One of my best friends, Brendan, has always wanted to visit Italy. When I got the job offer last January, he already started talking about his visit. We decided on Spring Break, so I could be the female Rick Steves, and take him around my beautiful local hood as well as Rome and the Alps, as he requested.
Our spring break began on Friday March 29, which gave me a day to chill and take the train to Milan. Brendan got the shortest and best airfare to Milan, arriving at 7am on Saturday March 30, Easter Eve. Since I was off and eager to enjoy the city, I said I’d meet him at the airport. I booked a single room at the Bio City hotel, an eco friendly, brand new hotel that was just before its official opening. At this point, I let out a big “Ahh” as I looked around the cozy room. The weather was not cooperating, with a chilly drizzle, but I was just glad that my much-needed vacation had started. For teachers, breaks always come just when you think you can’t handle another day. I checked the mini bar, and for reasonable prices, I saw natural soda and super yummy sesame seed bars, which I devoured while watching BBC news. I tweeted a couple of pictures and fell asleep knowing I had to wake early tomorrow to get to the bus for the airport.
Brendan walked through the gate, and I ran to give him a hug, amazed at how guys can pack all they need in a little carry on duffle bag. Well done. The weather was cloudy, but I was hoping the rain would hold off. We caught up on the bus ride, then by the time we arrived in the city, the rain turned into a downpour. Luckily, I still had the hotel room, so we had it for a few hours where I figured Brendan could take a nap and I could enjoy my free breakfast. As soon as he passed out, though, they started drilling. (They were still working on the hotel, so I knew this might happen). He managed to fall back asleep . . . until the belt sander came on. “We’ll find this funny later,” he said. But clearly not now. The poor guy was exhausted, having not slept on the plane. So I went outside and asked the guys if they could move, which they so kindly did.
At 11, Brendan was in a sound sleep but I had to rouse him for check out. “You said I could sleep,” he said like a school boy talking to his mom, wanting to go to school late. I know the feeling. I remember telling my mother, in my sleep, that “The lake is closed today,” when she tried to wake me up for my lifeguarding job and I knew I just couldn’t make it.
I felt so bad, but I had to get him, up. We checked out, and luckily they didn’t tack on a fee for bringing a second person into the single room. Then we had to brave the rain again. We originally considered the thermal spa, which I love and have posted about before here: My New New York . But it was not the weather for wandering or sightseeing, so we boarded a train for Genoa, gliding through the soggy landscape to Liguria.
2 hours later, we boarded a bus to my neighborhood as exhausted zombie Brendan said, “How much longer?” It might be initially more convenient to fly to Milan, but ultimately it’s a big pain in the butt, unfortunately. Once in my hood, we had to find food. As it was the day before Easter, nothing was open, so we walked through the hills for 10 minutes to Jungle Pizza, which is always open with its 100 varieties. But alas, even that was closed. Back to my apartment where I offered some of the food I had purchased and Brendan passed out into a deep sleep. I used this time to go on my second ever scooter ride!
The clouds cleared, the sun came out, and I enjoyed stunning views over the sea as I tried to keep steady and not tip over. Back at the apartment, I had to wake up Brendan again, afraid that if I didn’t he wouldn’t sleep the night. Arrival day is often very hard, especially when the weather is not helping. Starving, we walked down the hill to restaurants by the sea, looking for something open. He gave up meat for Lent, so we went for some pizza or pasta at 5 Maggio, a place I had enjoyed many times, along the sea by the monument. We shared pasta, cooked in foil in the brick oven, foccaccia formaggio and one other kind of pizza as well as creme brulee for dessert.
Brendan wanted to meet one of my friends, and I wasn’t sure who was in town but remembered that Robin was both in town and nearby. At 11pm, I called her then we showed up at her apartment (with its splendid castle view), and got her ready to go out dancing down by the sea. At that time, Brendan felt it was time to ditch his Lenten beard, so Robin lent him a disposable razor. And off we went.
The club was fun, and unlike some of the other ones further downtown, where guys like to come up and grab you while you are dancing, the people were older and a bit more chill — but the vibe and music were great. We even got free shots from the bartender because we were from NY! 🙂 We walked Robin home, then up the hill to my apartment where Brendan realized it was Easter, running to the fridge and tearing open the packages of cured meats I had bought for his arrival.
Easter Sunday bells rang at noon, but Brendan was still sleeping off his mega jet lag. He had tried to warn me it could get like this, but I had never seen jet lag this bad. Around 1:30, he woke up and we tossed the football-sized Easter egg that I bought for a charity fundraiser at school. It broke to reveal the gift inside — a boxed silver-toned bracelet. Not bad. Apparently, these chocolate eggs are very popular as Easter treats for kids.
We piled onto my scooter for my third ride, and my first ride with a passenger. Once I mastered the weight balance, we took it nice and slow, heading straight to Nervi. It was Brendan’s first time on a scooter, and he was thrilled. Once we parked, we went for a walk along the gorgeous passageiatta — bright turquoise water, waves crashing into the jagged rocks, Portofino in the distance, and families and friends, tourists and locals strolling along for a Happy Easter. The vibe was perfect. The flowers were blooming, but unfortunately so was Brendan’s hay fever. We didn’t let it get in the way of our fun, though.
We did not have reservations for dinner and were worried about finding quality food on a day when so many locals head to the restaurants. Luckily, even though we were in Italy, both of us were craving sushi, so we planned for that. While we were waiting for the restaurant to open (Many places in Genoa open for dinner at 7:30 and close by 9 or 10 for a small dining window), we wandered through gorgeous Nervi, through a local park watching families with their dogs, bacci balls, and picnics. Then we found a little church on top of a hill and decided to see if there was an evening mass. We walked in sometime near the beginning, and enjoyed a special, beautiful Easter service.
The sun was starting to tinge the sky pink, promising an awesome sunset. I regret not heading back to the passegiatta because I know Brendan would have appreciated it, but we were already at the restaurant, where we enjoyed a lobster roll among some others. As Brendan gave up meat for Lent, he also gave up sushi, so this was a treat. And for me, who was growing quite sick of Italian food, I was happy for the change of pace.
Back to the scooter and home to prepare for tomorrow’s trip to Rome! The fastest train was at 7am, so it was gonna be another early morning for us. I popped Mad Men on Netflix, and we enjoyed a chill evening.
Here’s a small slideshow with more photos:
–to be continued in Part 2 – Roma–
-written 26 June, but posted in April for timeline purposes