Genoa: Belvedere, Galata, Aquarium, Bigo

Today’s touring included a couple of sea-related experiences, the Galata Maritime Museum and the Genoa Aquarium. I sandwiched those with a couple of great views, Belvedere Montaldo and Il Bigo.

Wait. When you say, “I sandwiched x with y,” is the bread, i.e. the outer layers, x and the filling y? Or is it the other way around? Is the filling x and the bread y? Whichever the case semantically, in this case, I’m using the views as the rhetorical bread and the sea-related experiences as the rhetorical filling.

Damn! Can we stop talking about food? I’m getting hungry. And I’m not writing this part during a meal. I might need a snack to keep going.

Belvedere Montaldo

A view from Belvedere Montaldo
A view from Belvedere Montaldo

After breakfast, I headed out to Belvedere Montaldo, a viewpoint about halfway up the highest of the hills around Genoa. To get there, I walked to a lift. Or, so my fellow North Americans will understand me, I should say I walked to an elevator. But the tour app I read about it in called it a lift, so lift it is.

To get to the lift I had to walk through a hallway tunneled about 300 metres into the hill. For the benefit of non-Canadian North Americans, that’s about 980 feet.

The lift took me up to Belvedere Montaldo. From there, I had stunning* views of the harbour in the background and most of Genoa in the foreground.

Another view from Belvedere Montaldo
Another view from Belvedere Montaldo

From that height, the hulking expressway that runs along the waterfront is barely visible, let alone an eyesore.

The view toward the harbour is only most, not all of the city because the city climbs further up the hill behind Belvedere Montaldo.

Immediately behind Belvedere is the Spianata di Castelletto neighbourhood of Genoa. I took a bit of a stroll through it.

A street in the Spianata di Castelletto neighbourhood
A street in the Spianata di Castelletto neighbourhood

Spianata di Castelletto is primarily a residential neighbourhood, with some retail. The buildings are pleasing-looking. They’re mostly of a height that, in Toronto, would be called low-rise. Here, they’re probably called mid- or high-rise. Toronto’s downtown is tall. (Just the buildings. Fortunately, they let short people live there. My condo would need a lot of work before I could sell it and move elsewhere. So I’m thankful they let me stay.)

Genoa has only a few tall buildings by Toronto standards. But it has some tall hills. Toronto doesn’t.

Rather than taking the lift down, I strolled along streets, stairways and lanes down the hill. When I am up a hill and want to go down, gravity is my friend. Not so much in the other direction.

* No one was stunned in a physical sense in the making of this journal entry. It was stunt stunning by untrained unprofessionals.

Galata Maritime Museum

Middling size ship models
Middling-size ship models

The Galata Maritime Museum (Galata Museo del Mare) is the largest and most innovative maritime museum in the Mediterranean. I know this because it said so on its website. The museum’s marketers wouldn’t lie or exaggerate, would they?

The museum tells the story of Genoa’s port, ships, shipbuilding, and history. It does so with artifacts, paintings, text, videos, and model ships. Those models are both large and small. Some of the smaller ones sit in not particularly large display cases. The big ones sit on the floor and I was able to walk onto them. The bigger ones might have been life-size. I’m not sure.

Navigation equipment, I think. (The signage was only in Italian.)
Navigation equipment, I think. (The signage was only in Italian.)

It’s possible some of the text told me whether they were life-size. But, some of the textual placards were in both Italian and English. Some were only in Italian. If there was a placard telling me whether the larger models were life-size (or not) it might have been only in Italian. Or I might have just missed it. I do that a lot.

There was also a room containing a variety of old atlases and two large, old globes.

Oh, and about those videos. The audio was always in Italian. Not surprising, that, this being Italy and all. Some also had English subtitles. (Yay!) But not all. (Boo!)

A World First. And it happened In Genoa!

Recreation of steerage class sleeping accommodations on an immigration ship.
Recreation of steerage class sleeping accommodations on an immigration ship.

From one of the videos with subtitles, I learned that, in 1684, Genoa had the distinct honour of being the first city ever to be bombarded from the sea. So, way to go, Genoa. There can only be one first. That’s real bragging rights, there.

The French were the ones doing the bombarding. It was during the “War of the Reunions.” That’s quite some reunion. Celebrate by bombing the heck out of a beautiful city. Did they have a homecoming king and queen crowning event too? And, if so, did the homecoming queen and king live through the celebration?

I don’t think there are any records of it, but I can’t help wondering if any brave Genoese heroes shouted, “French warship, go @#%!$ yourself.” It wouldn’t have stopped any of the approximately 13,000 cannonballs that the French fired at Genoa during that battle, but it probably would have felt good. It would have felt good, that is until one of the cannonballs landed squarely on the shouter’s cranium.

To be honest, I’d never heard of the “War of the Reunions.” So I looked it up on the source of all that is good and true, Wikipedia. (Please excuse the sarcasm in the preceding sentence. I tend to say something like that when I cite Wikipedia. Or don’t excuse it. I don’t really care.)

Wikipedia can change from time to time because anyone can edit it, but when I looked up the entry on the War of the Reunions, the first sentence of the first paragraph read:

“The War of the Reunions (1683–84) was a conflict between France, Spain and the Holy Roman Empire, with limited involvement by Genoa.

From Wikipedia, War of the Reunions

Um. Limited involvement by Genoa? If being on the receiving end of 13,000 cannonballs is “limited involvement” I’d hate to see what happened elsewhere during that war.

Genoa Aquarium


The Genoa Aquarium (Acquario de Genova) is the largest in Europe. I know this because it said so on its website. The aquarium’s marketers wouldn’t … well, you know.

As you might expect, the aquarium has a lot of fish. It also has some non-fish sea creatures, namely seals, dolphins, and penguins. There might also have been some other non-fish creatures that I’ve forgotten, but I forget.

One of the varieties of jellyfish at the Genoa Aquarium
One of the varieties of jellyfish at the Genoa Aquarium

Wait. Are jellyfish considered fish? They don’t look at all like fish despite having “fish” in their name.

Whatever. Jellyfish are my favourite creatures in aquariums. They are beautiful. And they astound me because they look delicately impossible and impossibly delicate.

I was exceptionally upset at the aquarium because I spent an hour or so in it without seeing any jellyfish. I was about to complain to the management, but the aquarium saved the best for last. Well played, Genoa Aquarium. Well played.

A beautiful, but weird-looking fish
A beautiful, but weird-looking fish

The jellyfish room had a few tanks with different types of beautiful jellyfish. And a few tanks with ugly jel… No. I’m just kidding. There were a few tanks and they all contained beautiful jellyfish.

Getting back to the fish that are definitely fish, the aquarium has a wide variety of them. Some of the fish look delicious. Er. Um. I mean beautiful. That’s what I meant. Beautiful. For sure.

Is it dinnertime yet?

Il Bigo (With a view back to Belvedere, and much more.)

A view of the Il Bigo from the ground
A view of the Il Bigo from the ground

In my post on my first day in Genoa, I mentioned “a large, multi-armed contraption that hangs out over the water. I didn’t see it in operation, but it apparently hoists pods in the air so visitors can get a view from on high.”

Today, I not only saw it in action, I went on it. It’s called Il Bigo, which Google Translate translates to, “The Bigo.” So, The Bigo, it is.

Before describing Il Bigo, first, a couple of corrections that were made possible by seeing it up close and in operation.

For one, only one of the arms hoists a pod. The second correction should be obvious from the number case in the preceding sentence. There is only one cylindrical pod.

Okay, sticklers. You got me. The “preceding sentence” didn’t even hint at the one pod being cylindrical. But it is. It’s a stubby cylinder.

A view of Genoa from the top of Il Bigo
A view of Genoa from the top of Il Bigo

I’m not one to say I told you so, except, without fail, every single time I get something right. But that’s exceptionally rare. So it doesn’t count.

But, I told you so (in the first post on Genoa). Viewed from the port, Genoa is a beautiful city if you can rise above the obtrusive, hulking expressway that runs beside Genoa’s waterfront.

In one or more of the accompanying pictures in this section, you can see the vantage point that was my first stop today, Belvedere Montaldo. Don’t ask me to point it out to you because I can’t spot it from that distance. But Belvedere Montaldo is there somewhere. Trust me on that. And Galata is the largest and most innovative maritime museum in the Mediterranean. And the Genoa Aquarium is the largest in Europe.

Another view of Genoa from the top of Il Bigo
Another view of Genoa from the top of Il Bigo

The operation of Il Bigo was about as inefficient as it could be. Despite it being a busy day, only one person worked there.

He sold tickets, or checked the tickets of people who pre-purchased them, for a pod’s worth of people and let them into the pod. I didn’t count, but I think roughly twenty people were allowed inside at a time. There was no crowding.

He then closed the ticket office, went into the pod, closed the door, put a protective chain on the door, and stayed inside at the controls. The pod then rose to the top.

As it rose, the pod rotated slowly so everyone got a view of everything. It stayed at the top for another full rotation before the operator brought us down. The pod continued to rotate on the way down. It stopped rotating at the bottom because it would have been a challenge for passengers to get on or off without hurting themselves if it didn’t. Injuring paying customers is generally frowned upon by most astute businesses. Freeloaders, on the other hand, well that’s another story.

Yet another view of Genoa from the top of Il Bigo
Yet another view of Genoa from the top of Il Bigo

The operator then let the passengers out, but he stayed inside where he thoroughly wiped down with disinfectant all touchable surfaces. Only then did he go out, reopen the ticket office, and repeat the process.

If they had two people working there, one could have sold a pod’s worth of tickets while the other took the previous group up and cleansed the pod. The inefficiency of it felt like it could have been a bit on a sitcom.

Aside: Cruise Ships

Cruise ships
Cruise ships

I had lunch today on a restaurant patio in the port area. The picture to the right is the view from the restaurant. Look at the ships there.

Even the front ship is kind of hard to make out as a cruise ship. Off in the distance, it almost looks like a modern, wide, tall condo. It’s not. Trust me. It’s a floating petri dish skyscraper, aka a cruise ship.

I couldn’t zoom in much more without cutting off a chunk of the front ship. I didn’t want to do that because the ship is the point of this aside.

If you look in the background, you’ll see a floating petri dish skyscraper, also known as a cruise ship. There are two, one behind the other. But the back one is almost entirely obscured by the front one. If you blow up the picture you might be able to make out a bit of the back ship’s butt (I think they call that the stern, but I’m nautically challenged) sticking out behind the butt of the front one.

Actually, it’s two points of this aside.

Tall Floating Petri Dishes

The first point has to do with the height of the ships. I’ve never been able to figure out how ships that tall keep from tipping over. They seem a tad top-heavy to me. I imagine nautical engineers figured all that out. But nautical engineers also designed the “unsinkable” Titanic. So I’m not sure I trust them.

The second point is more of a question. You might guess what it is from me describing cruise ships as floating petri dishes. In truth, it’s more of a question than a point. Why the heck do viruses love cruising so much? Seriously, if there’s any virus going around, it seems to head straight for a cruise ship or two or three or more and go to town on them. Or, rather, go to sea on them.

You frequently read about noroviruses wreaking havoc on cruise ships. And when COVID hit, where did it go? Well, everywhere. But it hit cruise ships particularly hard. They had to shut down cruising for a while.

So, here’s my solution to this plague: I propose we leave cruising for viruses and keep humans on land or planes. What d’ya think?


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