Sunday, 30 June 2013

Day 11: First impressions of ITALY!

Today was the day we left France and headed towards our third big destination, Italy. We started off with another nice bigger brekkie in Nice, then walked over to the station. 
CC got a not-so-nice (even tho he was in Nice :( ) last memory of France of nearly being pickpocketed, literally we were in front of the station, last minutes in France, when this happened – some young guy walking past had reached into his pocket and nearly got his phone.

A bit traumatised, we headed into our last French train very wary of our surroundings. This was a French train whose last station was Ventimiglia, the first town after the Italian border. Our train was packed but I was kept amused by a big group of Italian girls talking very loudly, quickly and Italianly. I realised how much nicer it is to listen to teenage chatter when I have no idea what they're talking about. (Ok seriously contemplated deleting that sentence it makes me sound about 90.)

Ventimiglia gave a very nice first impression of Italy, a gorgeous little town. We walked down the street with cafés and shops and a fruit market, I started practising my Italian by saying bonjorno (however you write that) to the people in the stationery shop and getting myself an Italian Phrase Book woop! We went to see the sea too which was pretty awesome.

Next train: Ventimiglia – Genova. Checked on the departure board that the train is defo going through Genova – it was going through all the stations. Yep, Genova. Oh, another Genova. Makes sense since Genova is quite big, it must have a few stations. Another Genova. And another. And another. … I am not lying at all when I say I got bored of counting after eleven. Well, I'm sure we'll find one to get out at. (Just wikipediad it – there are altogether twenty six train stations/stops in Genova.)
First food bought in Italy - no idea what it is but it didn't disappoint! Tomatoey.
Ok, Italy. Everyone knows the stereotypes, but I decided to (try and) come with an open mind. But, after our train left at least ten minutes late, stopped in random places throughout the journey, spending ages at some random stations, and arriving in Genova an hour late, I couldn't help but think that those stereotypes may be quite correct. Trains do take their time.

We reached Genova at about half three, then trundled over to our hostel, Hostel Manena. Through a few uninteresting streets and a few more interesting, very narrow and dodgy ones. Passed a few impressive buildings, churches mostly, but otherwise it wasn't anything mindbogglingly amazing. The hostel turned out to be real nice though, after the initial confusion of being put in a 12 bed mixed dorm... I did not remember booking that... Oh well.

Within minutes of arriving, me at least shattered and tired, an eager young man came to talk to us – would we like a three-hour guided tour of the town, usually it starts at 4pm but since it's 4pm right now it could be postponed to 4.30? Sure, very keen, replied CC. Alrighty then.

In the end it was just three people on the tour – me, CC and a girl called Rachel studying in Birmingham. The guide was actually Greek, and he has the fastest English I have heard, ever, literally. It was really nice, and very interesting hearing his 'outsider' opinions on Italy, but pretty intense – I'm used to guided tours with MANY people where you can wander off and take photos and look at stuff and not listen without anyone minding. Here, obviously, I was one third of the tour so I couldn't do that. But learnt a lot about Genova, did you know that the word 'jeans' originally comes from 'Genova'? And it was Genova who sold Corsica to the French?

Yay persuaded Mr Guide to stop in at a bakery :)
Interesting detail added at whim by a random builder of his dog!
Three hours was a bit long, but we saw all of Genova which was pretty cool. So would not have been able to sightsee this well had it just been me and CC. Genova had its posh areas, its historic areas, its brothel areas, the harbour, etc etc, quite varied in the end. And very impressive architecture! So, if you are into architecture, VISIT GENOVA. I enjoyed it but it isn't a city I'd come back to, just because I prefer nature and high-up-top-views to buildings.

Tour finished at half seven, then me and CC and Rachel pretended to go the posh Genovese restaurant our guide recommended, actually ending up in one of the cheaper ones on the street restaurants. I ordered gnocchi au pesto (pesto is a traditional dish here), Rachel ordered spaghetti carbonara and CC ordered some meat stuff with rice as an extra dish.

Italians_do_take_their_time. After a LONG wait (but pleasant, it's always easy and interesting to find things to talk about with fellow travellers) I finally saw my gnocchi being passed about, looking for the person who had ordered them. I got them and politely waited for the other two to get their meals. They didn't appear within a few minutes, so they just told me to start without them.
Ten minutes later, Rachel's spaghetti carbonara found its way to the table.

Ten minutes later, CC's meaty stuff found its way to the table.

Ten minutes later, CC's rice found its way to the table.

Ok, maybe it was only five minutes with the rice.
CC waiting for his food

CC was quite grumpy by the time it came but promptly forgot his annoyance when he tasted the food. And true, though very questionable timings, all the food was amazing. My gnocchi cost me six euros, were a manageable portion (tho literally swimming in olive oil), and VERY GOOD.

And the hostel is very cool actually. There are only 25 beds altogether so it's a real nice community. Spoke to some Aussies, and to CC's great delight there is another kiwi-girl in our dorm!! There is a group of five loud American lads too who are coming with us tomorrow to explore Cinque Terre... That will be interesting!

Now, bed time. Or probably not, because since it's a nice community loads of people are still in the community area playing poker and stuff.

Bon bon, good night Italia. :)


  1. Olipa hyvä, ettei CC:n puhelinta saatu! Ihanat ruokakuvat taas. Ja hienoa, että ostit sen fraasikirjan ja sait sen oppaan pysähtymään leipomon kohdalla. :) Kuljitteko te sen kolme tuntia jalkaisin??? <3

  2. I'm sure Italian teenage chatter sounds brilliant to us old fuddy-duddies who don't understand a word of Italian. But hang on, old fuddy-duddies don't go Interrailing, staying at cool, sociable hostels, so that counts you out! You're now two up on me - I've not been to Monaco or Italy :(