Some Sublime ...

Genova is one of those places where something sublime seems to happen most days.

Monday I finally slowed down and organised myself here at Paola's place.  I was expecting/planning a quiet night but suddenly it became one of those extraordinary evenings that involved me following instructions, boarding a bus and arriving at Stadio Luigi Ferraris, home of the Genoa football team.  

Extraordinary  because I started following the Genoa back in those days when I lived in New Zealand.  I was a rugby kind of woman in some ways but sport is religion back home and so I was open to being curious about most sports.

In Istanbul, Genoa kept me safe when my students (always) asked which team I supported ... Beşiktaş, Fenerbahçe, Galatasaray, or Trabzonspor?  I would calmly reply, Genoa.  Shocking them into acceptance.

In Belgium, I attempted to switch my support to Antwerp but found I couldn't.  Genoa had occupied that part of my heart and there was no point in trying to change.

And so I follow their news here and it works well enough.  The games appear as live text.  I was fine with this (because I had to be) but last night ... LAST NIGHT I WAS AT THE GAME. 

Ohmygoodness.  You know when something is so amazing that you can't believe it is real? 

It was like that.

When I first started following the team, I lived more than 16,000kms away.  Last night, there was the team, directly below me.   And they were good. 

I think this is the best team since I began following although, I should note that one has to reserve large amounts of pessimism and display almost no hope, for fear of jinxing a good run but the team this year ... it's good.  Really good.

So, yesterday's sublime was finally attending a game at the superb Stadio Luigi Ferraris.

A huge grazie mille to those who made it happen. 


I flew over to Genova last Friday and immediately, upon arriving ... stories began to unfold.

It was a madly-busy, exquisitely-joyfilled 5-days.  And I couldn't reach the back-end of my website for some reason but honestly, I had no spare time. 

I stayed with the kindest friends out at Arenzano.  And I met their friend, the talented artist Giorgio Bormida.  Actually, I wanted to cook dinner for Francesca and Beppe before I left, and ended up cooking for Giorgio too.  It was only as I began dinner prep that I thought ... 'What have I done??!  Cooking isn't really my best thing'.  But they were all very kind.

I caught up with some of my favourite people there in the city but completely missed out on catching up with others.  It was lovely to catch up with Stefano, the owner/operator of Righicam, over lunch.  And with Francesca and Norma, from Le Gramole.

And then there was that 24 hours spent working with Diana, staying at B&B Baur with her and Micha.  It was sublime ... photographs and words to follow in the days to come.  I heard my first cuckoo as I sat by the open window in the morning.  And the views  ...

The kindness of Genovese strangers stunned me and ... well, it made me smile.  A lot really.  I met a lovely guy at a concert in Palazzo Ducale, who kindly explained all that was happening, to Outi and I.  But Outi and I is another whole story.

Meanwhile, here I am, just in from an 11-hour day of traveling.  It was a day that involved a train, a taxi, a plane from Genova to Rome, a bus to and from the plane, another plane to Brussels, then a bus and a tram home.

I shall return with photographs downloaded, with a mind rested and ready to tell you some stories.

Piazza Banchi, Genova

I think one’s art goes as far and as deep as one’s love goes. I see no reason to paint but that.
Andrew Wyeth.

Exploring the depth of my love for a place seems like an inspiring reason to take photographs too.  There is more passion, more depth and emotion, when you turn your camera on something you love.

Piazza Banchi, the place where I buy my pink flowers when in Genova.  Taken one winter's night, January, 2012.

(Note: this was taken after the sun had gone down.  I spun my Canon EOS 5D MkII's ISO up to someplace around 6000 (thank you to Canon for this option) then handheld the camera to see what I might get without a flash or a tripod.)

Antica Drogheria di Canneto, Genova

I met the loveliest man, via Francesca, when she was searching for Lupini ...

We decided they were surely something to do with my beloved flower, the Lupin, but the photograph on the bag of beans showed this enormously strange and beautiful tree.  Google-searching tonight, Francesca ... it seems we were right.  All photographs in the search pointed to the Lupin I know.

Anyway, I wasn't carrying my photography gear and Francesca asked if I might wander back along Via di Canneto il Lungo, to number 54R, for a photography shoot.  The lovely man said, 'Si'.  So here's a small glimpse of the magical drogheria where you can buy all kinds of everything.

He tried some of his English and I appreciated it immensely but here, you can see him chatting with Karla Verdugo, a favourite artist friend of mine.

Genovese Days ...

It's been up and down and all over the place ... but then again, that's the reality of my wandering life.

I love wandering.  It's been a passion since forever.  I must confess though, it's not all easy and fun.  And just like the good days, the bad days are kind of extreme. 

Saturday was sublime.  Sunday was spent out at Arenzano with the lovely Francesca, her children and Ashley, a New Zealander.  The sea had real waves, just like New Zealand, and the company was grand.  I'm hoping I convinced Ashley to come stay with us in Belgium at some point in the near future.

It was a delicious day that ended well.  Monday, I woke from nightmares and my mouth was sore.  I decided to walk them off.  I called in to buy salt from Francesca at Le Gramole, as I passed by on my regular walking route, and she was like this lovely ray of sunshine in my day.  Much-needed, although she gifted me the salt which was very kind ... on top of the whole making me smile thing. 

The first walk done, I returned and realised my usb modem, purchased 3 months ago, was about to run out of hours. Life without the internet ... incomprehensible.

I raced out again, all the way down the hill towards the harbour, weaving through the caruggi like an expert ... so proud until I realised I was in the wrong place.  Eventually I arrived at the right TIM shop and voila, they were closed on Monday mornings.

Back to the house, a quick shower due to the humidity here and the fact it's warmer than I'm used to at this time of year here in Europe.  I was meeting Francesca G for lunch and we wandered some more.  It's always lovely to spend time with Francesca.  She is my translator in this world but more than that, I consider her the loveliest friend.

Enroute in search of metal detectors for sons and lupini, we called by at TIM and I picked up a short term recharge on my usb modem for 9 euro.  I love TIM and their service.

Well, I arrived home about 6.30pm and realised my usb modem just wouldn't work in any way that was satisfactory.  I looked at the clock, wondered how late they were open and set off, at a brisk pace.  They were open and I can't say enough good things about the TIM assistant who worked for an hour, getting my usb modem up and running.

Dinner was cereal and yogurt because I'm terrible here.  And I worked late into the night.

Today ... the weather.  You probably cannot imagine how glorious a day can be here in Genova, Italy in the middle of winter.  I think it was about 17 celsius at one point, deep blue skies and sunshine forever. 

I could prove this, had I packed the card reader I need to transfer my photographs to my computer ... even if I had packed a spare usb cable but no.  All images remain safely here on my camera. 

You see, I don't have my everyday laptop with me.  I decided that the life of a sherpa was not for me, and I packed light.  I am regretting it but my body appreciated it on the long haul here.  The everyday laptop has everything I need on it.  This little travel laptop has very little ...

I spent a lovely few hours catching up with Karla, a friend and artist who lives here in the city.

Dinner tonight is pizza from the exquisite Pizzeria Ravecca.  The same as the one pictured in this post.  I'm kind of stuck on this one.

Things are going well ... well, except for the train strike scheduled for Friday.  That would be the day that I need to get from Genova to Milano for my 7pm flight.  It's 2 hours on the train from Genova, then another 50 minutes on a second train to the airport.  We shall see how that goes.

So ... a short round-up of news here in Genova.  I have some truly delicious news in the days ahead but let me get it all set up before I write of it here.

Ciao from Genova!

A Winter Sunday in Genova

I woke before 7am, to the quiet that is this small street on a Sunday.  The shops and cafes take a day of rest and almost no one was stirring ... or so few that I could sleep again, in the time that passed between suitcase wheels running over the huge stones of the street.

I woke to grey clouds but it's not cold.  This I discovered on venturing out in search of my Sunday focaccia.

The sound of the fountain in Piazza de Ferrari filled the air, owning the entire piazza in a way I had never noticed before.  It was a powerful presence, in the Sunday-morning-quiet of the old city.

Walking, I discovered that the artists of via San Lorenzo were already out and unpacking their paintings.  Amedeo came over to greet me, and I walked back up to his car with him, to help with his work.  He bought me an espresso.  We exchanged slightly ashamed confessions regarding our failure to learn each others' language since our last meeting.

(I need an Italian teacher based in Antwerpen ... does anyone know of someone?)

I stayed a while before continuing on my search for focaccia, came back to share but he had already eaten and so I strolled home, via Piazza de Ferrari again, unable to resist visiting the fountain.

And as I strolled, I realised that even this early on a Sunday morning, there are good people out on the streets, people to talk with, and that there is so much beauty that it fills me with a peaceful joy that I don't take forgranted.

Buongiorno, from La Superba ... otherwise known as Genova.



I am back in Genova and it is so unbelievably good to be here again.

I was drowning in the winter grey of Belgium, missing my great big Genovese walks round the city, missing the exquisite espresso that Simona and Marta make, the focaccia from Panificio Patrone in via Ravecca, and missing the pleasure of finding just the right food, in amongst all that is delicious at Francesca and Norma's shop.

11am, and I have walked around the old city, bought my pale pink flowers, eaten focaccia, had espresso. I have talked with people.  This place feels like the closest to home I have ever been while wandering outside of New Zealand these last 9 years.

The sky is a deep deep blue, the air is mild - unlike the freezing cold in Milano as I arrived yesterday.  People are out on the streets and, as always, they are talking to each other and greeting strangers.  Did I tell you how much I love this city?

I felt so very strong, walking the hills in a way that delights me, as it's my first time on hills since I was here last, back in November.

I'm here to put together a range of accommodation options for the photography workshop in April.  I have my favourite hotel but I need to cover all budgets.  I think it will be easy but I want to be sure of what I am recommending.  And I need just a few more specific photographs for the book.

No photos today though ... my hands were full of focaccia and flowers.  And my soul was singing too loudly to concentrate on pulling my camera out of my bag to use it. 

And yes, I am a wee bit much this morning but oh, it is good to here.

A memory from my last time in Genova alone …

There is something truly delicious about lying in bed here in Genova, listening as the street comes alive … the first footsteps, the quiet voices, followed by louder voices as people roll up the doors of their work place, and the clank of the coffee cups on saucers begins soon after.

I doze a while longer then wake again, this time to the laughter of men on the street below. I imagine them stopping for an espresso at the cafe as they head off to work … friends who meet everyday, on their way, and I envy them their routine for a moment.

There’s music but I nap just a little more … until it becomes impossible to ignore my craving for focaccia. I pull on clothes and step out, almost into a neighbour. She laughs and apologises in Italiano. I reply in French for some early-morning-not-quite-awake reason.

I don’t speak French.
The bonjour feels strange in my mouth and I only recover when I find her holding the street door open for me and I say ‘Grazie’ and smile ... located in place and time.

I have some days without shape or form ahead of me, days where I can organise the creative chaos of my life. I have been waiting so long to reach this place of peace and isolation in the midst of the everyday noise of the ancient city.

For me, wandering is rarely about sights seen. When I was in Cairo I only saw pyramids as my plane climbed up through the pollution and left the city however I met some truly interesting people. And so it is that my idea of travel is more about people and the feeling of place. Barcelona was the first city in recent years that forced me to be the tourist, perched on the outer shell of the city, excluded from everyday life by virtue of being foreign and without people who knew me.

Here, back in Genova, I’m always a little off-balance and shyness hunts me down easily but it is good to be back in La Superba and writing again.

Buon Sapore di Barbara Savoia & C.

This morning, Lorenzo kindly allowed me to tag along with him as he made his daily walk through the city, buying produce for his vegan cafe, cibi e libri in Via Ravecca.

And while wandering, he introduced me to Barbara and Rossana, at their fruit and vegetable shop at Via di Pre 96-98r.  They are the last of the Genovese selling fruit and vegetables on Via Pre, a street where a truly international population operates today.  I took a few photographs and will add them some time soon but for the moment, a glimpse of this lovely little shop here in Genova.

One of the last remaining medieval towers in Genova ...

This morning I had the most remarkable, almost overwhelming, time.

The other day, Stefano had introduced me to a lovely man, an artist who is something of an expert on the truly ancient part of Genova.  ‘Truly ancient part’ translates as more than 2000 years old.

Today we 3 met under the gate known as Porta Soprana, one of those ancient gates built back in 1155 as part of the Republic’s defense against Barbarossa, and we set out on our walking tour. 

The tower photographed at the end of this post is, of course, medieval. 

The New Zealander in me, the child who remains, found that fact stunning.  And by the end of the tour my mind was mush. I felt extremely fragile but understood, eventually, that it was coming face-to-face with explanations of ancient history.  Legend has it, that the man who built this tower was responsible for ... inventing a kind of mobile ladder to scale the walls of Jerusalem during the Crusades.


I don’t write of the days where I find myself on my knees, completely lost in the world.  I feel things quite deeply.  I presume it’s an artiste thing (let’s put a positive spin on this) but there are times when I am crippled by a feeling of immense fragility as I wander the world.  It happened in Cairo.  It happened in Istanbul however it doesn’t seem to stop me wandering… 

It happened today.  I felt so small in this ancient world and I had no idea of how to save myself. But I usually do. Or someone else does without knowing what they have done.

Sometimes I wonder if I just can’t somehow become a stay-at-home-kind-a-woman-with-my-labrador-dog... but then I need to wander again.  But I love labradors.  I love belonging someplace. However I seem to need to climb that gate I used to climb as a very small child.

And so, to walk through these streets today, with two men I respect immensely and being offered a glimpse of the enormity of Genova’s history down through time ... I had to rest this afternoon because my mind was shattered.  I felt like I might just implode.  I felt so very small ... and lost.

And yet we all know ... I’ll do it again and again and again because that seems to be what I do.

If living alone in Istanbul for two years didn’t cure me of the loneliness and fragility that comes with this strange life that I live, then nothing will I think.

Today I learned so much about a very small part of this ancient city I love and it was good.  Mille grazie to those who patiently led me through these ancient streets telling me stories and translating.  It was a golden day.

Luciano Viotti, Painter

Luciano Viotti is another of the artists I enjoy down on Via San Lorenzo. 

He has a big soul and you see it in his work.  I loved this one yesterday, of the trams over in Milano. 

He explains that he has been painting for more than thirty years.  He began with realism, then pointillism but today finds him expressing himself in a personalized Impressionism.  I love it.  Karla insists that you can find the 1950s in his work but it’s something you would have to see for yourself.

You can find more of his work over on his website.

Amedeo Baldovino's Artwork

Today I was gifted a second beautiful painting ... painted just for me. 
Look closely, you’ll see.

I love this city. 
I love the people here, and already I’m thinking about the fact that it will be my suitcase rolling along the caruggi here in a few days.  I will take some exquisite memories when I leave ... as always.

Anyway, about the photograph of the painting below.  It was painted by one of my favourite artists in the world, Amedeo Baldovino.  You can read of my first meetings with him over here.

Tonight I had the pleasure of having dinner with both Amedeo and Karla. I do adore them.

Mille grazie, Amedeo!  I love the painting.  I love that in those Genovese cityscapes you paint, there is a space for this New Zealand photographer who is passionate about books.

Lovin Genova

I think this photograph says it all today ...  it’s a glorious day here in Genova.  Blue skies, not to cold, lots of lovely people.

But more on the people who operate behind the window in the photograph.  Lovin Genova provides people with all the information they could need when wandering in Genova. They have two offices, one down near the pirate ship parked in the harbour, close to the aquarium and another up on Via Garibaldi.  Their English publications are superb and I can’t recommend them highly enough.

Ciao from La Superba

Karla Verdugo, Artist

I met Karla Verdugo back in July, on my previous visit to Genova

Karla’s one of a group of artists who sell their artworks down on Via San Lorenzo, on Saturdays and Sundays.  I adore them.  They’re the loveliest people.  If passing, you really should stop and chat and consider their artworks.

Today Karla gifted me an early Christmas gift.  It was one of two paintings I wanted to buy from her and it’s going to make me smile everytime I look at it.  Not only because I love it and it’s a gift from a lovely friend but because I consumed a whole jar of honey on this visit. It was my drug of choice when it came to fighting this cold of mine. 

It shall be hung someplace close to my desk.
Grazie, Karla.

A little news from Genova ...

I must stop with talk of my cold ... forgive me. I just haven’t had one like that in a very long time. 

And it was probably complicated by that sense of being lost that I have when something goes a bit wrong and I’m wandering without the language of the countries I visit or live in.

In Istanbul, I remember a friend dragging me into a pharmacy one snowy day because she was worried about my hacking cough.  I knew it was pharyngitis, I get it as part two of a cold sometimes.  I left the shop at speed when the pharmacist pulled out the paraphernalia to give me an injection of antibiotics.  Since those days, I’ve developed odd allergies to surprising things.  One of the popular ingredients in medication that dries up phlegm and etc, isn’t a friend of mine and so I try to avoid medicine unless utterly necessary.

However, this time I think I may have had the cold longer than was necessary and yes ... talked of it more than I should have.  In good news, I’ve slept through the night these last two nights.  Tis bliss.

Yesterday was a lovely day and it’s my quiet belief that lovely days should be celebrated with the purchase of a book from La Feltrinelli, here in Genova.  I love that bookshop, intensely.  I looked at everything, wandering for more than an hour, oftentimes wishing I would just sit down and study Italian so I could buy some of those books.  But their English section has a good selection too.

And I found treasure ... Roberto Saviano’s book, Beauty and the Inferno.  It turns out he has published a series of essays in a book titled, Beauty and the Inferno.  In it he reflects on his new life as a fugitive writer and the experiences of others in the same position. “He makes common cause with others, like Salman Rushdie or Anna Politkovskaya, who have also been persecuted for their writing; in the latter’s case, fatally. The book is at its best when Saviano describes the strange half-world that he now inhabits. Of a meeting with Rushdie in Stockholm, he writes: “The difference between Rushdie and me is that he was condemned by a regime that does not tolerate expressions that run counter to its ideology. In my country, where censorship does not exist, oversight and indifference take its place.”“  Extracted from Duncan Campbell’s review in the Guardian.

My day ended at a pizzeria with two lovely women.  It was the perfect way to end a good day.  Grazie.

I’m off an adventure this afternoon.  I’ll let you know how it goes.