Pesto with beans and potatoes, prostitutes giving street directions, spontaneous swimming in the sea at 4am, the steepest stairs you've seen in your life and a magical look-out called the "Bigo".
If you ever get the chance, go to Genoa. I've waited too long, it took me five years until my friend E. managed to convince me, and really we only went because of the aquarium and because it's the hometown of late Italian singer and songwriter Fabrizio de André, who she is in love with.
Genovesi are stingy, the city is ugly and dirty, it's the Naples of the north - these were things we had heard about Genoa, so we started our trip with zero expectations (but then I love Naples, so I guess I was biased.) Also we took a train at 6 o'clock in the morning, no one can really be too enthusiastic about anything at that time.
Have you ever switched cities in a country and felt as if you've arrived on a different planet altogether? That's what happened when we arrived from Rome after a five hour train ride.
We hadn't slept much, it was hot and we got completely lost in Genoa's old-town while trying to find our Airbnb, mostly because it was impossible to tell the countless tiny, winding streets apart and also because Genovesi use two different colours to number their houses - red for commercial and black for residential buildings - and obviously we didn't know this and thought they were tricking us when we saw the same number twice.
Also, there are prostitutes on every corner of quite a large area of the old-town, at any time of the day. This is rather intriguing, since you directly get to see men interacting with them. Strangely, nothing about this is strange. It's as normal as having a chat with the woman selling pastries at the Pasticceria. Or gossiping with the hairdresser. Don't get me wrong, this is no Amsterdam. The prostitutes are not there as an attraction. They are much more part of the whole environment. Part of the daily business. So much so that you can ask them for directions to the next supermarket. Or where to buy the cheapest beer.
We visited the aquarium, then a tiny simulation of a rain forest inside a plastic ball they call the "Biosfera" and then moved on to what would become one of our favourite attractions: The Bigo. This masterpiece of modern architecture would become synonymous for everything fun and nostalgic related to this weekend, and also the reason why the Genovesi would laugh at us because they all find it horrible (and really it is horrible. It's just that it enchanted us, much like a summer romance does. And then you obsessively hold on to the pen or T-Shirt or bus ticket connected to this summer romance until one day you realize how silly your obsession was, and you can smile at it with fond memories instead of frantic yearning, but this is getting completely off point here.)
Time for some food, so we went to Trattoria da Ugo and ate the best pesto of our lives, yes, OUR LIVES:
No worries about calories either: Almost no building in Genoa's old-town has an elevator, and going up the stairs to our apartment on the sixth floor was a bit like climbing a very high mountain: You get the adrenaline rush, you feel immensely triumphant when with the very last strength left in your legs you reach the final step, you feel you've achieved something great when the sweat starts running down your forehead. Just be extra careful when you've had some wine, because these bitches are steep:
What is most beautiful about Genoa is that it is an extremely open-minded city. You can see this by looking at it's mixture of people, talking and laughing and dancing together to random African street music, but also in its street art and graffiti culture. At the port, on walls all over the city, on the floor: Genoa gives off a very liberal vibe, welcomes immigrants and doesn't like current Minister of the Interior Matteo Salvini, who opposes same-sex unions and declared the people of southern Italy to be parasites (he himself comes from the richer Milan-area).
At night we went out to a place by the port the Genovesi without feeling any shame call "Banano Tsunami" and were amazed that we didn't get jumped at by a pack of meat-crazy dinosaurs (I'm writing "dinosaurs". What I really mean is "Italian men".), as often happens in the wilderness that is Rome's nightlife, until we realized that it was a gay event. We quickly made some friends and what followed was a 24-hour adventure in and around this beautiful city: motorcycle rides, a swim in the sea at 4 o'clock in the morning, breakfast and a walk and aperitivo by the beach, the best foccacia in town and then a final ride to the train station to catch our train. So much for Genovesi being stingy.
This city was so much worth a visit, we'll definitely be back.