Cities are beautiful because they are created slowly; they are made by time. A city is born from a tangle of monuments and infrastructures, culture and markets, national history and everyday stories. It takes 500 years to create a city, 50 to create a neighborhood.
~ Renzo Piano, Italian architect
The experience of living like a local even for a week or two is what many of us aspire to when we travel. Shopping where the locals shop, finding a bar for your morning coffee where the barista greets you like a regular each day, exchanging a few words with the locals—will give you a buzz and sense of belonging.
Genova’s historical centre (il centro storico) is a great place to experience a slice of local life. There’s the labyrinth of narrow alleys (i carrugi) to get lost in, the myriad of shops, and at happy hour (ora dell’aperitivo) around 7pm when all the locals are out and about, there’s the mad crush.
I love it!
The rhythm of life in these carrugi is so far removed from our Australian lifestyle, especially in Adelaide where you have to jump in your car to buy a litre of milk. In Genova, when you step out of your door, you’re in the city’s heart.
And anything you need—from freshly baked focaccia and local cheese, getting your shoes repaired (at il calzolaio) and keys cut, to buying a new pair of jeans and the hairdresser (il parrucchiere)—is just a short walk away.
Italians buy fresh produce daily. And no wonder, everything they need is but a short walk away. Supermarkets are few and are usually very small. The small specialty shops where you can get to know the owners are the places to be. After a few days they’ll recognise you and greet you with buongiorno signora!
A great place to shop is the oriental market (Il Mercato Orientale). You’ll find fresh produce as well as meat, fish and local cheese. A lively place with friendly stall holders who are always happy to help even if your Italian only stretches to buongiorno, per favore, and grazie. These three words are the important ones as Italians are always respectful and expect good manners in return. A tip: don’t handle the produce, ask for assistance.
Here’s a great video (credit: David Downie)…
For your freshly baked bread including traditional genovese focaccia, the bakery (il panificio) is the place to go.
Find your favourite delicatessen (alimentari or salumeria) —there are a number of them around the centre—for cheese, cold meats, olives and other ready to eat treats.
If you don’t want to make your pasta (many Italians don’t these days), there’s fresh pasta from the pasta fresca.
For a great coffee and your morning pastry (brioche)—a regular routine of Italians on their way to work or shop—try the Pasticceria Liquoreria Marescotti di Cavo (Bar Cavo to the locals). Housed in a historic building and operating since 1860, the bar has a fascinating history.
It is also a beautiful place to enjoy un aperitivo every afternoon from 5pm—try their famous liqueur Il Marescotto and equally famous almond biscuit, amaretto di Voltaggio.
For the full experience, why not stay in the historical centre. You’ll really be living like a local if you do!
PS: Have you experienced living like a local somewhere in Italy? Please share…I’d love to hear your story!