Genoa Italy: Sardines, Sleepovers, and Sailboats

Famous Focaccia - Genoa Italy - by Anika Mikkelson - MissMaps.com

Leaving Monaco, I had my eye set on Genoa though I knew nothing of the city other than its location: partway between Monaco and Pisa’s Leaning Tower. Still, I aimed for this seaside town and planned to spend one night there. Little did I know that night would be spent in the third floor apartment of a family I’d meet just before 7 that night.

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The husband invited me for a dinner which his wife, an English teacher, had prepared. “Do you like sardines?” she asked. Immediately I imagined squirming fish trying to escape from the top of an oven-fired pizza. “I haven’t tried them yet, but would love to. Yes!” I responded. I was obnoxiously excited as we waited for their daughter to come home from a scout meeting. She served various dishes with the sliced focaccia we had picked up on our way in and allowed me my first taste of sardines. Delicious. Truly, I have always been afraid to try and have pictured them as a cheap, stinky pizza topping. She allowed me to throw away these misconceptions by cooking up two different sardine-based meals. One was battered sardines and the other a quiche-like pie with bits of sardine baked into its eggy masa. Served on the side were grated carrots, local wine, and noodles with Grandma’s freshly made pasta sauce.

The husband is a kind gentleman who works in the photography field and whose mother is not only a great pasta sauce chef, but also a professional photographer. Their children are a brother-sister pair who were adopted from Brazil exactly ten years before the week we met.

“Where are you planning to sleep tonight?” the wife asked. I’d planned to sleep in Genoa’s old town and told her such.
“Would you like to sleep here instead?” She asked, “You’ll have to wake up early when we get ready for school and work but you’re welcome to.”
I hesitated then responded with a calm but confident, “Yes. Wow, grazie! Thank you so much.”

That night I slept on a bunk in the same room as their twelve year old daughter. I was so worried that I’d snore or talk or better yet laugh, as I’ve been known to do occasionally. Just in case, I woke myself up every so often to check in. Snoring? Nope, okay good. Back to sleep. I imagined  her going to school the next day and saying, “This American girl came over last night. You should have heard her snore.”

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Then I remember myself at that age, and how lucky I would have felt. I think it was a pretty even trade – I’ll always remember that unexpected invitation to dinner and I bet they will as well. I also am well aware that the trust I gave them that day was nothing in comparison to the trust they showed in me. Wow!

The next morning, everyone woke early as planned, and I continued in search of Pisa. Before leaving Genoa, I was able to take a ‘Boat Bus’ into the city and walk through its UNESCO-recognized gated streets. Piaza de Ferrari, my first Ferrari introduction of many within Italy, was bustling with locals. Some were rushing to work on the sunny morning while others took a slower pace by partaking in small talk whilst relaxing within the shade of a cafe’s covered terrace. A fountain erupted in perfectly arched spouts of clear water next to a fruit market just large enough to meet the locals’ demands.

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I again was overly excited at the food prospects available, and Italy’s been kindly offering my waistline some extra inches. I started that day with a cafe americano and piece of cannoli filled with pistachio paste. It was a flashback to my first trip to Italy, where I had my first tasting of the pastry while sitting in a castle overlooking The Vatican. The memory is one I could live over and over again in mind. And when I got the chance to do so again in real life, I couldn’t resist. So I had one small piece. And walking out of town a few hours later, gave into temptation once more. Focaccia, sardines, cannoli and local wine… what could get more Italian than that?

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