While visiting the east coast of the Italian Riviera, we drove to Genova to wander around seemingly aimlessly among the labyrinth of bars and shops that lined the narrow alleys of the city.
Walking through the streets, it would seem the area’s claim to fame was being the birthplace of Christopher Columbus – a statue stands erected six meters high in the port of Rapollo and a corner of a brick wall in midtown Genova marks the place where Columbus lived – but the residents here will roll their eyes and will instead only talk about the narrowness of the Genovian alleys: originally a strong and prestigious trading port, Genova became largely overrun by pirates (true story!), and when the city expanded it was built with some impossibly narrow corridors in order to confuse and stall any looters.
These tight corridors now pass for regular walkways through downtown Genova, and on this weekend night were packed even tighter with crowds of droopy-hat and winter-jacket wearing university goers, hipsters and casanovas. But these crowds weren’t outside lining up to get in – their plastic beer cups were already in hand and full. No, it was the exact opposite of the current state of Vancouver night life: the party district of Genova was being sustained by the act of loitering around outside and drinking.
The happy crowds weaved through the mazes of bars all night, occasionally popping in for another cup of beer or a shot of something in flames, then lighting up another cigarette (not prohibited anywhere) and running into another happy crowd they knew (thought how they all found each other in that maze is unbeknownst to me). There was no police manning the shadows (there’s apparently no money for it), but there wasn’t any need for it either: the hordes of people assembled, meandered, or loitered in the streets outside jovially (albeit sometimes a bit loudly) all night without so much as a confrontation.
We walked around in circles (on purpose!) with and against the crowds well past 3am, and so I, too, will only be able to speak of the narrowness of the Genovian alleys. And rightfully so: excited to see that pile of rocks in midtown Genova that resemble a corner of Christopher’s wall, I took a closer look only to see a sign that says, “This probably was the house of Columbus.”