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Italy 4. Genoa.

This is my final post about our trip to Italy this fall. Here we’re mostly in Genoa or Genova. Post #1 was Pisa, #2 was mostly Lucca (plus an intro to The Matrix), #3 was Florence, and this last one is #4.

Love all these people in their stone caskets with stone skulls underneath. That’s a good night’s sleep!

Love the live people even more, like this classic woman selling fish in the mazy little streets of central Genova.

There’s a fancy street in Genoa called Via Garibaldi, and around 1600, all the rich merchants and financiers built themselves serious palazzos there, one after another, cheek to jowl, just amazing. Here we’re in a palazzo courtyard, seeing out to the Via down there.

Obviously a palazzo is gonna have a serious knocker.

We ended up in an odd indie hotel near the town center…all along we just reserved our lodgings the night before we needed them, as it was too hard to plan in advance. The hotel was near some really wonderful churches, like the Cattedrale di San Lorenzo. I love the striped stone thing they were doing.

Awesome lion outside San Lorenzo, much more richly modeled than the NYC Public Library lions. That wonderful penchant for turning stone into dough.

This was the view from our hotel room window. So Kafkaesque. One of these buildings was the stock exchange. A zillion motorcycles and scooters parked down there, but we never seemed to see any of them arrive or depart. The hotel was pretty shabby, but they’d painted the room in festive you’re-on-vacation colors, like lime green and mauve. It was called Hotel Christoforo Colombo. The price was right.

The remains of an actual house where our man Columbus grew up in the 1400s was nearby. It was barely marked…I had the feeling that the Italians don’t especially care about Columbus. But we do! I loved how shabby and whipped-to-shit it was.

Amazing little churches tucked into squares all over the place. And always those warm, human, echoes of the city sounds amid the squares’ stone walls.

I tried using my Google maps app in Genoa…I’d knuckled under and agreed to pay $10 a day or whatever for wireless. I actually have a lot of trouble with Google maps in a city…like which way is what, and what is which way, and how do these pixels relate to what I’m looking at, and why does the suggested route seem to go in the wrong direction. Long story short, I was lost a lot of the time, and eventually stuck to my sketchy old school paper map I’d gotten from the hotel desk.

Of course when exploring an unknown city on foot, the notion of “lost” is kind of relative. If you don’t know what you’re looking for or where you’re going, what does “lost” even mean? In a meta sense I was looking for surprises, and the image above is one of them…an unexpected alley from the street-maze into a square by that San Lorenzo church.

So here’s David and Goliath. Goliath looks crass, but David doesn’t. Might this be called “Agent Bests Producer”?

Saw this one in, I think, the Palazzo Rosso, or maybe it was the Piazza Bianco. The two palaces were across the Via Garibaldi from each other, and functioned something like museums, with lots of paintings and statues on the upper floors—although really the buildings’ architecture and views were the real sight to see.

The museum guards in here were curiously pushy, like no guards I’ve ever seen, sternly refusing to let us deviate from the decreed route through the rooms, arbitrarily declaring certain rooms off limits, and at times lecturing us quite harshly. Like really mean grade-school teachers.

Anyway, dig Jesus driving the money changers from the temple! So much color.

Awesome, Escheresque levels and stairs in the courtyard of the Palazzo Rosso (or Bianco).

Hopping back to Florence, here’s a wonderfully peaceful courtyard near the Sante Croce (Santa Cruz ( Holy Cross)) cathedral. We saw a nice concert in a hall here.

And here we are in the round or elliptical central square of Lucca, photographed in a mirror with some smears on it. Vacation time goes slow, that is, it’s so full of incidents that the days and weeks feel longer. In my mind, the two weeks in Italy are longer than the seven weeks we’ve been back home . Here, in my routine live, every time I turn around, it’s Sunday again. More than that, every time I look up, Christmas is here again. Galling how fast the time goes, here in my dotage, when I can least spare the scant remaining colander pages that are flying off the wall in fast-forward. I guess that’s one reason we like to travel, or at least to do new things. To slow time down.

The best church in Genova was the Church of the Gesù, which is, I think, a mother church of the Jesuits, thus its name. Every surface is painted, embossed, besculpted, inlaid, tiled, curved, and lit. Like the inside of a mind.

Cool spiral staircase in the Palazzo Bianco. One of the push guards made me take a picture of it, but doing so was actually a pretty good idea. Sometimes the obvious shots are worth having.

Keep in mind that the Italians are world champs at design. A deluxe marbled kilometers long shopping arcade ran down a street near our hotel, and on the street was a very cool coffee shop with these kicky light fixtures. Given my interests what I liked about them was that the shape of an edges-only cube is to some extent ambiguous, that is, you can mentally flip it if you stare at one of the inner corners and “push” or “pull” on the corner. This is the Necker cube effect, in which a cube is actually turning over in the fourth dimension to become its mirror image. I discuss this effect at length in the “Through the Looking Glass” section of my non-fiction book The Fourth Dimensionn.

Another wonderfully bizarre, over-designed, and impractical light fixture, consisting of a line and a circle, as seen in Via Garibaldi 12, which is probably the most lavish, bizarre, museum-like, and mind-expanding housewares shop in the world. They’re in a palazzo on the ultra-deluxe Via Garibaldi, natch, and they hardly even have a sign outside. You just kind of have to know where they are. You walk into a courtyard, and there’s some weird electronic sounds, and you figure out that you need to go up some five hundred year old marble stairs to get to the store itself, on the second floor.

And who doesn’t want an exquisito cupboard of polyhedra in their salon?

And the pastry shops…ah. Serious pushing and shoving among the slavering clients in here. But a life offered for a perfect cream puff is a life well lost.

One of Genoa’s main squares near our hotel had a big circular fountain in front of that stock exchange we could see from our window. Hard, these days, to even imagine people physically going into a stock exchange, but I gather they still do. Those photos of brokers yelling and waving slips of paper. There was a lot of that in Antonioni’s movie L’Eclisse, featuring the monumental, unreadable, and divinely static Monica Vitti.

Naturally it occurred to that if you turn the stock exchange on its side, the tower looks like the tip of a  three-dimensional, stone Mandelbrot set…

Viva l’Italia!

And salutations to Our Lady of the Holy Web.

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