TRAVEL: THE SUPERB AWAKENED
August 5th, 2023
We know from Calvino’s “Invisible Cities” that Genoa is the city that contains within itself all the other cities of the world. We know from the numbers some essential facts, which also apply to the whole Liguria: that it has the largest number of elderly people in Europe and therefore by far the lowest birth rate nationwide, which has very high wealth in the hands of a few families (some of it is heritage that reaches back to the 16th century). We know that here, since the mid-1980s, time has stood still, except for the opening to the sea of Expo 1992, which brought a blockbuster like the Aquarium. Yet. Yet one has to know how to read the subtle currents, which then are the ones that in the long run cause definitive landslides. Branché tourism has long since discovered the city, and that is a fact (and now all the others have arrived). Because the freezing of these places has generated a timeless fascination. So strongly that it is, for instance, beginning to move the real estate market, so far in a punctiform way (the city’s square meter is still the lowest in Italy). High-speed train to and from Milan will arrive soon, a 50 minute trip- instead of the current two hours- that in the imaginary is beginning to make Genoa be perceived as the Venice/Santa Monica/Lisbon of Lombardy. This is why photographers, artists, Milanese and international mover&shaker are buying large apartments in the city, especially in the Castelletto area or on the hill of Sant’Ilario, or down below, by the sea, at Nervi. This last is the cryonized last portion of the city, a kind of unicum with the Riviera di Levante. It is amazingly beginning to awaken.
The Italy wow is very quickly discovering beaches streaked with ancient, layered rocks, as well as the fabulous Bagni Scogliera, with umbrellas planted on the rock and highlanders never seen elsewhere who have been playing with the same table football for millennia. Nearby, the Villa Bonera Hotel, precisely because unrealistically fané, is becoming a favorite of the best national high design streetwear minds. By the way, as you start flowing towards the various gulfs, you see what you never imagined: the transformation of this petrified land (from a human point of view) into an almost surreal sports coast. A great surf spot, in particular. Considering that the first people to bring it to Italy were the legendary Fracas brothers in Bogliasco (nda, the town just a few meters from Nervi), with a homemade research starting in 1975. Crazy stuff. From there a sexy light slowly came to Recco. Here for the past 12 years a wave of surfers- of all kinds- has mounted, changing the social and demographic composition of the town: old and fantastic Volkswagen pickup trucks from all over Europe finally land toned beauties, beach bunnies included, boys and girls drop everything to come and live here… The unimaginable. This mutation from a site for warming and wintering seniors to a fresh active economy is taking substance throughout the area. Genoa’s Corso Italia seafront will get a nice pat with the new Piazzale Kennedy, which is a big new green zone/park of access to the 12 kilometers of waterfront under fast construction.
Prominent over it all is an endless running and biking track along the water, and then promenades and harbors, and houses, quite expensive ones, designed (like the whole project) by Renzo Piano’s studio. Absolutely, we are talking about a multi-dimensional bang- you’ll understand- all spontaneous or glided from the outside. And we may as well add to it the discovery of Ligurian food and wine realities, so far not widespread (it is perhaps the lowest-calorie cuisine among the regional ones, destined for an exponential future diffusion because of this), with new super mad winemakers who are recreating wickedly buried traditions. If this spider web finally happens all the way through, we will be facing a real case of mutation of a large urban and peri-urban metropolitan area. Too much, perhaps. So much so that a form of nostalgia for the previous swamp almost begins to creep in. Because for some strange reason, Genoa has similarities to the Rome described by Valerio Mattioli’s excellent essay, “Remoria,” which described a dark battle of a Remus not at all dead compared to the Romulus who won the victory. “La Superba,” in the full sense of the word, which has had roots in the city since the time of Andrea Doria, is still there. Austere and attentive. Made of evil old people. Made of riparian people equally coriaceous and conservative of what has always existed. This ruthless, not-at-all-sleeping giant, which has plenty of holds in the city and on the Riviera, will at some point stand up for certain, trying to shake all this off. We will see.