I had my first hot thick winter chocolate at this beautiful ancient Genovese cafe late on Saturday afternoon. I met Dear Miss Fletcher, who has already written of this beautiful place, there and we talked over steaming hot drinks.
I hope to have some of their stories to tell you in the weeks ahead. I took this photograph as we were leaving. The place is stunning. I promise.
Coffee at Douce in Piazza Matteotti, Genova.
Or perhaps I am generally missing good coffee. Even the highway autogrills do good coffee in Italy.
Then I miss the possibility of eating Ravioli fatti in casa al “tuccu” di carne at Roberto's place, Il Genovese because Tuccu is the most divine sauce ever invented ... any place here on this earth.
I miss Stefano's restaurant because there are always stunning surprises in store when you eat and drink there.
I miss the possibility of hearing Donatella singing and Luciano play there. I am learning to miss Donatella's fried squash flowers too. They were divine that night she took Helen and I home and cooked for us.
I miss the 'ciao's' that I hear in the street. I miss Pino & Silvana, and their divine pizzas.
I'm thinking now ... perhaps it all adds up to the fact that I'm simply missing Genova. And forgive me if your name isn't here because I'm sure to be missing you too :-)
Below, a photograph of Luciano playing bass guitar (really, he is), taken at a performance he and Donatella gave recently.
They have become friends. Friends who were kind enough to invite Helen and I into their beautiful home on the hill one evening, friends who generously share their world with us.
I took the following photograph during an aperitivo performance at Stefano's restaurant one evening ...
I didn't have time to visit this Robert Capa exhibition while in Genova but only because I realised that it will be there for a while. I shall return and make space for it. He was a fascinating man.
Monday found me in my favourite secondhand bookshop here in the city. I discovered a huge treasure, justified buying it, then had to talk myself into carrying the huge weight of it home.
It's John Phillips book, Free Spirit in a Troubled World.
At just 21 years old, Algerian-born photojournalist Phillips was hired by Life magazine and assigned to cover Edward VIII, just as the story of Wallis Simpson and the king's abdication was about to break. Here, Phillips records his next 23 years as a correspondent, witnessing many of the 20th century's most dramatic events. Before World War II, he filmed the Wehrmacht marching into Austria, the Warsaw Ghetto, and turbulence in central Europe. From the Middle East, there are momentous photographs of King Farouk, King Ibn Saud, and the destruction of Jerusalem's Jewish Quarter. Reproduced from his negatives rather than Life's prints, the over 200 black-and-white images chronicle old worlds collapsing and new regimes seizing power. More so than most photojournalists' memors, Phillips's extensive text combines intelligence with delightful intimacy.
Of course I'm going to want to read his book. And even better, for me, it was less than 20euro.
But anyway, at some point each morning spent in Genova, we would find our way to Douce Pâtisserie, in Piazza Matteotti, and this was the view from my table ...
On Friday, I was 12 hours out in the city ... and for 10 of those hours I was carrying my 6kg+-heavy bag of camera gear. And still, it was sublime.
I set out with Shannon, an American living here, and we wandered and talked. She knows this city, 2 years living here after some time spent in New Zealand. That's how she found me and my blog. She searched New Zealand and Genova.
We said goodbye only when it was time for me to meet my traveling companion off the train. It was a brisk walk through the city to Brignole train station. Home for 10 minutes, refreshed and I was off to a confectionery laboratory that has been in the hands of the same family since 1780.
A tour that astounded me was followed by an interview with the loveliest gentleman. Hours later, Anna, from Beautiful Liguria, and I walked back through the city and I had just a few minutes to change, to finally drop off that camera gear, before heading out to dinner.
What a dinner! If you find yourself in Genoa, you must try Ristorante Il Genovese because there is nothing about the experience that can cause regret. And if you do, and if you love meat and pasta, then the Ravioli fatti in casa al 'tuccu'di carne is the one that I fell entirely in love with.
The sauce is 5 hours in preparation and you can taste the time and the care taken. But everything, from the gnocchi di patate fatti in casa al pesto, the cima genovese ricetta antica con patate al forno, the brandacujun di stocca fissoe, and the latte dolice fritto, even the canestrelli ... all exquisite. And that was only what we actually ordered.
I know I read like I'm exaggerating but I was there with a Flemish Belgian, famous for being a people of few words perhaps. He loved it too. I think the secret lies in the attention the Panizza brothers pay to the details. Quality products and a love of food. It's an absolute must when you're here but remember to book.
And just as I thought the day might ending I received an email from an art gallery in NYC. They would like to represent my photography in their gallery.
So sleeping was a bit of an issue that night but I had to ... I was exhausted by the week I had just experienced. The rings under my eyes were black and maybe a container ship could park inside of them.
This is Genova for me. I go high, I go low ... but oh how I live when I am here.
Just across the alley from the place where I write and work, while in Genova, is this tiny shop that sells the most delicious farinata, pies and Genovese snacks.
Some days, the scent of the food being cooked down in the wood-fired oven there, almost drives me out of my mind.
I was on my way back from another journey through the caruggi with my camera and voila, the sun created this image ...
This warm and welcoming cafe has become my favourite place to stop for a breakfast coffee, here in Genova.
Caffè degli Specchi, or the Cafe of Mirrors, is like so many of the cafes here in the city, a hub of activity. The Genovese call in on their way someplace else, select a pastry, and order their cappuccino or espresso. Some drink standing at the bar but I love to sit outside and watch the world pass me by. The sandwiches make a rather nice lunch too.
Jimmy, pictured below, is responsible for the best cofee I have had in a long time. He greets customers as they arrive and switches to English for those who, like me, are liguistically impaired. Their aperitivo, later in the day, is also rather special.
Located at Salita Pollaiuoli 43, it's not far from Palazzo Ducale and is a must-visit kind of cafe.
Today was one of those days, when the light was right, down in the ancient heart of Genova and there I was, passing by my favourite trattoria in this beautiful light.
Really, it was just meant to be a very short walk through the city, with a stop for coffee at my favourite cafe, Caffè Degli Specchi - on Salita Pollaivoli 43/R, then back to work on the book ...
That was THE PLAN.
3 hours later, and I returned home, having met the most interesting Genovese along the way. I'll write more on them in other posts but it was delightful.
I talked with the man who imports beautiful furniture from India, goods that have been made ethically, both in terms of labour and wood, and sells them here at his shop - Safarà. You can visit his website here.
I chatted with a designer creating the most exquisite clothes.
I bought my pesto and gnocchi from the women who make the best in the world ... or so says I, this ignorant straniero.
Then down to Bio Soziglia, in Macelli di Sozigli,a for a bio lettuce and 2 tomatoes ... I also popped in at Le Gramole Olioteca while I was down there and bought the most exquisite mozzarella. I asked for instruction on how to look after it, mostly because I felt slightly intimidated by the quality of it ... Francesca was kind and explained. And I was right ask, I didn't know that the cheese can taste better if served at room temperature, nor how long I could keep it for after opening it.
And on back up the hill, for my focaccia from the forno on via Ravecca. The focaccia is good enough to walk a distance for.
A ciao to Lorenzo at cibi e libri and home ... to eat some of the food I had hunted-gathered.
A good day, and now ... the book.
One of my favourite places, here in the city of Genova, is Bar Boomerang.
Initially it was the name that I noticed. Then the fantastic, never-tasted-better cappuccino drew me back again and again. On this, my second visit to the city, I discovered that their aperitivo is the nicest aperitivo I’ve had so far.
The staff are friendly, clients are important to them and their passion for the work comes through in all that they do. If you are in Genova, I recommend you find your way to this cafe and decide for yourself.
In a small interview with Simona, the patient barista (patient in working with my New Zealand English), I asked a few questions about the cafe.
She explained that the name had orginated from a visit that Marta, the owner, had made to Australia. Marta and her husband enjoyed the trip so much that they named their Genovese cafe Bar Boomerang. I need to explain that what we would call a cafe in New Zealand is a bar here in Italy, although alcohol is served so perhaps it becomes something of a hybrid.
Open five years, the bar is located on via Porta Soprana, 41-43, not far from the ancient Genovese gate known as Porta Soprana. The gate, built in 1155, was originally intended as a defense rampart, with access for commercial traffic arriving via the interior, and acted as a barrier to would-be conquerors like Barbarossa and others. Today it stands permanently open, welcoming foreign creatures like me inside this ancient part of the city.
As a tourist, a sometimes shy tourist without l’taliano, I was a little intimidated about just how to order my coffee. Of course, it’s quite simple. You wander into the cafe, order your coffee, select something to eat if needed and take it yourself. In most bars, you can either pay a little extra and take a seat or stand at the bar and drink without sitting.
You pay as you leave.
At Bar Boomerang, their work is a passion and I’m sure that is what makes everything taste so good. Simona took me through the four steps required to make good coffee. Obviously you begin with good coffee, then you make sure your machines are clean. The third step involves making a good press and the fourth, well that surprised me, it’s about noting the humidity and any changes in the humidity. If it changes, the settings on the coffee machine need to change too.
The coffee is so very good. It’s one of the things I missed for weeks after leaving last time and I expect it will be the same this time.
Most people know Italians take their coffee very seriously. I asked Simona about the ‘rules’ and she explained that a typical Italian customer might have cappuccino or latte in the morning. Milk coffee is only for mornings and laughing she said, not before or after lunch or dinner. This is more of a tourist thing or maybe in winter, on a really cold day. Expresso is for all the time, after lunch or dinner particularly, as its role is to aid in digestion. You could typically follow the expresso with a liquer of some kind like limoncello, grappa or jagermeister.
I feel more relaxed when I wander into the bars here now, still imperfect and prone to crave cappuccino at inappropriate times but less worried.
Bar Boomerang is open from 7am until 9pm, 6 days a week – closed Sunday. They also serve lunches but that’s another post over on the blog.
I ate more pizza than I should have in Genova but eating becomes very much something I can’t be bothered doing when I’m out wandering ... cooking is even less likely to happen and so the pizzeria across the alley became a second home, specially while Pippa was staying.
One night, I popped into the kitchen and took a series of photographs at Pizzeria Ravecca.
I liked this one.
Pizzeria Ravecca da Pino, Via Ravecca, 23r - 16128 Genova.