Rumskys Repositioned from the Caribbean to Europe and Back Again travel blog

Our final destination port of Savona is a delightful surprise!

Goodbye ship, hello backpacks!

Waiting for the bridge to go down along the waterfront...

We stumble across a cool flee market while walking to the train...

Genova greets us with a burst of color!

We start at the excellent tourist office on Via Garibaldi

Palazzo Rosso is home to the family of the town's godfather, Andrea...

A bed fit for a king in the Palazzo Rosso!

And a view on the top to match!

We love this intriguing technique of fresco seemlessly becoming bas relief...

Visitors can enter many of the Palazzos on Via Garibaldi as they...

We seek out Columbus at the excellent Galata Museo del Mare

We find his signature and more information about Andrea Doria

The exhibit also gives a shout out to Lewis and Clark in...

Seaside view from the Galata is topped by the Castello d'Albertis

Fun-icular up to via Balbi and Castello d'Albertis

We just have to see the Castello for ourselves!

Columbus looks out from the Castello's balcony

Sea captain Enrico Alberto collected these Hopi kachina dolls from the new...

Columbus' childhood home is tucked into the city gate

Inside his home they thank Alberto for his support!

Stunning Hall of mirrors at the Palazzo Reale on via Balbi

The sumptuous gardens of Villa del Principe, home of Andrea Doria

San Lorenzo Cathedral houses the Museo del Tesoro

Plate reported to hold the head of John the Baptist

A little reminder in gold of how the story of John the...

Illuminated fountian of Piazza Rafaele de Farrari

Selfie in front of the picturesque Boccadasse

A memorable meal surrounded by locals at Bar Berto in Piazza dell'Erbe

Our ship originally was scheduled to dock in Genoa (Genova) but it was changed to Savona. Undeterred, we decided to take a train from Savona to Genoa. The disembarkation process was very simple and we found an English-speaking information office right at the port. She gave us a map to the train station and with plenty of time to spare, we decided to carry our backpacks through the town. What a nice place! We stumbled upon a flea market along the main street and enjoyed checking out Savona's version of sell-able junk. After determining which train our Savona to Genova stretch was on, we easily boarded it and made it to Genoa.

All I can say is wow. This is now my fifth time in Italy, and I can't believe we never came to Genova! The city is absolutely stunning, with many, many things to see and do. It really hasn't advertised itself (perhaps wisely) avoiding the hordes of tourists that descend on other parts of Italy. As a result, it has a very homey feeling with friendly people, and is easy to get around. The tourist office was hugely helpful and provided us with free maps as well as a museum pass. For only 20 euros pp we could get into all of the museums we wanted, which otherwise would have cost us 58 euros pp! Also, our fantastic airbnb hosts recommended that we get a 24 hour pass for the public transport, which we also used all over the city. Highly recommended for incoming tourists.

In a very simplified nutshell, Genova has had a long sailing history. Not only did it produce its most famous son, Christopher Columbus, but it also produced Andrea Doria. A poor man who made a name for himself as an admiral who defeated the French and then the Turks, he realized that he could sell ships to his neighbors who were eagerly discovering new lands. When the ships returned with their treasures, they would come first to Genova, give the shipowners their cut, and then bring the rest to the country that financed the trip. Low risk, high return! He then sealed the deal by marrying off his heirs to a relative of the Pope, Doria and his cronies became fabulously wealthy and built all kinds of palatial homes to rival anything you might see in Rome, Milan, or Venice. Their families thought a lot of themselves and filled their homes with paintings of themselves by the likes of Van Dyck and Rubens, carvings out of marble likening them to Roman Gods, and giant tapestries demonstrating their heroic exploits. These homes are primarily along two streets, the downtown street of via Garibaldi, and via Balbi, which is higher on the hill and linked by a funicular. Both streets not only have "palazzos" turned museums to visit, but also centers of government offices and public art spaces. Literally everywhere you look is something sumptuous to see.

Arriving late, we zipped into the Palazzo Rosso near the Tourist information office and took a quick look around, where we learned about Doria and the families who made Genoa into a work of art. A highlight included a rooftop view of the town to help us get our bearings. The next day was a Monday so many of the museums were closed. No worries! The helpful tourist office actually had a paper that listed all the museums that were open and their times so we could plan accordingly. We decided to start at the waterfront, at the Galata Museo del Mare. With a whole floor devoted to Columbus, including his most famous portrait, his signature, and information about his travels, it was right up our alley. We were delighted to see that Lewis and Clark were listed amongst subsequent explorers in the Americas! The museum has several floors, one of which was devoted to Italian emigrants and the immigration experience, quite a timely one for today. Best of all was a spectacular view at the top, sheltered from the wind by plexiglass. As I scanned the cityscape, I noticed the distinctive Castello d'Albertis rising above the skyline and made a mental note to check it out.

Needing to prioritize our palazzos, we made a point of visiting three over the next two days. The Villa del Principe was built on the orders of the godfather himself, Andrea Doria, so that required a visit. Here Doria's hubris was quite visible in both the statues of himself styled as Poseidon, as well as the tapestries he ordered showing his successes in driving the Turks out of Genoa. The Palazzo Royale was also particularly impressive, with its Hall of Mirrors reflective of that at Versailles, as well as its throne room for the Savoy royalty. But my favorite was definitely the Castello d'Albertis. A man after my own heart, Captain Albertis traveled the world collecting interesting and impressive tidbits. As a true explorer he also loved all things Columbus, commissioning a beautiful statue of Columbus gazing out of his balcony.

We later found out that he also played a major role in the development of Columbus' house, a tiny space in the City Gate, Porta Soprana. Seeing the (reconstructed) space where Columbus grew up, a poor child among a family of wool weavers, and imagining that he went on to change the entire world, is truly an inspiring experience. Near the gate, the San Lorenzo Cathedral is worth a look, especially if you can get into the Museo del Tesoro with the Museum pass. This tiny museum has some super-cool treasures, such as a chalice thought to be the Holy Grail, bits and pieces of Jesus' cross and Mary's hair, and even the plate which held the head of John the Baptist! For those not familiar with his story, a huge golden chest showed scenes from his life on its sides.

Columbus and religious memorabilia aside, some of our favorite memories of Genova will be evenings spent in the local squares, enjoying regional wine and aperitivos, and watching kids run around while their parents smoked and gesticulated wildly to each other. Stolling along the seafront to colorful Boccadesse, soaking up the true Italian atmosphere, these are the moments to be savored in Genova. Salute!

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