In the city of Genoa, on the Italian Riviera, Ayanda hears what Christopher Columbus was really searching for when he discovered America.
Italy has more famous cities – Rome, Venice, Florence – but for food, we are told that the port of Genoa on The Italian Riviera makes it the nation’s most delicious city. Having just returned from there, we can confirm that everything they say is true.
Nicknamed la Superba or, the proud one – Genoa boasts a glorious past as a port which ruled sea trade in the Mediterranean. With rich architecture reflecting its merchant history, it is also the hometown of basil pesto, focaccia bread and for day-trippers whose cruise ships dock here – retail therapy lies in every direction.
Milan, lies just North of here so the boutiques are right on trend. Many of these line the caruggi, a maze of narrow streets throughout the old city. It’s a rare chance to shop the latest in style from buildings dating back to the twelfth century. At the heart of The Italian Riviera, this is a crossroads for those travelling the Med and seven million seafaring visitors pass through Natascia Clemente’s home town each year.
A walk around town or a siesta by one of Genoa’s many fountains is a good way to digest a lunch of pesto pasta which so many visitors want to try before their cruise-ships move on. The old port was built on trading herbs and spices like Basil – which originates in India and the story of this city’s most famous son is closely tied to this trade.
Not every period structure is an ancient fortification or museum. People live in the vibrantly painted buildings and have done since the collapse of The Roman Empire.
A morning hunk of focaccia bread with some of the local bianchetta wine is a favourite and refreshing Genovese snack before heading out to see more of the sights. Like the Cattedrale di San Lorenzo – bombed in World War Two but which, thankfully, survived.
Genoa has left an impression on many artists and thinkers. The composer Verdi wrote work inspired by its history. Author of The Great Gatsby, F. Scott Fitzgerald also wrote about it and the psychoanalyst Sigmund Freud lived here.
Whichever period the buildings were built in, from the twelfth century or the Renaissance, there are so many locals living in and around them that history feels alive here.
After ‘pranzo’, as they call lunch - the Genovese love nothing more than a passeggiata - an easy walk along the promenade or through the thousand year old streets of a city where the past and present are hard to tell apart.
As a foodie, in Genoa – they say you fall in love three times every day – at breakfast, lunch and again at dinner. The next day, it’s the same all over again.