10 March 2013

LIFE: Genova - Rain or Shine

CHIAVARI, Italy – Went to Genova yesterday even though it was raining, real rain, not that sissy drizzle stuff, and I found a lot of people who also thought that shopping in the rain was a good idea. You don’t get terribly wet because you are under the cover of the porticos of Via XX Settembre almost 99 percent of the time, Via XX being Genoa's main shopping street.  But at the street corners everyone pops their umbrellas open to dash across the uncovered intersection, and it sounds like you are in a pop corn machine.

 Portico Under the Church of Santo Stefano
There's a rough and tumble quality about Genova that I like and the rain gives it a 1950's neorealist Italian film feeling.  It's gritty and grainy but also elegant and incredibly beautiful – it’s beauty and the beast all rolled up in one, and it’s probably the most authentic city in Italy even if it has gentrified a little since I lived here last.

One good thing is that they cleaned up the porticos that run along the older section of the Via XX Settembre. The newer section doesn’t have porticoes, although I use the term ‘newer’ loosely as the present XX Settembre was built following the same route as the old Roman road, the Via Giulia. The street is divided into two parts by the Ponte Monumentale, which is actually an elevated street with two landmark buildings, the Lady of our Consolation Church and the flowers, food, fruit and vegetable market, the Mercato Orientale.

 Portico Under the Church of Santo Stefano
The church was built in 1684, about the same time as the market, which can be considered ‘new’ as the church on the other side of the Ponte Monumentale, the church of Santo Stefano, was built in the year 965. Of course the church of Santo Stefano isn’t actually on Via XX Settembre, it’s over it, or rather over one of my favorite porticos.

Because the city is vertical, having been cut into the mountains higgily piggily from the port upward, one of my favorite sections of the Via XX porticoes sits under the Church of Santo Stefano. I don’t know if the church and the portico were built at the same time, but if I’ve learned nothing else living here, I’ve learned that anything is possible. Most certainly the portico was around on October 31, 1451 when Christopher Columbus was baptized at the church.

 Portico Across the Street
On the other side of the street, the colorful mosaic floors under the porticoes are spectacular. Both porticoes may have been built at the same time, one using black and white stripe stone, which was reserved for churches and other important buildings, the other in the style of the day, but it seems unlikely. What I noted is that the black and white portico draws your eye upward, the other draws it downward. You have to wonder if there is some purpose behind the optical direction, or merely coincidence.

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