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Expat Vagabonds "Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry and narrow mindedness." Mark Twain

Monte Carlo and Genoa

MONACO | Wednesday, 25 January 2012 | Views [1446]

Grand Casino, Monte Carlo

Grand Casino, Monte Carlo

The two towns could hardly be more different.  Monte Carlo, with memories of Prince Ranier and Princess Grace, the famous Gran Prix race and the Grand Casino, is home to the beautiful (and oh-so-wealthy) people.  Gardens, fountains and sculpture trail down to the sea and the harbor is filled with the pleasure craft of the rich and famous.  Genoa, or Genova, while once one of the most important cities in the world, is a congested multi-level warren of winding, one-way streets with nary a parking spot to be found. The harbor is dominated by cargo cranes. 

One of our goals is to visit every country in Europe, even the tiny ones like Monaco.  So we left Menton, France and snaked our way down the hill among hundreds of speeding Vespas and other scooters this morning to take in the Grand Casino and the Hotel de Paris, both listed in 1000 Places to See Before You Die.  The Casino doesn't open until 2 PM, not that they would have let us in anyway.  No one would have mistaken me for James Bond even if we hadn't left our formal attire on the cruise ship back in May.  The Hotel de Paris, likewise, is out of our league but I did manage to take a photo of the lobby under, the watchful eye of the concierge.

Trying to get around in Genoa without a map is a big mistake.  Simply following hotel signs took us in circles.  When we finally found an affordable place to stay we couldn't find any place to park and felt lucky even to find our way out of town.  After a good night's rest at a B&B down the coast road in Sori, we tried again to find the World Heritage Piazzas of Genoa.  Connie's navigation and a smidgeon of blind luck found us parking space on a quiet street near St. Stephen's Church.  When the guy on the delivery truck pointed to our location on the map, we were amazed that we were only a few hundred meters from where we wanted to be!

In the 17th Century, Genoa's city father's ordained that the leading citizens should build grand palaces on Strada Nuovo, now Garibaldi Street. The palazzos would be used to entertain visiting dignitaries on the Grand Tour and give them a taste of Genoa's culture.  UNESCO gave the buildings World Heritage status in 2006 - so we just had to see them!  The buildings are still exquisite although most are private apartments, offices or government buildings.  Some of the piazzas are magnificent while others have been converted into parking areas, almost as valuable as gold in this crazy city.

We knew our way around by now, or at least how to get out of town, and that's just what we did.  We exited down another snaky hill into Portofino, the quintessential Italian Riviera town.  When Genoa was threatened by pirates and Turks in the 11th Century, the nobles moved their palaces to the hills of Portofino.  More recently the nouveau riche have built their retreats nearer to the sea.  As we ate lunch in the park under the trees a man clambered over the breakwater clutching and octopus he had just caught, or was it the other way around?


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