Friday, July 3, 2009

A Visit from the West

The second weekend of May, Martello e Trofie Wife were very happy to play tour guides to our first guests since winter, i parenti di Boston, Nonno Fondente e Nonna Menta (because if you haven’t already noticed, this blog is at least 33.3 percent devoted to gelato). Martello was luckily able to sneak out of work on the earlier side, so we could meet them for a late dinner in the heart of Genova. Fondente e Menta were good sports as hotel recommendations from the locals weren’t quite as great as hoped for; any future guests planning on staying in Genova proper would do best to consult the guidebooks/travel professionals instead of us (via our Genovese peers)! Nevertheless, we had a fantastic, food-filled weekend; Martello and I were practically rolling ourselves around on Monday!

We walked around the main touristy highlights of Genova, stopping for lunch at a great pizza joint in the Porto Antico and enjoying late-afternoon window shopping. We parted briefly before dinner, during which time Martello and I ran into some interesting happenings, including a protest to save local, family-owned stores (featuring free focaccia; the Italians really know how to throw a proper protest!), another organized leafleting against the closing of vicoli (small alleyways) to prevent crime (which could, in turn, harm local businesses positioned around these streets and “privatize” the city), a conceptual art piece being filmed (the guys were all wearing shirts that said “Play” and had speakers on their backs, blaring static), and most charming of all, an a capella tour of the city. We were just aimlessly wandering when we heard several melodious voices break into the unmistakable “Ba, ba, ba, ba, Barbara Ann…” We looked up and saw these guys:

[We somehow got a picture of this, but neglected to get a picture of us with our visitors. Noi dispiaciamo!]

Turns out, one of the churches was hosting a concert of singing groups from various parts of the country. They were “rehearsing” (and advertising) through a progressive concert (the “Genova Jam Tour”), which entailed stopping at various points around the city to show off their skills and range. It was pretty funny.

We also found a really amazing food store (yes, yes, Trofie Wife knows, they’re everywhere, but this one—as we learned after ingesting—had especially tasty products, including pasta cioccolato!). We carried our future pantry items into yet another delicious meal at a restaurant down by the porto. We somehow managed to digest by the time Fondente e Menta found their way to Arenzano the following morning to see our home and taste some local gelato, which they agreed was excellent. We should add that they have been dubbed according to their gelato flavor selection. Now Martello e Trofie Wife learned rather quickly that it is de rigueur to select at least two gelato flavors even when you order the smallest of cones. Martello tried to school i parenti in this custom, but they were beholden to their preferred flavors and hesitant to let another taste sensation impinge upon their respective beloved gusti.

With gelato tasting now checked off the to-do list, we were ready for the next adventure. And a trip to our neck of the woods would be incomplete without a true Italian experience: a train strike!

Yes, we learned—after Martello had sprung for prima classe tickets (which are kind of a joke on regional trains; you get an extra inch or two in the seat and possibly another armrest)—that the train was quite slow to arrive. After lots of conversing on the platform and inquiries at the ticket desk, the potential passengers learned that there was, in fact, a mini-strike afoot (which apparently no one had bothered to inform the ticketing agents about) but that the next train would be arriving…shortly.

Once we finally arrived in Genova, the requisite confusion continued as Martello had the taxi driver drop us off at the residential instead of the business number where our dining destination was located (yes, Genova is that crazy: on the same street you can have the same house number twice—the black one is a commercial building while the red one is a residence and there’s no rhyme or reason as to how anything is arranged). Thankfully, after an appetite-inducing walk, we finally located the restaurant and had a delightful last supper before the departure of i parenti for more relaxing climes. Martello and Trofie Wife thank them for their good humor when faced with some of the absurdities of life here (which nonetheless make for great storytelling)!

Baci e gelato,

Martello e Trofie Wife

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