To be honest – this is something I’ve been waiting for, for a long time. Back in 2010-11 when I made the decision to give up everything, move in with my parents to save money to travel, I had done research on Italy. At the time it was probably one of the most common starts when it comes to back packing (that I knew of) and what seemed like an obvious choice. I am not 100% on what strayed me from my original plan, but I do know that I’m thankful I waited. At the time I was quite naïve, and I don’t feel like I would have appreciated it like I can today. Sitting on the train from France to Italy I was near some young girls around the ages of 18 discussing their adventure so far. It was obvious that this was their first trip and they had no clue what they were doing because one asked the other how long it would take to get into Italy – little did they know the train we all stepped onto together was in Ventimiglia Italy. I couldn’t help but laugh to myself as I put in my headphones to quickly block them out.
It took roughly 2 days to get all the way to our first stop in Savona, but it was well worth the trip. Unfortunately, we couldn’t check into our Airbnb until after 4pm and we got in around 12pm. We decided to get off in Savona because it was a closer train to where we were staying than Genoa, but it had no luggage storage, so we had to walk around the city with our entire lives weighted on our backs. We didn’t get too far from the station before we stopped for lunch, yah, you guessed it, pizza. As delicious as I had imagined although I couldn’t help but think what the pizza will be like in Naples, where it was invented. Sweet Salami, mozza, artichoke, mushrooms and prosciutto complete with an over easy egg on top. I’m telling ya, dipping that thin crispy crust into a runny egg yolk is heaven and a must try for everyone!
Because our home base is so out of town, when we arrived we quickly settled in and relaxed. We must remember to ask ahead of time the buzzer number as we’ve noticed they never match the names. A couple times now we’ve pressed random buzzers or had to find a stranger to call the Airbnb for us to help us get in. Our host spoke no English but was unbelievably kind and friendly. Thanks to technology our phones both have this amazing Google Translate app (you can download for free in the app store) and we were able to speak into it in English and it talk back to Alessandro in Italian, and of course visa versa. We had a full on 20-minute conversation about traveling with him and none of us spoke each others language. What an amazing world we live in these days. He directed us to a little restaurant down the road for supper. I got a spinach and 3 cheese pizza (yes 2 in one day) and Mark got a calzone. Now this calzone was nothing like what we have at home. It was bigger than his dinner plate and easily weighed a couple pounds. Filled with Ricotta cheese, meat and more cheese of course. It was the biggest calzone I have ever seen, and Mark enjoyed it thoroughly.
Our first full day we took the train 2 hours into Genoa (or Genova). A bustling upscale, almost posh style city. There were lots of large squares with a fountain or statue as a center piece and long main streets covered by old gothic architecture. A main square we ended up in was named after Ferrari and you can imagine how pricey that area was. You walk past endless stores of Louis Vuitton, Gucci, Armani, you name it. We enjoyed getting lost in the side streets and following the rainbow umbrellas that are hung above you in the narrow twist and turns of the buildings. I of course had to try Gelato immediately and ended up with melon and strawberry flavour which was delicious and more sorbet texture than the creamy gelato. But it was a hot day and I wanted something fruity. Not long after that, I had a taste of the famous Pistachio gelato and dark chocolate with cream and orange. I could live off this stuff! Unfortunately, our last train back home is at 8pm so we started looking around 6 for somewhere to eat. We couldn’t believe how difficult it was to find pasta! Most places didn’t open until 7-730 and we were on a time limit so as a final stretch we took one last corner before heading back to the train station and stumbled upon a pizzeria. Mark had his pasta and I had pizza (yes—3 times in 2 days, we call that pulling a Sherry Penney) This was one by far the best yet. I made sure to get pesto on it as Genoa is where it originated. Buffalo mozzarella with raw cherry tomatoes on top and parmesan cheese. It was so gooey and delicious and yes, I ate the entire thing. Totally worth it. One of Marks favourite part of the European culture seems to be the shot of espresso after every meal. A tiny little hit of caffeine to get all those heavy carbs you just ate moving. A perfect meal to end our day in Genoa.
Day two, we took a train an hour and 45 minutes to Turin (or Torino). It was almost immediate that I fell in love with this city. It was so much more down to earth, laid back than Genoa was. Stepping foot outside the train station you find yourself in a luxurious square filled with smaller, scattered fountains. People standing around them in conversation soaking up the sun and heat. Pigeons bathing in the fountains mist. There was so much to take in it was almost overwhelming. It was much easier to navigate and a more compressed city than Genoa. A walking street from one end of the downtown to the other, roughly 5 blocks. I love these kinds of things. So many shops to check out, restaurants, bars and a gelateria on every corner. Their bars are not the same as ours. They are beautiful gothic architecture, decorated from top to bottom inside and you can get anything from alcoholic drinks, coffees, pastries, gelato, focaccia and pizza. I got a tad trigger happy with my camera as I couldn’t get enough of the views. Always makes me so excited to get home and check out what I captured! Although I’m still new at it all and editing tends to take me forever, I am falling in love with photography. I’m lucky enough to have someone in my life that I seem to be following in the footsteps with this hobby and it makes it even more exciting to await his constructive critique and comments. Thanks to my wonderful grandpa, I am completely confident that I’ll get to where I want to be with my skills.
I did research the night before about what kind of foods and drinks we must try in each city. I added Bicerin to the list, an espresso mixed with melted chocolate and cream topped with whipped cream and chocolate powder. So darn good. We made sure to try an Arancini which is a ball of risotto stuffed with pasta sauce and meat, breaded and then deep fried. Marks exact words, “This was probably the best thing I’ve eaten since we left.” I have to agree with him. It was creamy and crispy packed with so much flavour. Nutella originated here so I grabbed a couple small flaky filo pastries, one filled with Nutella of course and another filled with a pistachio cream. For supper we found a reasonably priced pasta place and Mark got the spaghetti with pesto sauce and me the gnocchi (which originated here as well) with a cheese sauce, Parmigianino Reggiano, blue cheese, milk, oil and butter. Heavy and amazing. I’m going to have to hit the gym for 6 months straight when I get back, but it will all be damn well worth it!
Well, as quickly as we got here we are now on our way further east to Venice. We had to stop in at our favourite café next to the train station for our coffees and torte verde (green pie) a very thin pita/pie crust filled with rice, spinach, peas and spices. Yum!! I will definitely miss this little place.
It took us roughly 8-9 hours by train to get to Venice, but each train is free! Boom. That always makes me happy. Cannot wait to update you all on our next adventure. Thanks for sticking it out until the end, I know this was a long one ❤