My journey to Genova in May, despite being far too short, was as special as every other visit I've made to that exquisite Italian city located in Liguria. But the kindness of strangers was quietly overwhelming and intensely appreciated. Perhaps it was all more condensed . I don't know. It was a special visit. Crazy busy but filled with people I want to write about in the days ahead.
I've put off writing about it in detail because I didn't want to miss out any stories. Now ... so much time has passed, I fear I have forgotten some things.
It's time to sit awhile and remember.
I arrived via Rome and landed in Genova late afternoon. It was raining and grey - the only grey day I had. In the days that followed, it was summer. The journey from Brussels had been long but this time I was staying with Francesca and her lovely family out at Arenzano. Paola's apartment was under renovation back in the city.
So I followed the train signs out to the airport exit doors but then the signs peetered out. I turned a few times, sure it was me who was somehow lost, before wandering back to a counter where there was man who seemed like he might be open to questions from this lost woman.
He was lovely. He started talking of the bus, then a taxi, then walking ...discounting each idea as he went. It's not much more than a kilometre to the train station, an easy walk normally and so he drew me a map but then looked at the rain and wasn't happy. The situation was resolved when a friend or collegue of his called out a ciao. He called him over to us. This lovely young man listened to the story and before I knew it my luggage and I were in his car.
He had un po inglese and well ... my lack of ability in other languages has created laughter all over the world. But we talked a little. He weaved through the streets near the airport then parked next to a footbridge that went over the railway tracks. He unloaded my luggage and then, much to my horror, carried my heavy bag all the way to the top of the stairs. I was so grateful and a little bit mortified.
We said our goodbyes and I made my way down to the train station. I bought my ticket.
Flustered, tired ... who knows really, I had forgotten how trains worked in Italy. Platforms, directions, stuff like that. Eventually I asked at the office and another lovely Ligurian said, come with me, and so I did. I followed her under the tracks and up onto the correct platform.
Honestly, I know how trains work there. I use them often but it seemed that there was a brain-freeze going down and I was in its grip. She sat with me, we talked a little. I wished I had studied Italian. I appreciated her unobtrusive kindess.
I arrived in Arenzano and Francesca picked me up and whisked me off to her place.
Now ... Francesca has lovely friend called Anna Lisa. I'm sure of the 'lovely' because Anna Lisa had offered to cook dinner for Francesca and her family that evening.
I took a photograph or two while she whipped up a focaccia al formaggio, as per the photograph at the end of this post. There was other food too but I was so tired by then, and I did nothing but race about madly during those 5 exquisite days in Genova, I've lost the rest of the memory of dinner. I suspect that the warm focaccia di formaggio was so good that I have fixated on it.
I also suspect that the kindness of Ligurian strangers had overwhelmed me, filled me up, knocked me off-balance a little.
And Francesca's family ... Beppe, Cesare, and Emma. There's so much love between them that it is truly lovely to spend time in their midst.
And so I arrived. Genova, May 2013.
Update: if you use a reader to read my posts, sincere apologies for the series of edits. Strong antibiotics, 3 espressos, and no sunshine or warmth ... it all messed with my mind.
And Stefano, grazie mille for the editing advice. It was a rather grave error, falling to the 'No exceptions' category.