The very first port of call on our recent Adriatic cruise was Genoa, Italy. If you know your geography, you’ll realize that Genoa isn’t on the Adriatic at all. Instead it sits on the northwest coast of Italy south of Milan on the Ligurian Sea.
We arrived in Genoa on a rainy Monday morning and I’m not gonna lie, we still hadn’t quite recovered from the almost 20 hours of travel we endured the day before and the overcast, wet conditions didn’t help matters much.
Nonetheless, we were not going to let rainy days and Mondays get us down!
If you’ve been paying attention to my posts about this trip you may realize that initially we were planning to visit the aquarium in Genoa. However, a few weeks before we left I’d been doing some web surfing and I discovered a company called Do Eat Better that was offering street food tours. Although Mr. Q and I are hardly ‘foodies’, we thought a street food walking tour might be a great way to see Genoa with a local, so we booked it. For just under $65 each, we got a 3.5 hour walking tour with five stops for food and/or drink included.
Can I just say, thank goodness we did this. This tour probably saved our day in Genoa. As Lonely Planet says, “Italy’s largest sea port is indefatigably contradictory, full at once of grandeur, squalor, sparkling light and deep shade” and that is a very apt description. On a gloomy November day, the deep shade of Genoa’s narrow, dark alleyways is not terribly inviting.
I’m not sure we would have enjoyed wandering around Genoa on our own in search of that sparkling light.
But we didn’t have to. Our lovely and personable guide, Marina, met us near the Neptune Galleon which was just a short walk from where our ship was docked. There was just one other couple at our meeting point and they were also from our ship, although we hadn’t met them yet.
Here’s a little q-tip for you regarding cruising. After you’ve booked a cruise, check out the roll call page for your specific cruise on cruisecritic.com. You can post messages for other passengers that will be on your ship. When I initially found this street food tour I saw that it required a minimum of 3 people to operate, so I posted the info about it on cruisecritic.com hoping that I would encourage other passengers on our ship to sign up. Sure enough, Sharon and Bill saw my posting and booked the tour.
So the five of us headed into town and to the first stop on our tour, a local focaccia place.
We started with the simple olive oil and salt-based focaccia alla genovese which originated in Genoa. It was warm and fresh out of the oven. We tried the plain version rather than the focaccia with cheese and olives shown above. Since my stomach was only just starting to wake up and get used to the time difference, this was the perfect thing for beginning our tour.
Our next stop was a local Sciamadda where we tried something called Socca or Farinata.
Farinata is made with chickpea flour, water, salt and olive oil. Marina explained that it starts out as a fairly liquid batter that solidifies as it cooks and turns this lovely golden yellow. The bottom gets nice and crusty. It is served plain or with pesto or Stracchino cheese. I have to admit, I wasn’t particularly a fan of this dish. But it was interesting hearing how it was made and giving it a try.
Our next stop was back towards the waterfront where we tried the local seafood.
Keep in mind that this was specifically a ‘street food’ tour. Most of the dishes we tried were things a local would buy from a small shop and then eat on the go. This was fried calamari and shrimp that was served in a paper cone with some lemon wedges and it was delizioso. Mr. Q loves seafood, so he really enjoyed this stop.
After the seafood, we headed uphill towards the Porta Soprana, or one of the gates into the city.
Sidebar to my local readers, I’m not sure what the TC logo on top of that building was for, but it sure did make me feel at home 😉
Nearby we found Locanda Tortuga which was our next stop where we tried focaccia col formaggio, or cheese stuffed focaccia.
Oh my gosh you guys, this stuff was so good. You could have it plain, with some thinly shaved Parma ham on top, or my favorite, with pesto alla genovese.
Yum. This was by far the most delicious pesto I’ve ever eaten. As it turns out, Genoa is known for having the best pesto in the world and that is because there is a specific variety of basil that grows in that region and it gives the pesto alla genovese its superb flavor. Apparently the basil we grow here in the U.S. is simply not the same at all.
I loved the pesto so much that I later purchased several jars of it to bring home. I’m obviously going to have to hoard it and ration it out as long as possible!
We did sit down at this restaurant and enjoy a glass of wine with our focaccia col formaggio. We also were able to watch the focaccia being made by this guy.
After leaving Locanda Tortuga we headed towards some of that grandeur that Lonely Planet was talking about. Via Giuseppe Garibaldi is lined with palaces that were build by the Genoese aristocracy during the Renaissance.
This street is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Many of the palazzos are open to the public as museums, but unfortunately like many museums throughout the world, many are closed on Monday’s.
This is definitely something to keep in mind when planning a trip, especially if it’s a cruise and you’ll be in port for one day only. Make sure that the things you want to see are open. In addition to many museums being closed on Monday’s, in Europe most shops and other things are still closed on Sunday’s too.
Despite not touring any of the palazzos, we did get to admire some glimpses of their beauty like this one.
I couldn’t resist getting just a little bit closer …
Naturally the final stop on our food tour was for gelato and coffee.
If you’ve ever been to Italy you know that gelato beats ice cream hands down. It’s creamier, more dense and has a richer flavor even though it’s actually made with less cream or more milk so has a lower fat content. Regardless of the technical details, it’s yummy. I had Pistachio and Almond.
By the time we finished our Street Food Tour we were stuffed! The jet lag was rapidly catching up with us, and it was starting to get dark (it gets dark early in November), so we headed back to our ship on foot. Marina gave us directions and we were easily able to find our way.
If you are planing a trip to Italy any time soon, I can’t recommend the Do Eat Better Experience enough. In addition to the tours they offer in Genoa, they also offer tours in many other Italian cities. At the conclusion of our tour, they sent me an email with an offer of a 10% discount for my friends. Just use the code DEB4FRIENDS when booking.
This post was not sponsored in any way by Do Eat Better, I paid full price for the tour and all opinions shared here are my own.
Be sure to tune in next Wednesday when I’ll share our 2nd port of call, Monte Carlo!