What comes to mind when one thinks of Genoa? The birth place of Pesto, perhaps? I’m sure I’ve heard of it in a few movies. Didn’t Anthony Hopkins play “Hannibal Lecter” in Genoa? I could be wrong. The point is that the name registers some sort of importance in the recesses of our minds.

After arriving at the train station and searching for a reasonably affordable hotel, we found one. Yikes. In Genoa, prepare yourself to pay double for a scary hotel on the port side of town or triple for a decent stay on the nice side of town (we discovered this truth much too late). If ever arriving or departing from the port of Genoa, prepare yourselves. The port side of town is an urban planned nightmare. This city is sketchy at best, the dangerous kind where we didn’t go out at night for the certainty of getting mugged. One night only, then were off to Barcelona please. But wait, let’s not chalk it up just yet.

The next day, we were taking an 18 hour ferry from Genoa to Barcelona at 6pm and had some time to kill. We decided there must be a nice part of Genoa and set out for a few hours to find it. We are glad we did. It turns out there are two sides of this city, possibly even more. For certain, the Port area is trouble. We found the main shopping streets and residential district, which were quite nice. The two best things about this city that we found were a hidden labyrinth of a market and an incredible pesto pizza!

The market would be a second home for any chef. Enormous wheels of cheese for sale at the cheese vendor, spices, vegetables, breads, meats, wines, you name it. We were most taken with the fresh pasta kitchen (which was packed with locals). They had an assembly line making fresh pasta, rolling it out, stuffing them and selling by the kilo. Incredible. Imagine the possibilities of having that right next door..

We also found a cafeteria style restaurant nearby with all homemade ingredients. We enjoyed a stuffed pesto pizza that was the best of entire trip! That stuff was amazing. A moment of soap box please. We’ll both preach it from here on out, fresh ingredients makes the world a better place. Maybe we just appreciate Italy so much because as Americans, we don’t have a clue about this notion. It’s only pizza right? Papa Johns is all about this notion. I even think I heard him say that once. Honestly, we may as well have never had pizza before. It’s that different. And yet, the difference is so simple.

After walking around for a bit and meandering down some beautiful alleyways lined with all kinds of stores (most closed for the holiday), we headed back to the port to catch our ride to Spain. It was going to be a long one. Rough life though, heading to Barcelona. We know.

Genoa, a city that for us personifies Dr. Jekyll & Mr. Hyde. Great pesto. You make us want to find a kitchen and get a cooking. But first, get us outta this port!