GORGEOUS GENOA- A CLASSIC ITALIAN BEAUTY

The gorgeous Hotel Di Savoia looms over Genoa's skyline

The gorgeous Hotel Di Savoia looms over Genoa’s skyline

One of Italy’s greatest ports and also one of the original, hugely powerful city states that pre dated the unification of Italy, Genoa today is a vastly under rated, beautiful city. Awash with gloriously over the top Renaissance statuary and architecture, it has never quite attracted the same level of kudos and amazement as, say, Venice, Florence, or Rome.

Located on the extreme north west tip of Italy, Genoa is almost right on the border with France. A train from here will have you in Monaco in just three hours.

The port has been the epicentre of Italian ocean travels for over a century. All of the great Italian ocean liners- from the Rex and the Conte Di Savoia, through to the Andrea Doria, the Michelangelo and the Raffaello- started their maiden voyages from here. All called this great sea city their home.

Set on a series of rolling hills that cradle a stunning natural amphitheatre, Genoa has much in common with cities such as Lisbon; you see it in the Italianate architecture painted in a riot of pastel shades;  in the vast, overblown monuments to local heroes such as Christopher Columbus, and in the trams that crawl sluggishly into the hills.

But though the city is a riot of undiscovered and extensive glories, modern Genoa is not simply some Gothic theme park. The long, gracefully curving waterfront has one of the most fantastic aquariums in Europe, and literally hundreds of bars and waterfront cafes that brim with life in the long summer days and nights. There’s even the giant pirate ship built for the multi million dollar move, Cut Throat Island, now a popular local attraction.

And, of course, the big ships do still sail from here, too. Year round, the giant cruise ships of MSC Cruises and Costa Crociere  still ghost in and out of the ancient sea city, along with many others. With the gorgeous fishing villages of the Cinque Terre region almost within shouting distance, many big cruise ships use Genoa as a base from which to allow their passengers to explore such famous beauties as Portofino and Alassio.

While there is much to see and savour in those amazing, idyllic little slices of the good life, it is still nothing short of amazing that hordes of arriving passengers still give barely a second look at the swaggering, gorgeous city that actually welcomes them. For far too long, Genoa- or Genova to give her the Italian name- has been a hugely under rated destination in her own right.

And, when you’ve checked out these pictures, you- like me- might be left with one simple question; why?

Genoa's imposing cruise ship terminal

Genoa’s imposing cruise ship terminal

Awe inspiring Genoa

Awe inspiring Genoa

Rich and colourful

Rich and colourful

Italianate echoes

Italianate echoes

Old and even older

Old and even older

Genoa is at once hilly and heady

Genoa is at once hilly and heady

Ice cream colors prevail here

Ice cream colors prevail here

Typical medieval Italian largesse

Typical medieval Italian largesse

Soaring, spectacular Genoese cityscape

Soaring, spectacular Genoese cityscape

The elegant Hotel Di Savoia

The elegant Hotel Di Savoia

Genoa is elegant and symmetrical

Genoa is elegant and symmetrical

Tram ride

Tram ride

Love these stunning buildings

Love these stunning buildings

Palms and passageway pastiche

Palms and passageway pastiche

Ancient clock tower

Ancient clock tower

Did someone say 'pirate ship'?

Did someone say ‘pirate ship’?

Now that's big

Now that’s big

Genoa is a bustling city

Genoa is a bustling city

Facade of the cathedral

Facade of the cathedral

Want Lions? There you go

Want Lions? There you go

And that's 'arrivederci Genova'....

And that’s ‘arrivederci Genova’….

JUST GRAND FOR A DAY- GRAND TURK ISLAND

CNV00051Grand Turk is part of the small archipelago known as the Turks and Caicos islands. Seen from above, they would resemble nothing so much as a few slivers of emerald green, with outlines etched in clear white, somehow incredibly afloat in a sea of turquoise. And, in fact, their main claim to fame for many years was space related.

CNV00042John Glenn came down in his Mercury capsule in the waters just off the coast here back in 1962, and there are also some who claim Grand Turk as the original spot where Columbus actually set foot on the shores of the new world for the first time. Adventurous though he was, the Spanish explorer has travelled far more miles in fiction than ever he-or John Glenn for that matter- ever did in fact.

These days, Grand Turk is the biggest island in the group; a colossus fully seven square miles in total. The gin clear waters are a magnet for divers from all over the world, while simple, stunning beaches along the road near Grace Bay are among the best- and least busy- anywhere in the entire Caribbean.

CNV00045The small capital of Cockburn Town has a population of less than four thousand, and has many pretty, palm shaded colonial style buildings along the main road, with picket fences and roosters strutting nonchalantly in the mid day heat. A lot of the buildings here are very reminiscent of the style of architecture found on Bermuda, a thousand miles to the north. All things considered, it’s a sweet, rustic little smorgasbord a million miles slower in tempo than the islands to the south.

CNV00041A few years ago, Carnival built a facility here to dock two large cruise ships, and also created an adjacent themed village and relaxation area for the passengers. Among other things, it includes the world’s biggest branch of Jimmy Buffett’s famed ‘Margaritaville’ franchise. There are pools, palms, and wooden rocking chairs in a riot of brightly coloured shades, as well as the inevitable logo merchandise outlets. There’s also a small, beautiful sweep of beach that fronts it. The whole complex is set up for serious, indolent fun, and it’s an absolute knock out.

CNV00052And yet I found myself wandering after a while. Up towards Cockburn Town. The crowds did not make it this far. It was like entering a parallel universe.

CNV00054Small, brightly coloured fishing boats lay upturned on the smallest slivers of fine, flesh coloured sand. Small. rickety bars, half hidden behind walls of blooming poinsetta, loomed out over the beautiful waters, with just the ghost of a breeze tickling the cold beads running down the neck of my first beer. My footprints were the only ones on the sand. It was quiet, serene, and utterly spellbinding. And, of course, it is unlikely to stay that way.

So I sat on the edge of this sweet little space for a while, dangling my legs off the pier, and trying to imagine John Glenn’s exalted descent from the heavens as he splashed into these self same waters. I don’t know what the Iguana crouched just across the way from me was thinking.

CNV00053Obviously not the sociable kind. But hey, it’s all good. And Lord, it surely was. What a great day just to be alive, and to be thankful for the fact.