With an almost becalmed Mediterranean Sea, you’d think that the overnight ferry from Barcelona to Genoa would lull you to sleep peacefully, like a contented just-fed baby…
…but no, it is to be a sleepless night. This has nothing to do with the sea but everything to do with the paper thin walls between cabins.
On one side of the wall is a very loud Italian family, not sure of the number. The mother screeches at her children like a deranged Banshee.
On the other side of our cabin is an Italian couple with delusions of being in a nightclub, with the need to shout loudly over each other’s voice, whilst playing extremely loud music.
If this isn’t bad enough, the bunk bed with its thin smattering of a mattress feels just like an aged wooden plank and not at all conducive to sleep. The bedding is clean though so this is a bonus.
The morning finally rolls around with a pretty sunrise and Genoa in the distance – always exciting landing in a new country.
I notice passengers frantically filling out a little white entry card, so I ask staff for a couple.
The ferry is about an hour late into the Port of Genoa and understandably so, as we left Barcelona late so time wasn’t made up during the night. With apprehension starting Reg after the stressful boarding up the steep ferry ramp backwards, he starts first go – amazing. Good old Fiats.
We drive out of the port without anyone checking passports. No border control checks. No handing in of the little white entry card. Nothing.
We could have brought anything or anyone into Italy. Whether it is because of the Great Britain number plates sported by Reg or whether it is just a slack entry port, I have no idea. Amazing though, as it is only one week after the Paris “Terrorist” attack.
Lizzy is programmed to take us to the campsite. And take us she did, well almost…
Towards the spiralling steep uphill road we drive.
Of course this is Italy so most roads are quite narrow, tight, and spiralling. This one is not any different.
Lizzy became confused: “Turn right, turn left, turn right, turn left.” But wait, there isn’t a right or left, so, stuck on a loop she stays. I’m sure you’ve all had one of these sessions with your SatNav?
Luckily, spotting signs to the campsite saves the day and guides us on our merry way, and a relief to finally reach this pleasant site.
Distance: 13 kilometres
Diesel: No fill
Roads: E25, SS1
Campsite: €25/night cash or €27/night for credit card including power (we stayed 11 nights, which gives us a €15 discount)
Campeggio Villa Doria (Pegli) – About 50 pitches in a lovely leafy surround and very quiet this wintery time of year. Excellent hot showers and very clean facility block.
Ewa and husband (owners) are excellent and very helpful. Ewa speaks English fluently and very vivacious, especially about Genoa – her excitement about site-seeing in Genoa is infectious.
When it’s time to leave, Ewa even phones our next site to see if they’re open for the winter, as we’re having trouble finding open campsites.
Only about 10kms out of Genoa, Pegli is a small seaside town with a much quainter feel. Although traffic isn’t slower – it is Italy after all – there seems to be less cars here so streets appear to be quieter.
Gorgeous old architecture graces this town and Genoa is easily accessible by train, water bus, or bus. Take a lovely relaxing walk along the seafront.
If you have time, stop and watch elderly men play Petanque.
I had a full-on half-hour conversation in Italian about religion, migrants, philosophy, and more. My head hurt afterwards as after only three days in Italy, I am struggling to remember my Italian, which I’ve barely spoken in many years.
Just one mention in this section as we prepare all our meals using Reg’s kitchen.
Bar Pasticceria Marzio’s Café
On via Lungomare di Pegli, this cafe offers great coffee (€1.30) and pastries, and local meals. This little place is along the waterfront and exudes a lovely ambience.
Great supermarket with everything you need on via Pianilucco 15q Rosso. Everything is delicious here, cheese, fresh pasta, fresh fish, hams, and fruit and veg. Seafood is more expensive in Genoa than in Spain, regardless of where you shop. Alcohol is about the same price. Hams are about double the price of Spain.
On via Martiri Della Liberta 15, this is another great supermarket although much smaller than the COOP, but with loads of supplies at cheaper prices than the COOP. With this much selection, just had to stock Reg up again – alcohol here is sold at varying prices, but there’s always a bargain.
Lovely meeting my cousin for the very first time, and kindly collecting us from Pegli for the drive to Valle Calde, which is about half an hour away, to have lunch and meet his parents.
This gorgeous house is in the mountains, which is substantially colder than Pegli but very scenic and serene. It snows here in the winter…a lot.
My cousin and her husband bought the house and slowly renovating it between working – a slow and hard labour of love. Also met their 6-month old pup Hero, who is absolutely gorgeous and full of mischief.
Many fruit trees adorn the grounds, even a Kiwi fruit tree.
Meeting my cousins for the first time is great and we speak for hours, ending up staying for dinner. So hospitable and kind.
Remember, food is never a fleeting moment in Italy.
Strange how you meet people for the first time but you feel as if you’ve known them for an age…a lovely encounter.
With this city’s impressive landmarks, American born writer Henry James also described this port city as ‘The most winding and incoherent of cities’.
Walk around one of Europe’s largest cities on the Mediterranean Sea for any length of time and you start to understand why. Genoa is also Italy’s largest seaport.
Stroll around the port area for just 5 minutes to be absorbed by the multi-cultural essence that makes up this area of the city.
Genoa has been a trading port for centuries and it shows in the shops, people’s faces, buildings, and general feel of this area – it’s lively, a little seedy, some areas are a little grungy, but quite intriguing.
I love the feel of the port as it’s not pretentious in any way and quite raw. There’s a part of the port that seems to be home and a melting pot to many different nationalities and religions, all going about their business and minding no one else’s business – an acceptance of each other.
Travelling between Pegli and Genoa
If you’re taking the Metro from Pegli to Genoa, the journey takes about 20 minutes and the bus is about 35 minutes. A ticket costs €1.60 for 100 minutes of travel on buses and trains.
Buy bus tickets before you board a bus. Preferably the same for trains but there are conductors that will sell you a ticket on the train.
Principe, is the station to get off the train, which is a tad closer to the old town and sites than Brignole. If you get off too soon, it’s a short easy from Brignole – why not stop off for a coffee here as it’s cheaper than the old town.
Gorgeous port area of Genoa and lovely at night, especially with all the Christmas lights this time of year.
This area of the port is more upmarket as it’s seen a revamp.
Stop by the Palazzo S. Georgio, which has a reproduction of St George slaying the dragon.
The marina along here is home to multi-million-dollar craft of all types and varieties, but you won’t be able to enter the heavily watched marina – and rightly so, I guess.
As expected, you can only catch a bus around some important streets or square when in the historic centre as the incredible amount of caruggi (alleys) are so narrow that it’s impossible for vehicles.
If you can, walk everywhere as apart from seeing more, you can still eat Italy’s evil 3 P’s (pizza, pastries, pasta) without feeling too guilty.
The sheer number of piazzas, palazzos (homes), and ancient architecture is worth having sore feet and blisters for – do this several times and you still won’t see everything.
Famous for its plethora of Baroque architecture, which is very impressive, this street is where you can see all the grand palazzos – the majority of which have been renovated and are very swish.
Bring a wide-angle lens.
Piazza de Ferrari
Huge piazza with the large impressive Fontaine Ferrari, which most bus drivers seem to swerve around like they’re in a Ferrari.
Many shops and cafes surround the Piazza, and are quite chic.
There’s an abundance of excellent food in this city.
I’ve only mentioned a few here as mostly cooke our meals in Reg. Remember, that many places charge coperto – a fixed per person charge – but this is not uncommon in Italy.
On via de Amicis 36, this caef serves good coffee (€1.10) and is not far from the Brignole Metro – busy with locals so you know it’s good.
Fossatello’s Border Café
Along the Piazza Fossatello 8 R, you can order delicious and big Focaccia (€3.50) and good coffee (€1.20) – tiny place but great service. Sit outside in the Piazza, which is grand.
Visit Palazzo Reale in the Old Town on via Balbi 8, for great service, coffee (€1.40), and onion Paninis (more on offer and also sells alcohol as most of the smaller cafes in Genoa).
Although tiny inside with minimal seating, there are small tables and chairs outside in the Piazza so you can watch the Genovese go about their daily errands.
Antica Vetreria del Molo
Wandered around for about 10 minutes with my cousin down dark centuries’ old alleyways trying to find this rustic gorgeous but very hidden restaurant on Vico Chiuso Gelsa, 8R – he hasn’t been here for 10 years.
Finally finding it, you have to ring the buzzer to enter.
This is a family-run restaurant with very warming homemade genuine local dishes. Deliciously scrumptious spinach filled ricotta in a walnut cream sauce, Gnoccichinni, reasonably price wine (bottles €10-14). Many beers and also cider available.
Primi Piatti €7-8; Secondi Piatti €14-16; didn’t get to deserts as everything is very filling. Meals are accompanied with free bread, of course.
The building is amazing. A heavy timber staircase reaches us to the next floor and exposed wooden ancient frames. Such a rustic feel and wonderful ambience.
If you find yourself in the massive Centro Commerciale shopping mall on via Romairone 10, then this is a great little place for an excellent cheap Cappuccino (€1.17) – one of the cheapest so far.
Like most bars in Italy, it’s common to stand whilst having your espresso shot (€1).
Whilst in Genoa, you must try the famous Pesto a la Genovese. After all, this is where Pesto was born and it is deliciously excellent. Buy a jar or two to take home – it’s sold everywhere.
Other shops of interest
A few more shops from someone that doesn’t enjoy shopping…
G.M.DI Razzore Marco
For excellent Italian leather trekking boots (€95 – other cheaper Chinese options on sale) stop at via Soziglia 78/80R. This shop is overflowing with all types of shoes.
Along Genova Via P E Bensa 36/38, this shop offers great shoes for men and women. The shop is bustling with locals. Picked up Italian made leather boots for around €67 but there are cheaper Chinese-made, if you’re interested.
On Piazza Banchi 15R, you’ll find this small rammed full hardware shop with barely an isle big enough for a mouse to scurry through. Although this shop sells most things and is that packed with locals that you need to take a number to be served.
On via XX Settembre 143 for all-natural products from France. Using Yves Rocher products in Australia for a very long time, but no longer able to buy it there, whenever I see a store I go crazy. Poland is very cheap but this store in Genoa is the cheapest I’ve found in the world, so far.
The Centrol Commerciale L’Aquilone on via Romairone 10 is massive. Shame we only have half an hour to get our motorhome bits as we’re off to dinner, otherwise, would spend a lot more money.
Even bought snow chains for Reg – these and a snow shovel are compulsory during winter months in Italy.
Along via Canneto Il Curto N. 76 Rosso is this small supermarket but stocks most of what you need and right in the city centre, so great for a few things before you leave the city.