On Friday 5 April after the lovely afternoon in Switzerland, we were on our way back to Genoa, arriving just in time to run to the Carrefour Express before it closed at 8pm. When Brendan expressed all his desires for amazing Italian food, I responded “The best food in Italy is at home.” He told me that, “I want the Italian Restaurants!” He’d heard about Italian food his whole life, but what fails to come across to America is that Italy is a Cucina di Nonna culture, Grandma’s Kitchen, home-cooked, family sitting around the table eating local, fresh ingredients where the flavor really shines. Going to restaurants is actually a rarity, and I’ve noticed that most of the time, even my homemade concoctions are better. This is Italy.
As we did our mad sprint through Carrefour, I think Brendan was beginning to notice that home cooked is the way to go. We got pasta fresca tortellini for a euro, some sausages, and some other ingredients before returning to my apartment to make a quick yet delicious meal. We both agreed it was better than the restaurant food, and we had not even put in any effort.
Sipping on Tuborg beers, we called for a relaxing night in with Netflix, and watched a Bill Murray movie Broken Flowers, which ended up featuring lots of scenes where we hike in the summer in NY State. I could barely keep my eyes open during the movie, and fell asleep exhausted.
I awoke the next morning, battling a sinus infection but happy the sun was shining. We were hoping to go swimming, but the weather was just not warm enough yet – even though it should have been. Brendan wanted to see Milan, hoping for a better impression in the sunshine, but I said, “You haven’t seen Genoa.” He looked at me quizzically, because . . .well, then where were we? But the truth was, we were in the resort area, along the sea. Except for Brignole train station, we haven’t seen the medieval center or the port. Brendan was looking forward to seeing those things and another excuse for a scooter ride.
So, we piled onto Stella and hit the highway, still going slow as novices but gaining more confidence and speed. We rode along the sea by the fair grounds, and parked by the Porto Antico, wandering by the ships and soaking in the vibrant scene in the sunshine.
Next, we walked up through the Medieval Center and wandered into salumeria, Brendan lured by the enticing cuts of meat in the window. He requested a sopressatta and gorgonzola sandwich. When he first tasted it, he said “Ahh, this is the sandwich I have been waiting for.” Brendan eventually got the kinds of food he was hoping for, but they were in unexpected places and usually cheap. “The best food here is under 10 bucks,” he said.
“Yep, that’s Italy.”
After the traditional photos at the Piazza de Ferrari fountain (Blue for Autism Awareness), we had time for some shopping as Brendan wanted some new threads. I suggested Celio, where I bought some things for my brother at Christmas time and thought Brendan might like the style. And boy did he. We spent over an hour searching and trying on clothes, purchasing three pairs of awesome pants, and a couple of sharp stylin’ shirts. The fit and fabric were of great quality and would be much more expensive in America.
Next we found a market where Brendan bought 7 new ties at 5 euros each. The style and price were too good to resist.
Next, it was time to head back to the port and to Stella.
We rode home and Brendan had a chance to ride Stella a bit on his own.
Then we packed, and boarded a train for Milan. Ahh . . . Milan again. Brendan’s flight was at 10:30am, and we’d have to take a 5:30am train from Brignole after calling a cab. To save ourselves the weary stress, we booked a hotel in Milan for the final night, ending up with a great deal at the Hilton for only 80 euros. Fabulous hotel.
By the time we arrived in Milan, we were super exhausted and opted just for a light cafe dinner before crashing. We had a wonderful journey and as Brendan said, “I have squeezed enough out of this trip. Let’s just rest.” Milan has a lot of culture and events, but it does not really have much to offer for sightseeing.
The next morning, we woke, boarded the bus for Milan Malpensa airport, did a bit of souvineer shopping, and we hugged farewell. I headed back to Genoa, not knowing that Brendan was sitting in an airport lounge with a three hour delay, journalling all his favorite moments and memories from the trip, which he later sent to me.
It really was a lovely time, and I’m so lucky I got to spend this break with a friend of almost 15 years. I hope he gets to visit in the summertime where he can experience Genoa at her best and see more of my Italy (Tuscany, Venice, Capri, Naples?). We shall see.
-Written 27 June but posted in April for timeline purposes. Part 4 of 4.