Almost every tourist desires an authentic experience when taking a vacation in a new place. I can remember while I was working on the ship how knowing where to shop and having an insider’s know-how of a place could make or break my experience.
Genoa, Italy has probably got the most difficult code to crack when getting to know her inside and out. Allow me to me explain…
The main street in downtown Genoa is called Via XX Settembre but the locals simply call it Via Venti which is the roman numeral 20. Once, I caught myself giving some tourists directions and I defaulted to saying Via Venti and only after I saw their expression did I realize that I had to explain myself further.
Another tricky one is our meeting place. Piazza de Ferrari is in the centre of the city but there is also the Piazza Ducale and so most locals defer to meeting in front of P. Ducale which is literally the steps facing the grand fountain of Piazza de Ferrari…which is also referred to as De. Fe! Are you confused yet? There’s more!
Genoa has red and black numbers on their street numbering system! The ‘rosso’ or red numbers are only used for commercial address’ such as a shoe shop and the ‘nero’ or black numbers are for offices and apartments. If you see an address such as 21R it simply means it is a shop. This is not an Italian thing…even the people from Milan get lost and confused here!
Every day I learn a new gem about this city. I find myself in awe of how the secret society works here. A perfect example was this past week while I was searching for shops to buy silver and crystal for a wedding gift. I thought to myself, this is Italy, this stuff should be on every street corner! But in fact, not in Genoa.
I decided to take a closer look at the silver tray we received as our own wedding gift five years ago and wouldn’t you know it, there was a sticker on the bottom with the name and address of the shop. I’m downtown almost everyday, why haven’t I seen this shop before? Well, because it is tucked around a corner and has no sign or storefront whatsoever. In fact, without the address I would have not believed that this place even existed.
Up on the third floor, after being “buzzed in twice”, I entered a studio filled from top to bottom with this stuff. Who knows about this place? Would you believe that they have been in business since 1810? When I mentioned it to my male students they laughed and said that only a woman would manage to find a large shop filled with silver and crystal, without a map. They admitted they had never heard of the place either, which makes me wonder how the heck do these shops stay in business? I even asked the woman who “buzzed me in” if the shop was in fact open to the public or if it was some sort of secret society of the over 70’s granny elite club and that I would have to wait another 20 years for the privilege.
Needless to say, I was in fact in heaven. This place was filled with beautiful items and I pity the person who has to polish all that silver! It’s a family run business which was also nice, I felt like I was buying local and helping them put their grandchildren through University instead of adding a third vacation home to some high powered executive’s portfolio.
They even have an impressive website. If you find yourself in Genoa, I suggest taking a look around at this hidden treasure in a city full of secrets.
P. Pisano e f. Via Fieschi 2/12 http://pietropisano.it/