The birthplace of four popes and Christopher Columbus, a vital port city for millennia, famed for its art and the gateway to the Riviera, we kind of came here for cheap rent and convenience. We took a five hour train from Rome through mountains and along the curve of northern Italy’s Mediterranean coastline and spent two nights here before continuing to Marsailles, France. The train ride was spectacular in flashes- we would get glimpses of the water and fishing villages and a lovely sunset, but then the train would enter another tunnel and we would be left with a memory. No matter, we had wonderful views of the sea, the city, and the port from our digs on a hill (pics of neighborhood below) in the northwest area of town when we arrived.
DH was intent on going to the Great Museum of the Sea and I tagged along. The kids opted to stay home. To be honest, we are all a bit overwhelmed from the tremendous displays of human history and treasures laden with import that we have experienced. Fiercely and I, for example, had been to the Sistine Chapel the previous day. I was dubious that the port museum would impress me, but I was wrong. It turned out to be exactly the type of museum I needed at the time- experiential. Yes, the reviews I read are correct about some uncomfortably warm rooms from uneven a/c, and about many printed information being in Italian only. But, most rooms are large, not stuffy, and there is an audio guide in English for only 1€, the lowest cost we’ve seen anywhere. I loved this place. There are impressive displays of nautical instruments and historic documents, yes, but there are life-sized recreations of two boats (a 17th century galley, or rowed ship, and a merchant sailboat) with life-like mannequins and video of people working on them in places. There’s a real submarine as well. We walked into the mouth of a whale in an exhibit on mythology of the sea that covered scary prehistoric to modern tales of watery adventures. Another great display was on the experience of Italians leaving their country on ships in the late 19th and early 20th centuries as immigrants. This was very interactive as you walk through customs, board the ship with the masses and their crying babies, then reach Argentina and the US with exotic experiences such as the rain forest and Ellis Island. The very top floor has a wonderful viewing area of the surrounding port and city, as well as a display of contemporary art. Great place. Looks like I only took two pictures though:
We were awoken in the morning by church bells playing ‘Ave Maria’. There were excellent overviews and small parks nearby in this hilly city. We waked around the neighborhood and found the Castle D’Albertis which houses the Museum of World Culture. We didn’t enter but rather walked around the castle grounds (below). Beautiful!
I particularly loved the funicular, a mountain cable car we took for fun. We happened to be staying near a station for the line that goes highest, the Zecca Righi line. For 1.50€ you buy a ticket good for 100 minutes, plenty of time for us to go to the top, enjoy the views and walk around a little, then ride back home. There are hikes you can take up there but my companions were not so interested. Also, one of them was upset from stepping in dog poop. Ah well, the ride itself was amazing. And funicular is such a great word. We left in the afternoon for a train to Marseille, France. We said arrividercci to Italy and got ready to say bonjour to France!