Golden Day Eighty-Five: Centro Storico Genoa with Beautiful Liguria
One of my 2012 highlights was meeting Anna Merulla in the centro storico of Genoa on a spring Sunday. I’d found Anna through her Beautiful Liguria blog, where she gives us an insider’s view of the region and expresses her passion for the food, history, and culture with gorgeous photos and recipes–including one for risotto and porcini, that is calling out to me this cold winter day. Beautiful Liguria is also Anna’s travel concierge company that offers everything from tour planning, hiking excursions, weddings services, cooking lessons, and personal shopping in this region.
It was a Golden Day for me to meet Bella Anna in person on the steps of Genoa’s San Lorenzo Cathedral–she’s absolutely charming, overflows with enthusiasm for her beloved home, and was the perfect guide to take me through the labyrinth of Genoa’s Centro Storico.
This unique area, squeezed between the port and Renaissance palaces, is said to be the largest Medieval city center in Europe. It was created by rich merchant seamen of Genoa’s 13th and 14th centuries heydays, when each family staked out separate territories, building their own churches, palaces, and squares—cramming in additions as they grew more prosperous. Dog-legged alleys (called caruggi), that were once the scene of chases and back stabbings between feuding families, are now enchanting to poke around and discover centuries old artisan shops, bakeries, boutiques, and cozy restaurants.
Next, on Via San Bernardo, you’ll find the old shop Drogheria Torielli (Via di San Bernardo, 32). The store is a kingdom of scents and flavors–from spices, herbs, homemade chocolate, tea, rice, imported curries, essences and body care products that come from all over the world. I love stepping into this place with its white wooden shelves, on which are arranged all the products with hand written labels in a beautiful calligraphy. The owners are two brothers, the fratelli Torielli, who have served their clients for fifty years.
Walking north on Via Macelli di Soziglia, you’ll find typical butcher shops, fish shops and greengrocers. When you get to Vico del Fieno, you’ll see the chicken shop Polleria Anne e Sergio. Entering the store is like stepping into the past. The shop is exactly as it was on the day they opened in 1910, with marble counters where the chickens are cut by the owners any way a customer wishes. The quality of the food is high and the products are fresh from the farmer.
You can find stockfish at the famous Bottega dello Stoccafisso in Via Macelli di Soziglia. It arrives in Genoa from Norway and is soaked for eight days in the large marble sinks of the store. After this stage the fish is ready and it can be prepared as you like. Genoese love Stoccafisso (Stockfish) and Baccalà (Dried salted cod) and they use them as basic ingredients in many Ligurian recipes, such as Buridda,, a stewed stockfish dish that can be accompanied with a white wine from the Cinque Terre.
At the Panificio Grissineria Claretta (Via della Posta Vecchia 12r), you can taste one of the best focaccia of Genova. The shop was opened in 1952 by a family of bakers from Turin. Their secret is preparing their products with high quality ingredients. Here you can taste classic focaccia and focaccia with onion (Focaccia con la cipolla) from 7 in the morning to 7 p.m. Traditionally Genoese eat focaccia with cappuccino for breakfast, for lunch, and in the evening with a glass of wine.
Look for an old door in Vicolo dei Castagna, with a hand-lettered wooden plate on which is written “Viganotti”, that welcomes you into Antica Bottega Romeo Viganotti, a traditional chocolaterie where recipes from the founders of the early 20th century are still used. Even the equipment is orginal! I assure you that the scent of sugar and cocoa will capture you as soon as you enter the store. You will feel like in the shop of the film “Chocolat” by Lasse Hallstrom.
If you have visited the Aquarium and are searching for a quick lunch of fresh seafood and farinata, right across Via Sottoripa, you’ll find the perfect place: Friggitoria Carega, a “Stand Up Trattoria”.
Or for a delicious meal, go to Ristorante e Prie Rosse (Via di Ravecca 54R, telefono 010.2512591, closed Sunday at lunch), that serves meat, salumi, mushrooms, and cheese from all over Italy, along with very good wines. The best thing to do here is to ask the waiter’s advice for the best offerings of the day.
A wonderful place to stay is the Unique B&B Genova, located in the hilltop Castelletto area. Rooms are romantically designed, with views of the city and sea below, and the hosts will give you a warm welcome to Genoa.
Grazie Anna, I can’t wait to return to intriguing, delicious Genoa!