reconstructed galley, complete with slaves rowing, and various interactive displays. One floor was dedicated to emigres, and you could walk through their living quarters on a boat, where they lived during their voyage to America. The museum staff helped with the atmosphere by offering passports to all the children, and we didn’t tease Bea at all when she was given one too…
We then walked, in the scorching heat, to the lighthouse. We passed a massive cruise ship leaving the harbour, and a lot of rubbish bins, and we walked under a huge flyover as that was the only shade—so it wasn’t the prettiest walk I have ever been on, though it might have been the hottest. I had thought the lighthouse would be next to the sea, and I could sit outside and read while the family climbed it. However, it wasn’t near the sea at all, so I decided, foolishly, to go inside too. The steps were an open stairwell, so you could see right down to the bottom. It was very scary, especially when passing people on the way down, when you had to cling to the rail and hope you didn’t plummet to your death (there was, to be fair, a metal screen protecting you, but it looked very flimsy to me). However, you will be glad to know that I survived, helped no end by the boys singing to me on the way down, to take my mind off the near-death experience.
We then walked a very long way to a restaurant which was shut (I didn’t make these plans). We then walked even further to a restaurant which was open. I was unsure what to expect, as we walked along a street lined with strip-bars and massage parlours, but actually, the restaurant was lovely. We sat down, and I felt very old because my legs were aching so much. Then I checked my phone app, and saw that I had walked, in the hot sun, for 18.5km and I had climbed 40 floors. I felt that my legs were allowed to ache.
We ate at L’Ostetrattoria, on Via Alessandro Rimassa. It was an Italian restaurant, with deep red walls and tablecloths, and decorated with a clutter of interesting things. The waiter was friendly and helpful, and the food was delicious. I ate pasta, then balls of cod which had been deep-fried, and I drank wine and an ocean of water. It was wonderful.
I slept very well.
I hope you have a lovely day. Thank you for reading.
Love, Anne x
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