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Travel stories are easy because they have a beginning, a middle, and an end.
This was the beginning
We were in Sardinia. Actually, we were on a little island off the coast of Sardinia called La Maddalena. The island stays connected to the rest of Sardinia with 24 hour ferry service. It was more like a moving bridge, carrying cars and people back and forth to Palau on the mainland. I had to take this ferry to get back, there was no other way.
This was Palau port. Sadly, the train line was only used for tourists so I had to take a bus to Olbia. The road was wiggly. I get sick if I try to read, so I had to look out the windows. This wasn’t a bad thing. Sometimes it was good to do nothing and sit, but it was hard. I wanted distract myself, but I sat with my thoughts instead. Serious risk of motion sickness reinforced my will to meditate on the journey.
Usually I return to Olbia airport and take a plane. This time, I wanted to try something different. I took the bus to the Olbia port (Isla Blanca) for the overnight ferry to Genoa. I had seen the giant ferries, but never tried them. I was curious what it would be like. There was only one way to find out.
Most of the passengers were transporting their vehicles from Sardinia back to mainland Europe. This made sense if you wanted to drive your own car in Sardinia. You could justify taking the ferry instead of flying. I had no reason to be on the ferry. It was just me, and a single piece of carry-on luggage. The ferry to Genoa existed. I wanted to try it just because it existed.
I knew what it was like to fly away from Olbia, but I didn’t know what it was like to take the ferry from Olbia. I needed to know this.
Perhaps it was just an excuse to visit Genoa, a city I had never seen before. I loved the view of the city from the sea in the early morning. It’s not a city you hear people brag about visiting, but this made it more interesting to me. It’s a real, working city. Remember the Costa Concordia? It was here still, being disassembled. The ferry slowly passed by the rusting hulk before arriving in the port.
I was released from the ferry into Genoa. It was early in the morning, not much was open. I decided to have a shave. It was a great idea, I felt clean and fresh afterwards.
I found a metro station and took a train to the centre. It’s a small city. I only had half a day in Genoa, so everything seemed more interesting. My senses were heightened by the definite temporality of the experience.
I noticed local Genoans and their relaxed familiarity with their home city. Did they not know their own experience in Genoa was temporary too? Did they appreciate today in Genoa like I did?
A friend of a friend met me in the centre. It was great to meet Simone. I would not have met her if I didn’t tell another friend (Giacomo) I was visiting Genoa. She showed me the views from the rooftop at her office, then we visited a World Heritage site in Genoa: le Strade Nuove and the system of the Palazzi Dei Rolli.
The World Heritage site was made-up of late-Renaissance and Baroque streets lined by over a hundred palaces belonging to the city’s nobility. The palaces were on official lists (called “Rolli”) and a lottery was used to decide which palace would host visiting dignitaries.
Visiting all the World Heritage sites was a hobby of mine, so I guess this was another excuse for visiting Genoa. Some of the palaces were preserved as museums, some were shops and cafes, some were still private residences.
Then Simone took me to the beach. I didn’t know Genoa had a beach. Now I do. We had some drinks and snacks, then I jumped in a taxi for the airport. Thanks Simone, grazie.
Now I know what it’s like to take the ferry and visit Genoa.
Travel stories are easy because they have a beginning, a middle and an end. This was the end.