Europe ’15 – Genoa to Sicily

The fourth city on our European odyssey was Genoa, a city of 860,000 people perched on the coast in north western Italy. The reviews of visitors to Genoa are very mixed. Some portray it as a dirty, dangerous city with beggars and prostitutes. Others are charmed by its narrow streets, formerly regal residences and breathtaking views that it’s cliff top location affords. The truth probably lies somewhere in between.

 There are 2 main parts to Genoa. The modern city of skyscrapers and multi storey flats located to the south and the historic precinct to the north, and near the port, where the tourist attractions are concentrated, including one of the world’s great aquariums. It is also one of Europe’s busiest container and cruise ship ports.[teaserbreak]

 The fast train we took from Turin delivered us within a few 100 metres of the historic centre of Genoa. As the old city is compact, it attracts lots of pedestrians, but it’s steep cobbled streets and many stairs deter cyclists. Vespers rule!

 Genoa’s hilly typography and narrow streets provide a challenge for transport planners. Light rail is not an option, so the heavy lifting has been historical done by diesel and trolley buses collocated with a system of funicular railways and large public lifts. The Metro is new addition and has limited stops running parallel to the port.

 We also took a day trip to Cinque Terre, the 5 picturesque towns that cling to the coast south of Genoa. Part of the charm of these villages is that they are protected from large volumes of tourists, as coaches cannot transverse the roads. The area is subject of mudslides and relies for its survival on the heavy rail line that connects each of these colourful fishing hamlets with Genoa to the north, and La Spezzia and Livorno to the south. This area is protected by UNESCO and the Italian Government as a national park, covering both land and sea.

 Our next port of call was Palermo, Sicily’s largest city. To get there, we took a variety of land and sea transport. We left Genoa on another fast train bound for Civitavecchia, Rome’s port. A short taxi ride from the railway station delivered us to the ferry terminal. Our enormous ferry, GNV’s “Splendid”, that would dwarf of the “Spirit of Tasmania”, has a focus in cargo bound for Sicily and some onto Africa. A small number of private vehicles and foot passengers, like us, are included in its schedules. After we boarded, we watched with both amusement and awe at some of the brilliant reversing to get large semi trailer loads crammed into the cargo decks. The final roll on roll off doors lifted, and we were away. Next stop, Palermo, Sicily.

 Thanks, Chris and Mike

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