Exploring Genoa

We’ve already established that the first half of this trip is about some Lavezzi family history. Tomorrow we’ll head for the little town of Bettola, which is where my great-grandfather Giovanni emigrated from in 1870.

Genoa is now the capital of the province of Liguria, but before Italian unification it had eight centuries of history as an independent republic. Bettola, where we head tomorrow, is now in the province of Piacenza, but for hundreds of years it was part of the Republic of Genoa. So my Lavezzi ancestors, and the Lavezzo ancestors before them, were Genovese, and this was their capital city.

So today we spent the day getting reacquainted with this ancient proud port city. We visited the Cattedrale di San Lorenzo, a hundred meters from our apartment, the Palazzo Ducale, a hundred meters from there, and the Piazza di Ferrari, a hundred meters from there.

Downtown Genoa is ridiculously compact. (Take a look at the picture accompanying yesterday’s post for a look at the courtyard outside my bedroom.) As far as I can tell, the only green space in Genoa is in some parks, and none of them is downtown. Downtown Genoa is entirely paved, but that isn’t as monotonous as it sounds: the paving materials vary from place to place depending on the age and prestige of the area. Most of the paving dates back centuries, so it’s pretty uneven.

On top of that, pet dogs are ubiquitous here, and ridiculously well-behaved, sometimes walking disconnected from their owners. One problem, though, is that there is no grass anywhere; so dog owners must clean up after them on the pavement. Most do; but, as with most behavior, not all: it gives pedestrians one more reason to watch where they’re walking.

We also visited Vico Lavezzi, also just a few meters from our apartment. A vico is essentially an alley, even narrower than a via, which might be only a dozen feet wide. We’ve never been able to find out who this Lavezzi was: we don’t know whether he is related to my family, or even if he came from the same villages we head to tomorrow. But we always take our group’s picture under the Vico Lavezzi sign, and this trip was no exception.

Genoa is built on steep hillsides rising from its port on the Ligurian Sea. Downtown, just off the port, is just barely above sea level, but most of the town rises several hundred meters from there. To get a view of the whole thing, we walked partway and then used some types of public transit we’re not used to in the states: ascensores (elevators) and funiculars (cable-cars). From those heights, you can look down on the city and enjoy the presence of some parks, with trees and grass. It seems a world away.

We returned downtown for dinner in a cafĂ© in the piazza outside the cathedral, and got back to our apartment to get a good night’s sleep before we break camp for Bettola tomorrow.

Today’s photo is a panorama view from the heights away from town–the place we hiked and took a funicular to get to. You can see a bit of the Ligurian Sea on the horizon.

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Author: StgCoach

Retired teacher and public education leader. Pastoral musician, community activist, parliamentarian, and photographer.