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Historic Palaces & Fine Food

Day 5: Palazzi & Cooking Class

After our long trip to Turin & Lavazza coffee and a late night returning to Genoa, today would be a less scheduled and allow for more free time and rest. I was excited to learn more of the history of Genoa and to visit sights in the city. Since no one else seemed interested in this, I went alone. I took the public inter-city metro a few stops down, then started to walk up a big hill to a castle. Up, up, and up it went. Buses whizzed past me, and I wished I had figured out an easier way to get to the top of the hillside. Then I reached a series of stairs. It looked like it was hardly used by foot traffic anymore, and had green weeds sprouting in every crack. Up, up, and up. I would reach the top, I was determined at this point to not give up!

Finally I reached the top and found the castle surrounded by a beautiful treed park that was open to the public. Locals walked their dogs and greeted one another. An elementary school group passed me, boisterous and happy to be on an outing with their classmates. The park also featured a wonderful view of Genoa and the port. 

This castle – Castello d’Albertis – is a “new” one – only from the late 1800s. It was built as the home of an eclectic sea captain, who after traveling the world, decided to settle down and make a home for himself. In it, he incorporates treasures from his travel, a Moorish design, a library, and a nod to Christopher Columbus in a lovely statue overlooking the port of Genova, and also in mural paintings.

I found by talking to some British tourists that there is an easier way to get up that hill – to take the mountain lift! Our host professor had taken us to one, but I thought that was the only one in the city! Now I knew that there are several. I took this lift down and over to a location closer to the city center. Then I proceeded to walk down the street “via Balbi” – which is lined with palazzi (palaces) of the Renaissance time period. I toured the ocean-facing Palazzo de Reale, with magnificent marble terraces boasting a gorgeous view of the water and ships. There was also a lovely small garden with a fountain, lily pads and flowers, red roses, statues, and a river-rock pathway with figures of horses, men, palaces, and more.

That evening I joined some other students and we had a cooking class, learning to make Ligurian cuisine. Our chef Francesco had us making focaccia, a vegetable pie with a delicate pastry crust, gnocchi, pesto, and tiramisu. We were all able to be hands on and I really enjoyed making the pie pastry crust, with olive oil instead of butter. Olive oil is in everything! I also liked how simple the focaccia was, and the special liquid blend to finish it off at the end gives it a crunchy finish, but keeps it soft inside.

After eating the food we cooked, we enjoyed a downhill walk back towards our flats, and working off a bit of all the carbs we ate! We eat bread, pasta, pastries every day, but I’m actually feeling healthier and think I’ve lost a few pounds on the trip with all the walking we’ve been doing.

Day 6:  Piedmont – a “Slow Food” Experience

A private charter bus took us from Piazza de Ferrari back to the Piedmont region, but this time, to the countryside. We made our way through the forested hills until we reached the wine county, dotted with farms and vineyards. A brief stop at a small village gave us lovely panoramic views of the area. Even a rainy day could not ruin the charm of such a beautiful area of the country. 

Our main stop was to be at a vineyard, which we toured and learned about the wine-making process. The cellars were very interesting. Then we enjoyed a meal of “slow food” – good, regional foods, well-prepared, and each course paired with a wine. This meal would last for a few hours. 

The 4-course Piemontese menu:

  • Girello cotto al rosa e la salsa tonnata (veal with tuna-mayonnaise sauce, stupendous classic)
  • Agnolotto alle tre carni secondo la tradizione Piemontese (ravioli with meat sauce)
  • Faraona “Le Camille”, fegati e salsiccia (Guinea fowl with livers and sausage)
  • Brioche e gelato alla nocciola Tonda Gentile (brioche with hazelnut ice cream)
  • Dessert served with Coffee

While the other students and I all had our own opinions of each dish, we all agreed that it was a unique experience and that the meal was relaxing. My favorite place was a tie between the “Agnolotto alle tre carni” or the “Faraona “Le Camille”, fegati e salsiccia.”

What I particularly enjoyed was the slow service of each course, and the attentive staff. Overall, this was a dining experience that I will not forget!

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