Tuesday, 27 December 2011

A flying visit to Genova

It's not as if we hadn't been to Genova before but thanks to our insider-guide we penetrated the mediaeval city - Europe's largest - for the first time. Here we encountered, also for the first time the magnificent Duomo S. Lorenzo (above) and the Chiesa Gesu with its two massive Rubens paintings. All this is testament to Genova's historical importance which placed it on a level with the greatest cities in the world; a claim not finally relinquished even today with a surviving shipbuilding and refitting industry outstripping anything in the UK.

Verdi was as much an honorary Genovese as he was a Parisian, spending winters here for many years and writing the quintessential Genovese opera, Simon Boccanegra. The main characters names, Boccanegra, Fieschi, Adorno, Grimaldi are to be found on streets, piazzas, palazzos and so forth at every turn in the centre.

Our visit to the Teatro Carlo Felice was the usual mixture of disappointments (mainly to do with the production as so often in Italy) but otherwise life went on as previously with a fantastic headline the day we were in town

(for which Berlusconi had subsequently to apologize apparently) and excellent gastronomic opportunities.

Our Genova insider pointed us in the direction of one of the loveliest and most interesting restaurants it is possible to imagine; a combination of restaurant, library, bookshop and wine store - "Nouvelle Vague" just a stone's throw from S. Lorenzo. Despite being in a cellar this is a warm and welcoming place where you can spend time browsing books

as well as eating and drinking. We ploughed through the white wines by the glass with pleasure even if in doing so we discovered that Pigato is only a synonym for Vermentino (another variety hits the dust). Nonetheless the Pigato/Vermentinos were outstanding as were once again an Incrocio Manzoni and a Satrico which e were led to believe was a grape variety but is actually a blend from Lazio of some very familiar customers.

The following morning after a visit to the council chamber where the famous scene in 'Simon Boccanegra' takes place and a whip around a Van Gogh and Gaughin exhibition in the same building we just had time for an even shorter tour of the Mercato Orientale, one of the finest food markets in Italy.Earlier in our lightening visit, we had enjoyed a glass of Rossese which is indeed a native variety of Liguria. A lovely refreshing and fruity wine in the direction of Gamay/Beaujolais. We intended to buy a bottle at the airport. There was indeed one on offer but only in the collection of Ligurian speciality foods at an unbelievable rip-off price of over E.17. In fact the Duty Fee shop at Cristoforo Colombo airport it otherwise rather good. We found a Malvasia Nera there as well as a sparkling Riesling Italico (Welschriesling) from Oltrepo Pavese (rather good) and a nice sparkling Bonarda from the same area - all reasonably priced.

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