Genoa: Duomo, Old Port, and Walking

Today was mostly a travel day. I took the train from Padua (Padova) to Genoa (Genova). Or, rather, I took two trains. The first was from Padua to Milan’s central station, where I had a fifty-minute wait until my train to Genoa.

The trains were high speed, uneventful, and comfortable. One thing I’ve noticed in my visits to Europe is that the trains here don’t sway and lurch violently nearly as much as the Via Rail trains back in Canada. In fact, the trains here barely sway or lurch at all, let alone violently.

Re that high-speed thing, we were 17 minutes late getting into Genoa. However, of the three trains I’ve taken so far this trip, that was the only one that was late at all. I’ve rarely been on a Via Rail train that didn’t arrive late.

Today’s two trains passed cities, towns, farms, and mountains or high hills. I’ve never really known how high a hill has to be before it stops being a hill and starts being a mountain. My rule of thumb is, if it’s high enough that, if there were precipitation, it would be snow capped, then it is a mountain. If not, it’s a hill. It may be a high hill, but it’s a hill nonetheless.

If a mountain is in an arid area and, therefore, has no snow on its peak, it is, by my rule, still a mountain. It’s the coldness at its peak that’s the deciding factor. I wouldn’t want to deprive a mountain of its rightful title if it achieved the requisite height. That would hurt its self-esteem.

Word of warning: If you are a geography student, don’t rely on my rule when you take a test. You might fail. That’s true of many things I say. Look at an atlas to determine if it’s a mountain because nobody likes to fail a year in school. It’s crushingly depressing at the time. And the pain stays with you for years. And, even after the decades erase most of the pain, while you might joke about it, that joking is merely to hide your embarrassment. Then again, maybe that’s just me. Never mind. I have issues.

But getting back to my point, by my rule, I passed high hills, not mountains. An atlas might disagree with me.

Near Genoa the train passed through some tunnels, which I assume bore through some high hills/mountains to reduce the length of the journey.

Speaking of boring, you probably found all of the above boring and mostly irrelevant. That’s not surprising. I did too. Misery loves company. But because today was primarily a travel day for me, I don’t have much to say here. So, I wanted to pad this entry.

That job done, let’s get into it. I did manage to visit the local duomo, head to the old port and walk around a bit.

The Genoa Cathedral (Duomo)

A side nave of the Genoa Cathedral
A side nave of the Genoa Cathedral

Genoa’s Duomo, aka the Genoa Cathedral, aka the Metropolitan Cathedral of Saint Lawrence, aka Cattedrale Metropolitana di San Lorenzo, is big but not huge, grand but not awe-inspiring, and decorated but not gaudy. Overall, I quite liked it.

The Cathedral consists of three naves. Two rows of dark marble columns, topped with black and white striped arches, separate the three. There are a few attractive stained glass windows and some paintings and statues. A couple of small domes grace the ceilings.

One oddity in the church sits just past the entrance, beside the wall of the right nave. (Right if you’re facing the altar.) It’s a large shell.

A stained glass window in the Genoa Cathedral
A stained glass window in the Genoa Cathedral

By “shell,” I don’t mean a seashell. I mean a war-is-hell shell, i.e., a large armour-piercing artillery shell. During World War II, the British mistakenly fired a shell at the church. It pierced the duomo wall, but luckily failed to detonate.

If the shell exploded, it likely would have caused considerable damage. So it’s very fortunate that it didn’t. I don’t know if anyone got to count the miracle of the non-exploding shell as one the miracles necessary to acquire sainthood. But if not, why not? It would be a shame to let a good miracle go to waste. Someone should claim it.

To commemorate the event, the church placed a replica of the shell in the spot it hit.

The shell
The shell

I read about the shell before I visited the cathedral. I was glad to learn it is an innocuous copy, not the original. I’d just as soon not be close to ordinance that hasn’t (yet) exploded. I’d rather be in an enclosed space with SARS-CoV-2 in the air than in one with a shell that might explode if an unrestrained, rambunctious child takes a run at it. And, just to be clear, I’d prefer to not be in an enclosed space with either.

That’s the inside.

The facade might be quite splendid too. But I wouldn’t know first hand. When I was there, the entire width of the front of the duomo, up to the point where the bell tower rises above the rest of the cathedral, was obscured by scaffolding.

This happens to me a lot when I travel. Does my itinerary somehow get sent to all of the sights I’m going to visit, with a note telling them to throw up scaffolding and start their renovations because I’m on my way?

Genoa’s Old Port

Genoa's old port
Genoa’s old port

Genoa’s old port is cluttered. There is some of the usual port stuff. Ships, piers, and ship services. But there are also new structures, a couple of which contain tourist attractions I plan to visit during the coming couple of days.

There are also a couple that contain tourist attractions I wasn’t planning to visit. While it wasn’t the reason I wasn’t going to visit them, as it turns out, to my eye, both are out of place in a sore thumb sort of way. One is a large glass orb that contains a biosphere. The other is a large, multi-armed contraption that hangs out over the water. I didn’t see in operation, but it apparently hoists pods in the air so visitors can get a view from on high.

Before arriving in Genoa, I’d read about the attractions. As I said, I wasn’t planning to partake in either. I might change my mind about the multi-armed, view-on-high thingy. 

The most unobstructed (thanks to the hill) "view" of Genoa from the old port
The most unobstructed (thanks to the hill) “view” of Genoa from the old port

The view of Genoa from the old port is probably gorgeous. The buildings facing the sea are mostly pastel-coloured. At one end of the city they climb up the side of an otherwise green hill.

That having been said, my description of the beauty of the view of Genoa from the old port is largely speculative. An unobstructed view of Genoa from the waterfront doesn’t exist from the ground level. I pieced my speculation together from the few glimpses of bits of the city that I caught above and below the hulking elevated expressway that runs along the waterfront.

Whatever would possess a city to ruin one of its great features that way? And I say this as someone who lives in a city that has a hulking elevated expressway along its waterfront. Toronto’s hulking elevated expressway is a bit further back from the waterfront than Genoa’s hulking elevated expressway, but it’s still soul-destroying.

Maybe I’ll go up in the view-from-on-high thingy in the hope of rising above the expressway and getting a better view of the city.

Walking Around

A Genoa pedestrian street
A Genoa pedestrian street

Genoa has some of the sorts of streets I love. The old section has a number of small, shop-lined pedestrian streets. Some others are just narrow, carless residential lanes. All of the buildings along those streets are old and only a few storeys tall. 

Genoa also has some big, noisy streets where cars largely rule. I prefer the former.

It’s possible that Genoa also has a red light district that I accidentally walked through. I had no idea it existed. I unexpectedly stumbled on it while wandering around. Venturing there was not the least bit intentional. Honest.

A Genoa pedestrian lane
A Genoa pedestrian lane

And I’m not even certain it is indeed a red light district. It’s not as obvious as the one in Amsterdam. There were some red lights affixed to scaffolding at a construction site in the area. However, they might have just been warnings not to bump into the scaffolding, not advertisements for a red light district. Nevertheless, when there are scantily clad woman, some wearing fishnet stockings, standing in every doorway, with come-hither looks on all of their faces, I begin to wonder.  

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