Tiziana and I exchange a conspiratorial glance, we sigh almost in unison and shaking our heads with happy resignation we say: “Genoa really is always beautiful”, then she adds:
In moments like this I can’t help but think about how I really do live in the most special city in the world
These are some of the feelings which sparked from our Tour of the historic shops, a beautiful tour of the historic centre of Genoa which I had the pleasure of taking part in together with great company one grey cloudy morning in October, which gradually took on a completely new colour as we delved in to our discovery of the historic locations.
A journey among traditional flavours and ancient occupations, following the maze of alleyways among wine bars, fried food shops, bakeries and sciamadde
This is how the tour was described but these words are not enough. You need to really experience it and feel lost among the narrow alleyways of the city to completely understand the beauty of this trip. Obviously, it has all been worked out so that nobody gets lost, our group was in fact accompanied by guide Antonella Cama who took us by the hand and guided us among the dark and light of our ‘vicoli’, telling us the history of the city and showing us some of shops which we pass by every day but, due to rushing, distractions or as a habit we lose the opportunity to look. And I promise you we’re really missing out.
In front of certain places the imagination runs wild. How can you not daydream thinking about how many sailors stopping off in Genoa during a long sea crossing had stopped off in the Giacalone Barber shop before setting off again on their trip?
And who knows how many stories are held within the Antica Sciamadda, a typical Genoese rotisserie where it is possible to find all the specialities of Ligurian cuisine: every kind of vegetable pie, fried friscieu and chickpeas farinata from a wood-burning stove, taken out of the oven before your eyes.
Moving towards Piazza Campetto I cannot help but ask myself how much candied fruit has been displayed over the years in the boxes of the Romanengo patisserie, which has been in Piazza Soziglia since 1780. How many children will have dreamed, and still dream, of covering their faces in a bowl of the tasty cream from the Cremeria Buonafede in Via Luccoli? (Come on, let’s say it, it’s also the dream of many adults!)
But there are many of these little shops: the Torielli grocer’s shop, the Migone wine shop, the tripery of Vico Casana, Klainguti, the artisan shop L’aria del mare and many other places which hold stories of people and meetings which cannot leave you indifferent.
Crossing the narrow streets, some of them almost the width of a person’s shoulders, you’ll perhaps feel observed. Observed by buildings, by streets and by walls full of the history of noble families from long ago and the multi-ethnicity of today. Probably observed by curious or diffident looks from some of the inhabitants. Don’t be scared or let yourself be intimidated, the Genoese people are a bit like their city, behind a seemingly stern expression is hidden their great warmth.
The trip concludes at Le Gramole oil shop, a small shop in Via dei Macelli di Soziglia. Here we have a tasting of typical products and local wine: croutons with pesto, Italian extra-virgin olive oil, salted ricotta, hazelnut and chocolate ‘bacetti di dama’ biscuits (one after another… a true delicacy), marmalade, cheeses and much more.
A very enjoyable conclusion to a walk full of new discoveries but which also left me with a certainty: the unmistakable richness, often hidden, of this city in which I have been living for almost twenty years and which I have learnt to love with all its contradictions.
So, if you allow me, accept advice from an honorary Genoese:
allow yourselves a Saturday morning to see Genoa in a new light.
At first sight it could seem a slightly stern city but in reality it is just reserved and introvert and if you have the patience to search for its hidden beauty I assure you that, as often happens in these cases, the effort is worth it.
If you then find yourselves like me and Tiziana full of a strange happiness walking round the city, it means that you too have also discovered hidden treasures and were won over by this place which is always full of hidden corners and new stories.
Text and photos by Eleonora Caldari