Over the years we've been booking overseas trips for bank holidays, the concept of a cheap flight seems to have disappeared. We started looking at the May 2019 bank holiday weekends back in October 2018 when flights first came on sale, but even then we were struggling to find anything that truly looked like a bargain. The best we could find for this weekend turned out to be a British Airways flight from Gatwick to Genoa. We didn't know a lot about Genoa, except that it was in the Liguria region of Italy which we'd never been to before. After a bit of online research, I established that going to Genoa would enable us to explore some of the Cinque Terre villages, which I'd seen amazing pictures of online. We decided to give it a go
The flight this morning was at 08.45 which doesn't sound too early, but still necessitated us setting our alarms for 03.30 this morning. Happily there isn't much traffic on the roads at that time of the morning, so we got to Gatwick without any difficulties and with plenty of time to get breakfast before our flight. I can't say a lot about the flight, because I fell asleep over the Channel and only woke up on time to see the tail end of the Alps We landed in Genoa shortly after that, disappointed to see that everywhere looked just as cloudy as the weather forecast had predicted.
Our airport bus wasn't until 12.30, so we had a bit of time waiting around. The airport isn't very far outside Genoa, but it had been a bit confusing trying to research the best way to get into the town centre, as the dreadful bridge collapse last year means that there's still a fair amount of traffic disruption. The congestion today didn't seem as bad as the internet had suggested though and when it eventually arrived, the airport bus got us into the town centre quite efficiently, dropping us off outside the main train station, Piazza Principe.
We didn't know a lot about Genoa except that it's a large port, and first impressions were not very scenic. The route from the airport to the station seemed quite industrial, and we could see several large cruise ships sitting in the port. Of course, one of the other things which Genoa is famous for is being the birthplace of Christopher Columbus, and it didn't take long to find a huge monument to him outside the station.
We didn't have a lot of time to spend in Genoa because of a complication with our accommodation. I'd booked a room for us to stay in Corniglia, one of the Cinque Terre villages, and after I'd paid for it I got an email from the owner explaining that we would have to check in before 5pm, because she couldn't stay any later than that to give us the key. As we needed to catch a couple of trains to get from Genoa to Corniglia, the train timetables meant that we'd have to leave Genoa at 14.45 in order to get there on time. I booked the train tickets in advance on the Trenitalia website, to save time buying them today... and then I got another email from the owner saying that she couldn't meet us for check-in after all, but that she would leave the keys in a key safe. So we actually could have spent longer in Genoa! But as I'd already bought the tickets, we figured we'd stick with the original plan and do a bit of a whistle-stop tour.
As we followed signs from the station to the historic centre, we were glad to find some places that looked more picturesque than the port
We walked through an enormous gate into the old town.
Inside the gate we followed a series of tiny little streets...
...which became increasingly dark and narrow.
It actually felt a bit claustrophic at times; a real rabbit warren. I don't think you would want to get lost down here on a dark night!
Every so often we got a glimpses of interesting churches.
And sometimes we emerged into pretty little squares.
Eventually we came to the Cattedrale di San Lorenzo, Genoa's cathedral. It was enormous, and made of beautiful stripy stone.
After that we seemed to be on a roll for finding beautiful churches There was this yellow one with a big dome...
...this one with a very unusual tiled roof...
...and this one, which looks like it has seen better days, but does at least demonstrate that the day had brightened up and it was now properly sunny
At least, it was sunny in that direction; it was still a bit cloudy the other way.
We were trying to plan our route through the centre so that we ended up near Genoa's second train station, Brignole. We'd done reasonably well following street signs and the map in our guidebook, but by the time we got to this church we couldn't figure out exactly where we were on the map, so had to resort to Google maps for the final part of the journey.
We passed through another enormous gate to exit the old town.
From here we were right outside Christopher Columbus's house. Or at least, a house which Christopher Columbus allegedly lived in; the guidebook doesn't seem convinced that he actually ever lived in it.
We were now in the more modern part of Genoa.
We found ourselves in a really pretty square with a fountain.
This is Genoa's main square, Piazza De Ferrari.
It definitely felt brighter and airier here than in the cramped little streets of the old town
We were getting close to the Brignole station now, which was good because it was nearly time for our train. Our first journey, of just over an hour, took us to the small town of Levanto. The route was really scenic, with amazing views of the sea for lots of the journey. And when we arrived in Levanto, it looked like a really pretty place too.
We had 15 minutes or so to wait in Levanto, before getting our second train towards Corniglia. This was only a short journey on a small regional train which stops at each of the villages in the Cinque Terre national park. This was the point at which we started getting a feel for how much tourism there is in this region; there were groups of cruise ship passengers being herded on and off the train at each stop.
The journey itself was mostly within tunnels, but when we emerged from the station in Corniglia we immediately had a beautiful view of the coast Corniglia is supposed to be the least touristy settlement in the region, because the village itself is set on a hill up above the train station. That means that you have to climb a staircase of 382 steps to get from the station to Corniglia itself and I'm guessing that puts a lot of people off staying here, because this was definitely the only village in which we could afford accommodation
The climb was rather tiring but when we stopped for breath there were some wonderful views out over the coast. We could see one of the other Cinque Terre villages in the distance
Eventually we made it and followed the instructions we'd been given to track down our accommodation and retrieve the keys from the safe. The room is small, but it does have air-conditioning and allegedly Wi-Fi (we haven't been able to get it to work yet!).
The best thing about the room is definitely the view, which is really spectacular
Unfortunately the weather doesn't look great for tomorrow, but I'm really pleased that we've been able to see the view with blue sky today
After we'd relaxed in the room for a bit, we went out for a stroll to see the village and to get some food. Just a few metres away from where we're staying there's a viewpoint out over the sea.
We were able to see down the coast...
...and up towards another little hill-top village.
Corniglia itself is really lovely. The streets are narrow, but they lack the ever-so-slightly threatening feel of Genoa
There's a small church off the main square which has very loud bells. I'm hoping it doesn't start ringing them early tomorrow morning!
We found a restaurant to get pizza, then made the most of the remaining daylight to admire the views again. We think our room must be in one of these buildings clinging to the hillside, but couldn't work out which one.
We're looking forward to exploring more of Cinque Terre tomorrow