Today someone asked me what I love about Genova. And I stumbled because it's a complicated question to answer ... complicated like the city really.
I love that the sacred and profane stand side by side here. That it's not a vanilla-smooth kind of city, you have to earn your knowledge. Wandering-lost, following friends, searching out that pizzeria, this bar, that church. You can't just arrive here and know all there is to know of Genova. It's not like that.
I love that the sea is there at the edge of the city, and that hills surround it. Cradling it somehow. I love the sound of the Italian spoken here. I hear the conversations that pass by in the carruggi below my open window. There's the laughter, the 'ciao's', the coffee cups clanking in the cafe close by. Occasionally dogs meet and quarrel, people shout.
I really like the Genovese. The city and its people are particular and it works for me ... that photographer from New Zealand, from Istanbul, from Belgium. The one who wanders a lot, without much Italian.
This time I was here on a mission. I am writing a book and it has taken a long time to define the central thread of it. I thought it was about my photographs taken here since 2008. Then I thought perhaps I might write some of my story too, wanting to attempt to capture something of how it is for me here. But finally I realised it was another kind of book. I hope to have it finished this year. I'll let you know.
I love ravioli fatti in casa al “tuccu” di carne from Il Genovese but you know that already. And the Napoli pizza from Pizzeria Da Pino. No one makes pizza like them. So far, for me, it's the best in the world. Douce Pâtisserie Cafè in Piazza Matteotti has the most divine crema brioche and their coffee is very very good.
Le Gramole Olioteca is an exquisite store to wander to if you want top quality products like pasta and oil, jam and all kinds of cheeses. I interviewed Francesca and she wrote of what their shop means to them.
But that's only a few of my favourites. This city is full of the best kinds of food. And wandering in Europe's largest medieval quarter is full of surprises. There are fresh fruit and vegetable stalls, the fish shops, the butchers, the cathedrals, the churches, and the palaces built in wealthier times.
In so many ways I experience the city as a sensory overload. The recipes are as they have always been in places like confectioner Pietro Romanengo's laboratory - 7 generations in the business.
Genova has a whole lot of something that I've never found any place else. It's been a melting pot over centuries and has come together in a very particular way.
And so perhaps it becomes clear that it's not a question I can answer easily. It's all about a lot of things ... like the city itself.