Monday 21 April 2014
A trip to Italy, at a fraction of the cost of Coogan's jolly
La la la la............ etc etc
On days like these when skies are blue and fields are green
On the waterfront, Marlon was conspicuous by his absence but “The Bigo” had been chucked up, not in his honour, but as nod to the importance of the port. Erected during the city’s tenure as European city of culture it was designed by Renzo Piano and is reassuringly over engineered, it is inspired by a ship’s derrick that lifts loads into the hold. The structure dominated the harbour and included a lift of sorts that purported to be the finest view in Genoa, and did indeed provide a great view of the water and boats, even for one not so comfortable with heights.
Madam thought she had stumbled across the world’s biggest Plasma screen TV and waited patiently for Pointless, but it was a side viewing window for the gargantuan tank and the two dolphins who sped into view were immediately christened Xander and Richard
Emerging blinking into the sun we wandered the streets of the medieval quarter for the remainder of the day, taking in all manner of shops some of which were marginally bigger than our airing cupboard. A dog friendly city, they are frequent visitors to shops, sometimes on a lead, sometimes not. A dachschund we encountered on the second floor of a department store contemplated a purchase in the haberdashery department, which in the grand scheme of things didn't seem too remarkable until you consider that the only way it could have got up to the needles and pins department was via the escalator.
Dining in a covered arcade at the unimaginatively titled but highly recommended Europa Restaurant we were served and entertained by Charles, a genial cove of Nigerian descent with a razor sharp wit and fluent in ten languages. He ran through half of his repertoire during our short stay and ought to be employed in the United Nations. The food was ok, but Charles was the highlight of the evening, as he thanked our country for colonising his in the Nineteenth century providing him with the opportunity to learn the beautiful English Language.
The next day we shuffled along Via Garibaldi, a remarkable street of palaces built by the nobs in the sixteenth century, to Palazzo Rosso, which was red and adorned with something called “Stucco”. Elaborately decorated inside with gilt, fancy frescos and spooky cherubs, the paintings weren’t up to much and the main drawing room was closed for restoration, so a chap in a smart jacket who spoke six languages and possibly worked at the Palazzo, asked us if we had a head for heights. In a pan european mix up of languages “Si” was confused with “No” “Bonjour” and “Uno Cerveza Por favour” and we were whisked up to the roof. Not to a window with safety rails looking out from under the rafters but a small platform precariously perched on the ridge of the six storey Palazzo where, if I had opened my eyes, I would have taken in one of the finest views in Genoa.
Next, an afternoon perusing downtown Genoa , where there are big shops and every ten yards a beggar on his knees in the middle of the pavement with his hand held out. I am sure terrible circumstances have led them to this way of life, but several old boys spent all day on their knees on cold concrete. Five minutes on my knees and the agonyometer soon starts to rise, as an opening gambit to getting your life back on track try standing up to shake your plastic cup. One chap lay face down in the street for much of the day which added to the drama of the begging experience, before we saw him strolling past our hotel later in the evening with several bags of shopping and a slightly scuffed nose.
The crusades feature highly in many of the churches, and the Genoese flag mimics the flag of St George. One small church in the shopping district had enough Knights templar imagery to cure Dan Brown’s erectile dysfunction at a single stroke,
Should he ever suffer from such a condition,
Which I am sure he doesn’t, as he’s virility personified on the inside jacket of his books......... Grrrrrr!.
With a twitch of the eye (it was very strong coffee) we moved on to our next Funicular, a proper train type, rack and pinion affair that we honoured through the medium of song. As our ascent commenced our lung bursting “Jammo, Jammo, Funiculi, Funicular” drew mixed reviews from the remainder of the carriage which consisted mostly of casalinga and kids on their way back from school. We curtailed our rendition after the first verse and peered down at our shoes for the remainder of the journey.
We descended in silence, bar a brief burst of Torno a Surriento which seemed to upset some, who were understandably proud of their home town.
More shopping for Madam so I exited stage left and headed for the home of The Doge, The Palazzo Ducale, and with the furniture cleared out, now an art gallery hosting some swirly if disappointingly undisturbing pictures by Edvard Munch which was ok if a little limited. Downstairs, two hours flew by in a exhibition of photos by Gianni Berengo Gardin, a Genoese photographer who took photos when skill was required and cameras were not idiot proof. He turned down a proposal to join Robert Cappa et al at Magnum (nothing to do with Tom Selleck) preferring to work off his own bat; principally in Italy but also in other areas of Europe.
Culture done, it was time for food. A restaurant was identified via the internet and we set out on our quest. After an hour bumbling about little streets, Madam’s ire, fuelled by no little hunger, brought about a relatively bloodless coup. I was required to relinquish my role as navigator, maps were handed over and I subsequently followed on a few yards behind as Madam forged a path to a restaurant titled Il Genovese.
I’d go again. But stay at the Bristol Palace hotel. it's something else.
To the extent that Bristol Palace are now our football team of first choice.