Charlie and I have been fortunate to travel to Italy a number of times. On this occasion, we visited Genoa in the Liguria region.
We stayed on the converted fourth floor of an Italian Palazzo. We approached by taxi, which was a hair-raising experience through the tiny streets.
The ancient city of Genoa still hosts a thriving port and the narrow streets of the old town are filled with life. Gilded churches abound. Prostitutes sit in doorways in the half-light. Threading our way through the maze of cobbled streets, we emerged from dim ravines into sunlit piazze.
We began to ascend, through wider streets, rising steeply up towards the mountains that embrace the city. Up and up, unable to see past the lofty buildings that scaled the hillside.
Then we emerged to wonderful views of the city and the sea beyond.
A night’s sleep and then we set off to explore some more.
At street level, the city is intense, occasionally to the point of seeming almost oppressive. Not so bad in the April sunshine, I found myself wondering how it would feel in the depths of January.
But as ever, in Italy, food was not far from our thoughts.
On the last day, we took the funicular railway up into the hills and walked back down.
And then we were back down into those narrow streets again.
On Friday 20th November, Charlie and I travelled to Milan. The excuse for going (if one can be said to need an excuse for a trip to Italy) was to see Simple Minds, but I confess I was looking forward to the food as well. In this I was not disappointed.
Here is Charlie, about to consume (second) breakfast in a wonderful pasticceria.
I think actually we were very restrained as you will see from this picture of a small selection of the cakes in the window. Apologies for the poor quality of the photo due to reflection from the glass.
As we were sitting, trams were rumbling past. The network seemed to be very extensive and there was an astonishing array of different types. With my father in mind, I thought I ought to photograph one or two, though I fear he might be disappointed in me for not being more selective in my choices.
We did pass the odd bit of culture in our extensive three day walking tour of the city. This is Castello Sforzesco:
And this is the Cathedral:
But then it was back to the food. To whet the apetite, an Aperol Spritz is invaluable. This rather fine restaurant was the Ristorante Valentino Legend:
The food was fantastic. Obviously photographs can never do justice to the full experience, but the meal really did taste as good as it looks.
All this food was consumed on Saturday before the main event, which was of course, the concert. Despite some reluctance on Charlie’s part, we managed to get a place very close to the stage. As anyone who reads this blog religiously will know, we have been to see the band a few times before, but they never disappoint and this was no exception. Jim Kerr seemed to be particularly enjoying himself. The only sad part was that he was conversing with the audience most of the time in Italian, so I had no idea what he was saying, but the audience roared their appreciation all around us.
I don’t have as many good photos as I have had for the previous two concerts. Not so long ago, Jim Kerr expressed his frustration that too much of the time he found himself staring into a row of phones so I was aware of that, as well as wanting to be in the moment when we had invested the effort to get so close to the stage. Charlie tells me that during Let There Be Love, Jim Kerr pointed to us and mouthed “You Two.” So now our twenty year love affair has been officially stamped with Kerr approval. Well, I’m looking forward to the next twenty years and I hope for many more weekends as wonderful as this one. Simple Minded ratification notwithstanding, I have published the few decent photos I have on a separate page for those who are sad interested.
The weekend did not end there. Sunday remained and we awoke to find the mist had lifted and the sky was blue. So did we spend this time enjoying the wonderful sights of Milan? No, we went out to eat, this time at Spoon. We arrived at about two and were presented with a Sunday Brunch menu. Initially, we were told the a la carte menu was not available, but after a quick word with the chef, our waitress returned with the real deal.
Our profound enthusiasm was not lost on the waiting staff. To our surprise, instead of offering us the dessert menu, they arrived with spoons and a moment later, announced that they were giving us a selection of desserts “on the house”.
By the time we were finished, the sun had gone down. We spent a while looking round the centre. As those of you who know me well will know, this is about as near as I ever get to high fashion.
Perhaps feeling that we had not spent enough time exploring Milan, Charlie felt that as a fitting end to our weekend we should pay a visit to the Navigli district, a beautiful area of the city built around canals. Following the GPS co-ordinates on Trip-Advisor, we took a tram and then a bus and alighted in an area that, to our surprise, appeared more Vauxhall than Venice. We walked a few minutes, passing shops with the lovely descriptive name “Sexy Shop”. This didn’t seem as tempting as the bohemian restaurants that Trip Advisor promised. Still, Charlie checked his map again and confirmed there was a canal nearby. So we walked some more (we averaged 20,000 steps per day… we needed to do something to work off all that deliciousness) and when we finally found it in the darkness…
…there was no water.
Retreating to a down-at-heel coffee shop, where a man was pounding a slot machine with the dedicated intensity of the addict, Charlie, following a long session peering into his phone announced that yes, the person who had added the Navigli District to Trip Advisor had put in the wrong co-ordinates. Undaunted by our trawl through the red light district, we made our way to Central station and hopped on the Metro. By the time we found our way to the real canal, Charlie was hungry again and as we had not, as yet, had a pizza, we finished our weekend in style in a tiny pizza restaurant: I Segreti di Pulcinella.
All good things must come to an end and it was sad to wake up on Monday morning knowing that the weekend was over. Still, the wonderful staff in the Lancaster Hotel wished us well. And maybe one day, we will return.