Some Slum, Some Glam
It was very early in the morning when I arrived in the Piazza Principe railway station. I took the night train from Rome. It hadn’t been a comfortable sleep for quite some time then.
I had to do my usual routine of checking my baggage in during the express travel in Italy every morning. However, I had a bit of time to eat breakfast. It felt human.
I usually would spend no more than a day in most of the cities I visited in Italy. That day was no different. I didn’t book any hotel or hostel in Genoa. I didn’t have any map of the city. I had to find my way into the nearest tourist office and hope that it either wasn’t too late in the afternoon or too early in the morning.
I had heard that Genoa was nothing like her glorious past, but when I stepped out of the railway station, I wasn’t expecting the city to remind me so much of Napoli. The streets were rather dirty. I was in a slum. There were ugly graffitis sprayed randomly about.
I wanted Genoa to be more than this. I felt sorry for Genoa. Genoa should’ve been better. For a start, at least it wasn’t a lost civilization. There wasn’t yet any sign of bustle and hustle. I had no idea how busy this city would get. It looked like a large city, but very early in the morning, there was only quiet.
Soon, some of the streets had cleaner and prettier rows of houses. There was some hope, I thought. The annoying, unsettling silent streets soon changed into quiet wonders of the past. It felt magical early in the morning. I passed by houses of extremely power and rich people in the past. If just simply encapsulated in my own fantasy, I imagined the spirits of these houses stand somewhere with all their dignity and pride intact, looking over their estates.
Anyway, as I had mentioned, I hoped it wouldn’t be too early or late going into the tourist office. Even though I was admiring the streets, I was also in a constant search for the tourist office.
Unfortunately, one of my fears manifested itself. I came upon one tourist office that wasn’t yet opened. It was around 8 o’clock in the morning. I was in a dilemma.
I could wait for the tourist office to open. That way I would be able to get the free map and know where I’m traveling to. However, I would really be wasting 1 hour of my time idly waiting. I didn’t like that.
Or, I could go on venturing the city. I knew a bit of Italian. Enough to ask the Italians where the nearby tourist office was. Most of the time, it wasn’t all that difficult to navigate through the city either. I thought I’d just risk it.
I walked through random streets, but the bigger ones. I kept pressing ahead carrying only my instinct with me.
Where did that bring me? Piazza de Ferrari!
Piazza de Ferrari – My Morn Jewel
I was in one of the best squares in Europe! It looked very beautiful! It reminded me a bit of being in Milan more than anywhere else. And I liked the vibe in Milan. It was still early in the morning, so I didn’t expect it to carry the kind of atmosphere that Milan had. Moreover, Milan was a lot more popular.
Soon enough, I learned that there was a tourist office here and I didn’t have to waste my time, because it was very easy to get back to this square and get back when it just opened. I wanted to explore Genoa as much as possible, given the limited amount of time that I had.
I quickly learned about the Aquarium and because I missed the one in Milan, I was quite excited to try this one out. Plus, I heard that it was the largest in all Europe! I didn’t know that! I knew that Genoa was a significant trading port and had a significant naval power. It was very natural for Genoa to be related to the sea, but I didn’t expect Genoa to have the biggest aquarium in all of Europe!
I saw groups of people buying tickets for the aquarium. I realized I should probably buy the tickets before I’d have to line up like a silly man, eliminating all the advantages of being there early in the morning. However, the Old Harbor, or the Porto Antico, was also quite a sight. The vast view of the mountain regions, the expansive sea, the rows of palm trees and the line of colorful houses and the luxurious boats all in one place! I had to take a couple of pictures before going into the aquarium.
The line was starting to grow long to enter the aquarium. Not long, I joined in and got myself a combined ticket to enter the tropical rainforest as well.
The Biggest Aquarium in Europe!
I chanced upon the guide book inside the aquarium, I thought I’d buy the English version after browsing some of the pages. There were plenty of pictures and information. Two things I loved in my life.
I spent most of my morning here all the way up till it was time for lunch. Here are some highlights of my experience in the aquarium:
- Curious sea animals beyond the reach of natural sunlight
- Amazing variety of jellyfishes
- Touched the top of stingrays. Felt funny.
- Saw venomous stingrays forbidden to touch. I didn’t know that there were ‘safe’ ones and ‘dangerous’ ones, especially not one that was so dangerous it shouldn’t even be touched. I still didn’t know how to differentiate them.
- I saw a chameleon. My first time witnessing a chameleon moving their eyeballs independently. They could balance on just two feet at a time for a very long time. It wasn’t camouflaged.
- I saw fishes featured in Finding Nemo. The clownfishes and the dory.
- Saw a really tiny frog. Tinier than one of my fingers.
- Saw a hummingbird in its own habitat. There was no barrier between me and the bird. I saw the bird fly about a lot more flexible than a helicopter. It was insane. Really loved hearing the noise these hummingbirds make.
I had seen matinees and penguins before, so it wasn’t such a big deal. However, witnessing these animals was worth my money and time! I didn’t know how or why I had this fascination for the animal kingdom.
This is my story about my time in Genoa up to before lunch. I hope it gives you a glimpse of what you can expect from visiting Genoa. It’s really one of the places in Europe I could recommend! For example, how about trying the famous pesto sauce the Genoese often prepare?
In the next post, I would talk a bit more about this curious city, providing some bits of trivia about Genoa, some of the attractions to catch and some photos! Of course, if you’ve read this, you would already know that the Aquarium will be one of the attractions. There are plenty more, though. Keep posted!