Fur coats, little dogs, big handbags…
sleeping on a bench
“Ah-h-h..” he thinks.
Life on the French Riviera….joggers, runners, bicyclists, moms/dads/grandparents pushing baby strollers, in-line skaters, serious walkers with weights in hand, tourists on rented bikes, tourists not paying attention when they cross over the painted green lines on the boardwalk designated for bicycles/skaters/joggers only (oops “sorry”), elderly people on their daily walking regimen — this is the boardwalk that separates the Mediterranean Sea from the town of Nice, France. I was not participating in any of the above activities, since my focus was: “I will have another cappuccino and oh, yes, a tiramisu gelato – 2 scoops, please, in a waffle cone — oh, and can you drizzle some chocolate over that? Merci!” Heaven. The Matisse, Chagall and Beaux Artes Museums and a Russian Orthodox Church provided ample opportunities to walk from one end of town to the other with these destinations in mind. The Nice harbor was home to huge yachts, and I do mean HUGE yachts, bearing flags from countries all over the world, with employees on board setting the breakfast tables for their “captains”. BMW SUVs, Mercedes, taxis, Smart Cars, old cars, motorcycles passed me by on the coastal road as if James Bond was in pursuit. The sunny days did not prevent the women wearing fur coats, and the chilly mornings did not prevent the men in Speedos from taking their daily swim in the Sea.
The 3’ X 3’ elevator lift used for transportation of tourists to the top of a mountain to see a castle, was retrofitted for a well shaft and provided an opportunity to really experience acute claustrophobia and emerge ashen faced, groping for a brown paper bag to stop hyperventilating. It was worth the ascent, though, the views were stupendous. Resort towns… this one was no exception to why a locale becomes a “resort community” … gorgeous surroundings, beautiful views, mild weather and the Mediterranean.
After spending three days in Nice, I walked to the station to board the train for Italy. I passed a poster “Nice Party Bus” pasted on a lamp-post and imagined Nice 60 years ago – same beautiful locale, but calm and peaceful, with residents living their lives and the occasional tourist complimenting the town as opposed to overtaking it.
The short train ride from to the Italian border showed the coastal development. I don’t think there was a square inch of land that didn’t have a house or apartment building on it. And, yet, how beautiful it would be to sit on a balcony overlooking the Mediterranean Sea during the summer months? Pretty spectacular, I would imagine. But, what a cost…
Arrived in Ventimigla, Italy greeted by German Shepherd drug sniffing dogs, I changed platforms and boarded a regional Italian train to Genoa. It trundled through tunnels and along the coast, stopped at every little town, and eventually arrived in Genoa 2.45 hours later.
Genoa (Italian: Genova), is a city and an important seaport in northern Italy, the capital of the Province of Genoa and of the region of Liguria. The city has a population of about 610,000 and the urban area has a population of about 900,000. Genoa’s Metropolitan Area has a population of about 1,400,000. It is also called la Superba (“the Superb one”) due to its glorious past. Part of the old city of Genoa was inscribed on the World Heritage List (UNESCO) in 2006. The city’s rich art, music, gastronomy, architecture and history, made it 2004’s EU Capital of culture. Genoa, which forms the southern corner of the Milan-Turin-Genoa industrial triangle of north-west Italy, is one of the country’s major economic centres. The Bank of Saint George, one of the oldest in the world, was founded here in 1407 and played an important role in the city’s prosperity from the middle of the 15th century.
I checked into the hotel close to the train station and set off to explore the city. Never having been to Italy, I was totally unprepared for how BIG everything was: gardens, gates, statues, fountains, marble pillars, paintings. Currently in Genoa, there is a push to get it on the tourist trail and several palazzi(houses) are now converted into museums with the original furnishings, artwork and ceramics. The beauty and care that went into these houses – every detail of stitching on drapes, painting of frescoes, building furniture, mini chapels, displayed fabrics – all was done with care and pride of the finished product. And just so damn gorgeous.
All the while, I was thinking though ,”Let’s see, Greek mythology – what do I remember? ZIPPO — …”And these Italian painters, what do I know about them?” – ZIPPO… And, it is not like there are just 4 or 5 — oh no, that would be way too easy — so, spoke with my daughter-in-law who majored in Italian renaissance art. “Hi, just need a brief run-down on all this!” She laughed, and once regaining composure, did help me understand some of the basics so I could at least grasp something of what I was looking at! Then, I found a guide-book with the following first index headings: HISTORICAL SURVEY – 1 page; MOST FAMOUS ARTISTS – 2 pages; BRIEF ART HISTORY STARTING W/10th C. – 2 pages — I bought it! Hope springs eternal that with more exposure, knowledge sinks in and is absorbed…
The first four floors of the Galata Museo del Mar (Maritime Museum which chronicles the evolution of sea exploration in Genoa from the first boat construction to new sea liners) are dedicated to the emergence of Genoa’s sea trade. The fifth floor is dedicated to the Italian immigration to America. The visitor holds an immigrant’s passport and walks thru the experience of leaving Italy and boarding the ship, walking on the decks, sleeping quarters, experiencing debarkation, Ellis Island, medical checks, and, finally, what happened to the person on the passport. A Carnival Cruise advertisement in a magazine gets me seasick, so God knows what I was thinking when I entered “LA AMERICA EXHIBIT”. I basically crawled out at the other end, after looking at waves undulating on film thru portholes, standing on the undulating floors in the sleeping quarters, and the sound of waves crashing over head piped in on the sound system. Despite this, it was an excellent immersion(no pun intended there)…and the museum – fabulous. A gallery guard came up to me and said “Signora, we Europeans are your grandparents….” Food for thought…
Genoa – that seedy sea-trading port aspect contrasted with some beautiful modern museums, trendy shops mixed in with North African/Moroccan neighborhoods, statues of C. Columbus(oh yeah, I remember him now!), cobblestone streets, non-beautification for the tourist trade, the old city, all the aromas of freshly baked pastries and pizza, friendly people, the two ladies on the metro who told me I was getting on the train going in the WRONG direction–so it goes….on to Pisa..