Genoa, Italy feels like an authentic city. A UNESCO site, the old city/port area is full of little shops and narrow streets, reminding me of the feel of side streets in Hong Kong. There are buildings from the 11th century mixed with Renaissance palaces and grand fountains. Unlike so many towns I've been to, this just feels more raw and unpolished. This is the Europe I've been looking for.
Totally by chance that I got to discover this place. Thanks to generous support of the project I've been working on with Ocean Alliance and Olin College's Intelligent Vehicles Lab, I got to tag along as we went to present our work at the IEEE OCEANS/MTS conference in Genoa, Italy. We scored a great airbnb apartment for the six of us, and discovered that food is really cheap in comparison to Boston. (Though apparently it's not as cheap as food in southern Italy.) It certainly doesn't suck to be an ocean engineer, and everyone perks up when you tell them you build SnotBots (flying robots that collect whale breath).
- Genoa is the birthplace of Christopher Columbus. In fact,his family became very wealthy after he discovered America, and created a cover story that they had acquired family wealth through a pirate uncle, so that people wouldn't try to link them to their working-class background.
- Genoa became insanely rich during this period because of their mad pirating skills. In fact, they would intercept Spanish ships combing back from South American colonies, and then loan money back to Spain.
- They had a lot of shipbuilding going on, and mostly built ships that were manned by their prisoners of war. 4 passengers to an oar, and 50 oars per ship for a total of 200 prisoners to power the ships.
- Today the city still remains a large important Italian port, although most of it goes through the commercial port, not the old port (has also been that way since the 60s).
- Most of the folks from the Italian region of Liguria migrated to South America (not nearly as many made it to the U.S.). In particular, many people immigrated to Argentina, and helped to create the tango, and the futbol team is named "Boca," after the small fishing town in Genoa called Bocadasse.
- Most banks don't have a foreign exchange here. Instead, you need to go to a Cambio (it may also just say "Change" on the front of the store).
- Things are mostly closed on Sundays until after church and lunch (~ 3:30pm)
- There's a metro line but for the most part it's probably easier to walk.
- The streets are made of cobblestones in the majority of the old town, so you may want to rethink about that rolling suitcase.
Sights to see:
The museo del mare (Maritime Museum). You'll learn a bunch about Christopher Columbus, the port's history, climb around a submarine, and see some great models and paintings. Also on the roof of the building, there are some fantastic gardens.
- Via Garibaldi. Once a street full of all the wealthiest families in Genova, it is now mostly businesses. Definitely worth the walk through to see and admire the architecture.
- Royal Palace Museum. Two different powerful families lived here and it's like a mini-Versailles of sorts. Worth the 2 euros if you're a student (half-price), but even at 4 euros it's a steal.
- That museum is also located on Via Balbi, which has some amazing architecture. Across from the Royal Palace Museum is the local university, and there's a nondescript-looking church called Basilica della Santissima Annunziata del Vastato that you need to see because it is absolutely amazing.
- Piazza de Ferrari. It's got a great fountain and lots more architecture. There's also the Genoa Cathedral around the corner (with some great deadbolts and paintings and organ) as well as a major art museum. FYI there is also a Cambio here (brown awning across from the bronze statue).
- Bocadasse/Portofino/Cinque Terre. So, we didn't make it past Boca, but the other places are very well known for their picturesque views.
Links to my albums on Flickr: