Continued from part 5: The sites of Florence
After completing our visit to the Uffizi gallery early on the morning of the 17th April, we get in our little rental car and take to the road. We’ve planned a road trip to the North-Western tip of Italy and from here we will be crossing the border into France.
Our destination for tonight is Genoa. We aren’t expecting much and take our time driving up the coast. There are storm clouds over the ocean and it seems that we will spend another night with rain as a constant companion, but for the moment at least the sun is shining and it’s easy driving. We stop in a few of the smaller towns along the highway towards Genoa, but most are deserted as it seems they thrive on holiday crowds in summer. The beaches are pristine and we risk setting our toes in the water, but it’s freezing!
Francois drives the last stretch into Genoa and it’s nerve-wracking. There are three ‘layers’ of roads on top of one another, as bridges cross over and run on top of one another and this thoroughly confuses our GPS. It takes a while to arrive at our hotel, where we receive the coldest “welcome” yet. The receptionist does not understand a single word of English and does not even feign interest in trying to let us know where we are going or how to get there. Obviously smiles are also foreign to her, and I’m less than impressed by her attitude. We settle in and park the car somewhere we assume is safe for parking, but spend a great deal of time throughout the evening checking up on it to make sure it’s not towed away or clamped in.
The hotel seems to be in little China/Nigeria and street vendors, loiterers and Chinese supermarkets are all we can find in the area. We get some supplies for dinner and head back to the hotel. We spend the evening watching horrible reality TV, as it’s the only English show we can find. Francois had a cold since we were in Rome and it seems I’m coming down with it as well.
Wednesday, 18 April
It’s my birthday! Francois wakes me up and hands me a gift that one of my friends from SA had him carry around all over Italy so that I would receive it on my birthday! It’s a pair of earrings I had been eyeing for months and I can’t believe the amount of trouble she’d gone to.
We leave the dreary city of Genoa behind and, unlike the city itself, the countryside around Genoa is absolutely stunning. We arrive in Turin just after 12:00 to find it’s an amazingly beautiful city. The weather has however closed in once again, and after dropping our bags at the AMAZING Tomato Backpackers Hotel, we head into the streets to explore the city. There is a biting wind chilling one to the core and finally we decide to get Francois a scarf to keep him from freezing to death. A very helpful lady unpacks some of her winter stock from a stack of boxes and after completing the transaction, we head off in search of a true Italian dining experience for my birthday. Unfortunately basically everything is closed at that time of day and as this is the first time we experience it, we have to come up with alternative entertainment.
One of Turin’s main tourist attractions is the Molé Antonelliana. It is one of the city’s major landmarks and depicted in most of the souvenirs and features in photos of the city’s skyline most prominently. We find parking in a side-street and take a walk through the cinematic museum on the ground level. From here we drive past a few landmarks while we wait for the rental agency to open so we can return the car, but the wind dissuades us from venturing out of the car.
The Mole Antonelliana in Turin, Italy
Back at the hotel after returning the car, we explore our accommodations and find a great common area in the basement. We decide this is a great place to kill some time and avoid the rain (again), and open a bottle of wine, gather our books (or Kindle, in my case) and cozy ourselves in on the couches.
Wine, books and couches in the basement of Tomato Backpackers Hotel on a rainy day in Turin, Italy
For dinner we decide pizza is in order for a birthday in Italy, and on the owner’s recommendation we go to a restaurant whose name I can’t seem to find anywhere (not even with Google streetview) just around the corner. The food is amazing and the prices unbelievable and we thoroughly enjoy ourselves, splurging on wine, beer, pizza, coffee and dessert (all for under €30!). We are sated afterwards and decide to spend our evening in our warm accommodation like an old married couple. We also have a 7:46 train to Chambéry in France tomorrow morning, so will have to be up early.
Continues in part 7 with our mad dash for trains, arriving at ‘The Airport at the Apex of Nowhere’, driving in France and seeing snow in the Alps in France.
Header photo by Deon Joubert.
All other images by the author: © catterflyworx 2012.