Before I talk about Genoa, I'll skim over a couple more things I did in Milan because they are worthy of mention. On Friday, I visited the Archeological Museum of Milan, the museum I'd meant to go to on Thursday that mysteriously wasn't there. This time I found it without problems. The museum is located in an ex-convent and details Milan's history. Milan was founded by a group of Celtic people and taken over by the Romans. Unfortunately, most Roman ruins haven't survived, but there are still the ruins of a Roman dwelling behind the museum.
The following day, I went to the Navigli district. Milan used to have a series of canals but they were filled in over time and today only three remain, making up the Navigli district. When I arrived, I was rather shocked to find that there were only a few inches of water in the canals and more trash than water. Once I stopped staring at all of the trash, I found that it was actually quite a charming neighborhood. Shops selling antiques, music, comics, and other trinkets lined the canals. Small alleyways led to artists' workshops with plants dangling over the balconies. I liked seeing this quieter, less luxurious side of Milan.
The following morning, I woke up early to catch my train to Genoa at Milan's central train station. I got there hours in advance in case anything went awry. There was only one small hiccup; the train station time tables stated that my train would depart for Rome instead of Genoa. I've found that it's best to just ask someone for direction in these kinds of situations, and a station employee informed me that Rome was the final destination but my train would stop in Genoa on the way. Relieved, I enjoyed the rest of the morning walking around the train station. While much dirtier than Oslo's, Milan's central train station was still interesting. Huge stone pillars held up the lofty ceiling and various carvings, paintings, and mosaics depicted the city's history.
I boarded the train at 1:45 and took my seat by the window. It was a pleasant ride. A small fold-out table in front of my chair allowed me to write in my journal and I utilized the outlet next to me. Beautiful Italian countryside sped by and I enjoyed seeing hill towns as I got closer to the ocean. I headed straight to my hostel upon arrival. Learning from past experience, I meticulously planned my route before I arrived, mapless. I knew that my hostel is located in the historical part of town, but I didn't expect it to be right next to such an incredible street. It's right off of Via Garibaldi, a UNESCO World Heritage Site lined with extravagant palaces. Most cars aren't allowed to enter, and as I walked down the cobblestone street it felt like I was in a dream. Classical music played from speakers on street corners and the palaces looked like fancy cakes. I originally was going to relax that afternoon because I hadn't slept well in a week, but it was clear that I had to start exploring the moment I checked in.
Newly duffelbag-less, I hurried out the door. Hostel reception supplied me with a map but I didn't need to use it initially, following the signs to the old port. The most noticeable feature of the port is Il Bigo, a structure that sticks out of the water like a giant white sea urchin.
Though it's clearly a more touristy area, there are a ton of interesting sights along the water and it was fun to check it out. I lamented not being able to do everything at once. Eventually, exhausted, I wandered back to my hostel. Two Swiss roommates greeted me when I walked through the door and we played Yahtzee until midnight!
The sun came out on Monday and I wandered back to the waterfront to visit on of its many attractions, the Galata Museo del Mar, a maritime museum. The man selling tickets must've been under the impression that I'm fluent in Italian because once I negotiated buying a ticket for the museum and submarine, he told me about the museum while going a million miles per hour in Italian. A bit confused but pleased, I walked upstairs to the first exhibit, a room full of maps dating back to the 1500s. It was fascinating to see how the world was viewed hundreds of years ago. In the later maps, California was drawn as an island in the Pacific Ocean. If I couldn't find a sandwich shop using detailed directions from Google Maps, I marveled that people used these maps for exploring. I moved on to the next rooms, which held many astronomical devices used for navigation. This room was entirely lacking in English descriptions, so I tried my best to read in Italian. I think a lot of my Italian progress is thanks to most museum descriptions being in Italian. If no one is around I read it out loud to myself, and I can usually get the gist of the text. The next rooms held replicas of a big seafaring boat and rooms typical of the boats that sailed to New York from Genoa in the early 1900s. I spent a couple more hours than I expected to looking around. Afterwards, I went inside the submarine in the port outside.
I was amazed by how many rooms they packed into such a small place. I imagined how claustrophobic one would get after spending two weeks in there. My audioguide invited me to try lying down in one of the bunks, saying "If you lie down in one of these bunks, you can experience the thrill of sleeping next to the torpedoes!"
I spent the rest of the day enjoying the sunshine by the water. Good thing I did because the rain came back with a vengeance on Tuesday. I set out in search of a sculpture museum in the morning and spent the rest of the morning lost in tiny, winding streets looking for it. At some points I could've put my arms out and touched both sides of the alleyways at the same time. Though I didn't find the museum, it was fun to see little shops and piazzas. I called it quits in the early afternoon because Genoa is considerably less charming when it rains. Back at the hostel, I made soup in the kitchen and met a big group of people from the US. I enjoyed a glass of rosé with them while we hid from the rain.
Yesterday I woke up early to eat breakfast before going on the free walking tour that my hostel offers. Our group of five was comprised of people from Turkey, Argentina, Australia, the US, and Greece (our tour guide). Though our guide wasn't born in Genoa, he was informative, funny, and able to give us insights both as a foreigner and as a local. Departing from the hostel, we made a huge loop around the historical district. First, we walked to the Genoa Cathedral, which looks like a cross between a layered cake and a zebra. This style of architecture is typical of Genoa. The church started in the 1100s and witnessed the start of the first crusade, which launched from Genoa. As a result, the art inside has influences from many different centuries. My favorite part was the Byzantine art, including angels with dozens of eyes on their wings. During WWII, a grenade was fired into the church and fortunately did not explode. It remains there to this day.
Next, we walked by Christopher Columbus' house. It's debatable whether he actually came from Genoa, but it's widely maintained within Genoa that he resided there.
Before continuing onward, we stopped at a bakery to get a focaccia, a Genovese speciality. This bread speciality comes with any topping you can imagine, but the kind we got were plain and fresh out of the oven with just a bit of olive oil and salt. The outside was crispy, but the inside was fluffy. It was delicious. We ate as we continued our walk. To finish our tour, we climbed up a big hill to get a panoramic view of the city. The tour would've been worth it for the view alone.
Our Turkish companion had to catch a train right after the three hour tour ended, but the rest of us liked each other so much that we went to lunch together. Our tour guide brought us to a small local place near the waterfront. For just 10 euros, we got a first course, second course, glass of wine, and a tiny coffee. I had the best gnocchi I've ever eaten. The gnocchi and pesto sauce were both homemade. Our guide had to leave after lunch, so the remaining three of us wandered around Genoa for a while. When we got back to the hostel, we encountered another friend I met the previous day, a guy from Oregon. It turns out that he worked at OSF for two weeks a while ago. It was fun to talk about Oregon and it was great to be talking with fellow travelers in general.
This morning I had breakfast with my friends and said bye to my Australian and Oregonian friends. It was sad to know that we may never see each other again, but I'm glad that our paths crossed at all. I headed to a nearby flea market and perused the jewelry, vinyl records, and other trinkets. Flea markets are great places to get unique souvenirs for a great price. I bought a couple vintage postcards and a small model car. I did all of my negotiating in Italian, which was a fun challenge. Next I headed to my favorite gelato place. The woman who runs it makes all of the gelato by herself with natural ingredients. The best gelato I've ever had is her rose gelato. It really is like eating a flower, but in the best way. The gelato is super soft, not too strongly flavored, and has a pleasant aftertaste.
I think that that's all for now. I'm sorry about the length of this post and I hope that this was entertaining! I've certainly been having a great time here and I'm excited for the rest of my Genovese experience.