Updated: Jun 30, 2018
Genoa/Genova , both are acceptable pronunciations, but try not to say Genovia, which is the country from Princess Diaries. A mistake that I only made once... TWICE, okay?
I'm going to be honest, I did not have any desire to go to Genoa. I knew that we would meet our friends (Michael & Geppe) in Paris and that the four of us would go somewhere from there, but this trip was made more because when I searched flights, it was cheap, than "it's a destination that I've always wanted to see". I've spent a lot of time all over Italy. I love carbs, I mean, Italy. I just needed to not be in Tennessee and I didn't care where we were. Geppe was actually pushing for us to go to Italy and after I started researching Genoa, Portofino, Cincoterra (a place where there are no roads and you have to walk everywhere), I was excited!
My husband (Ian) and I stayed in an Air B&B with our friends, Michael & Geppe. Both of those things are a first for us. I've never used Air B&B to book a place to stay... okay, I've only ever stayed in hotels. I'm not that trendy. Anyways, if you are going to pay to sleep in someone's house, it seems like an Italian Villa might be a good place to start!
Ian and I land, straight from Paris! The four of us had all arrived at different times. Michael & Geppe got there when the sun was still up while Ian & I arrived much later, around 11:00pm. To get to the villa, you had to be dropped off at a side street because the road became too narrow for cars. We disembark and, in the middle of the night, start hiking with all of our luggage up a stone hill. Thankfully, Michael happened to be walking down at that time and was able to intercept us and walk us to the villa. I don't think we ever would have found it in the dark on our own. The villa was a good size. The four of us would have to share a bathroom, which can be a little awkward, especially since so many European bathrooms (including this one) lack that noise buffer so no one has to hear your business from the living room. Ian and I had a private bedroom with a window overlooking, well, the moon over black water (the following morning, we saw that it was a stunning view of cypress trees, rolling green hills, & sapphire blue water) and you could hear the ocean. Ahhhhhhhh. Fuck, yes.
After arriving, I was (of course) fucking starving! I eat a lot when I travel. I eat a lot when I don't travel, but I feel like it's more inconvenient when I'm, say, stuck in an airplane, jonesing for fries... So, Michael and Geppe tell us that there's this adorable pizzeria at the top of the hill (I use the term "hill" loosely because I'm from Florida and everything higher than a sand dune looks like a mountain to me, but this was a really high fucking hill). I am vegan, so anywhere that there is bread and marinara, I can usually find something to eat. Also, the idea of this pizzeria promises wine because it's Italy and everyone has wine. So, we take off on foot into the night and trek up this very steep hill/mountain... going around and around until we reach the top, very out of breath, only to find that the pizzeria has closed for the evening. The owner was still there, so we did the only thing that we could and purchased 7 bags (small bags, don't judge me) of chips and two bottles of wine, a staple for any vegan diet.
Obviously, nothing is better for a dehydrated flier like alcohol and salt, but it filled my belly and allowed me to sleep without the television on (which is great because the only TV was in the kitchen).
Ian and I set out on foot to explore the city. Well, first we waited to catch a bus, but I'm impatient and decided, fuck it, I could use the exercise. So, we began our trek down the hill/mountain along the road until we saw a set of stairs that looked like it used to be a walkway. This is Italy. There have been villas on top of mountains long before there were cars or roads to take them there, so this it is not uncommon to find crumbling paths that have been forgotten over the years. We decide to take the road less traveled and carefully climb down the first set of stairs, which connects to a narrow path and then another set of stairs, and another, you get the picture. If I had been alone, I would not have taken this path. I want to be clear that a woman alone taking a side path down an alley is not ever a good idea, no matter what country you're in. We pass no people on this path and both of us are beginning to wonder if we're ever going to get to the bottom, but we're too stubborn to turn back. Eventually, we come to a highway and I can see a clearing. The beach is this way!!! Thank God. I am a beach baby, born and raised on the Atlantic Ocean and it feeds my soul. Genoa is a big city and I wanted to see the Ferrari Fountain, but I really wanted to put my toes in the sea first. This city is called Bocadasse. We get to an overpass and can see on our left, the back side of Portofino with boats bobbing towards it. As we walk closer, we get a full view on the beach, Genoa jutting out on our right and right in front of us, a frenzy of cafes with people smoking, eating the fresh catch, sipping white wine while birds dart in and out of the vista. Ian and I are not big breakfast people so we have not eaten yet, but we are very big al fresco dining people meaning, I would eat ice out of a paper cup and pay good money for it as long as I could feel the sun on my face and smell the salt water.
We agree to eat lunch in an outdoor restaurant when we get hungry and there are literally over 30 placed right in front of us, so we decide to go down to the water first. I, per usual, am not dressed appropriately for the beach. I am wearing vegan doc marten combat boots, skinny jeans, and a Tennessee flag T-shirt. It's a gift, truly. The beach has no sand, just smooth stones and pebbles. I've never seen a beach like this in my life. I peel off my socks and combat boots with oiled up Italians in minimal clothing all around me. I will never think of Italy without smelling tobacco in my mind. Smoking is common in every city I've ever been to in Italy. This is no exception. It isn't a gross smell, more like a sweetness, like my grandfather's pipes. The sun is bright but not hot. The wind whips hard and strong, wrapping knots in my tousled hair and warm tobacco mixed with salty air fills my lungs. I try to stand up but the pebbles all move at once, reminding me of being in a ball pit when I was a child.
It takes a couple tries to find my footing, acutely aware that the stones beneath me could shift at any moment and leave me back on my derrier. I precariously walk down to the water and roll up my jeans as high as I can. There is a massive drop-off in the water. Just 5 feet out, the floor disappears and I can see why the waves appear misleadingly small. Trying to crawl out of the water with nothing but loose pebbles to get your footing is perhaps an analogy I could use for so many moments in my life. I do not wade past my ankles. The water is shockingly cold, but feels great on my tired feet. I lay down on the sun-warmed pebbles with Ian by my side. We both begin sorting through the pebbles, noting the variations in their composition. Was this rock once walked on by dinosaurs? How many years has this one tossed around the waves to be this perfectly polished? There were tiny sea glass stones sparkling in the sun. We began collecting our favorites. Being from the beach, I've never understood people collecting sea shells. Fervently pocketing exoskeletons to take home never made sense to me, but here I was, filling my pockets with rocks. What use would I possibly have for these? I told myself that my friend, Niki (a jewelry designer) could make them into jewelry, but I have yet to send them to her. It's funny the things that we assign value to.
After we committed to a sane amount of pebbles to bring back to America (still up for debate), we decided to find a cafe to eat. We walked along the beach and passed about 7 that didn't look desirable enough at the time. There was a castle up ahead and undoubtedly, the other side of the castle would also have restaurants to choose from. This castle was perched on the edge of a cliff. There was a path, like a sidewalk that clung to the cliff base and would surely be more adventurous than walking back up to the busy street! Ian went first and I followed. After we turned the first corner, there was a gate to a restaurant that was closed for the season, but there was also a small footpath that went around it and so, we trekked on. Around the next bend, the path disappeared, but we didn't want to go back, so Ian carefully choose our path over jagged rocks where a path had once been, but washed away over the last hundred years.
We kept looking at each other, knowing that this was stupid, but also loving the bit of danger, and more still, that it was all ours. Not one other person was out here (for good reason)! Finally, we lost even jagged rocks to climb over and there was nothing but the sea hurling angry waves against our feet. We looked behind us and saw a small, worn staircase. Why not? I went first, up the steep steps until we came to a clearing where the worn stone turned to a stable slab of concrete with a modern set of stairs heading straight up, connecting to the main road. We were now exhausted and really hungry, but there weren't restaurants on this side of the castle. There was a small village which opened onto a massive boardwalk, flooded with people selling art, jewelry, tourist crap, but no food. There were private beach clubs on our left but they had already closed for the season.
We finally came to a bar, but they informed us that the kitchen had just closed. Okay. I was now hangry. If you aren't familiar with that phrase, it's when you've become so hungry that you are now a raging bitch. Ian tried to hold my hand and I was not having it. "Don't you look at me with those eyes. No, sir! I need food now!". We saw a large restaurant with cars parked out front. The manager was standing outside, which is usually a good sign. As we approached, his face lit up and our face lit up, but he was just excited to talk to people. He explained in Italian that today was a national holiday and that they, were also closed. I can't explain why I am this way, but I am a control freak. I love schedules, alarms, planning, packing snacks "just in case", etc. And when I lose control, it is not only psychologically difficult, but physically as well. I quit speaking to Ian altogether. I clearly couldn't feed myself and here was my partner, totally not helping solve this problem either, which at the time, seemed like enough of a reason to be livid. Listen, low blood sugar is a real thing and after walking over ten miles on an empty stomach, I was beyond insane. I felt tears begin to burn my eyes. One block down was a gate with people spilling out. It was a bar. At this point, I would settle for the calories from an Italian beer filling my stomach. The bar was full but there was a cooler with Moretti wedged behind a group of guys. I grabbed two large beers and headed towards the register where I spotted a couple bags of chips (the only food on the menu, hanging on the back wall was smoked meat and cheese, not vegan-friendly), bought them, and headed outside. Ian and I sat on a bench overlooking the water. There were people around us but we weren't in the mood to mingle. We both inhaled those chips and sipped the beers fast at first, but slower as the sugar rushed into our bodies and the alcohol whammed into our blood stream. Ahhhhhhhhh let the crazy go. The waves now licked the shore which had turned to sand, while the sun dipped low in the horizon, setting the sky ablaze against whispy clouds. It was a beautiful sunset and the notes of honey in our lager were satisfying. We still wanted to eat real food, but were not in danger of murdering anyone or turning to shrubbery for a vegan snack.
We left the bar and turned right, heading towards the city. Surely something would be open in the city. Who knew that finding food in a modern city could be this fucking difficult? We walked on, but every restaurant was closed. Ian searched for vegan restaurants on his phone and found one a few miles away. I refused to walk any further. He hailed a taxi and showed the driver the address. Wouldn't you know, as we pulled up, they were closed. Hah! So funny (kill me)!
So, we asked the driver to take us to the Ferarri Fountain. This is the number one tourist destination in Genoa. It is, just a fountain, which is why it was not on the top of my list of things to do. It's a tourist trap. There would be food here. He dropped us off and we were correct. There were many restaurants dotted around the famous fountain. I took a picture of Ian in front of the fountain. He offered to take mine but I grumbled something about not needing another fucking picture of myself and we made our way over to a restaurant with outdoor seating.
What can I say? The service was terrible and food was worse. It's the classic, "I'm fucking starving but I'm also vegan and my Italian is rubbish so, what can I eat?" song and dance. The answer was pizza with no cheese and fries. Great! Who fucking cares at this point? Don't get me wrong, a pizza without cheese can actually be really good, but this tasted like canned sauce and the fries were mealy and I ate all of it, with another beer and decided that Genoa was not my favorite place.
Ian and I bought some groceries to prepare when we got home. Much to my surprise, there was an entire vegan section as soon as I walked into the grocery store! What?!
This never happens. There was vegan pesto, pasta, dessert, oh my! We grabbed some beautiful tomatoes, gnocchi, pesto, a red sauce, bread, and vegan ice cream, hailed a taxi and rode all the way back up to our villa (well, the path next to our villa). We didn't even cook the food, just ripped chunks of bread and shoved them into the pesto jar, intermittently popping tomatoes into our mouths before falling into a deep sleep.
Miles walked, 14. Carbs Consumed, 4712.
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