Jogging alongside the locals on Corso Italia (the spectacular beachfront promenade lined with with Art Nouveau architecture), downtown aperitifs with the girls, dinner with Davide and the guys at Dindi in the cosy bay of Boccadasse; I was even caught eating fügassa with my morning cappuccino recently, and exclaiming ‘belin!’ albeit with a pronounced South African accent. Still, that’s stuff you need to have Ligurian DNA to do, and a clear sign that I’ve been spending way more time here lately than anywhere else in Italy.
So I started house-hunting for something a little cosier than the cold, branded hotels, something elegant and intimate, a place to call home when I’m in town. And I came up with, well, quite frankly, what has to be one of the coolest addresses in Genoa.
Now for those of you who don’t frequent Genoa, first of all you should, because it’s a fascinating, contradictory melting-pot of a city, home to Christopher Columbus, Renzo Piano and pesto. Notwithstanding the huge port and 600k inhabitants, Genoa’sairport has to be one of the worst in the hemisphere, but coming into the heart of the city you hit Via Garibaldi, one of the Strade Nuove with their magnificent Palazzi dei Rolli recognised by UNESCO as a World Heritage site in 2006.
The Palazzi are a network of over a hundred town villas built by the aristocrats of the Republic of Genoa between the 16th and the 18th centuries, a feast of Mannerist and Baroque grandeur. Most have now been transformed into public buildings (the Town Hall, the Chamber of Commerce, galleries), big bank HQs or other prestigious office space. And some of those still privately owned offer suites for rent.
I found fifteen apartments ranging from 50 to around 130 sqm scattered among the listed buildings, in Palazzo Gentile, Palazzo Cicala, Palazzo della Meridiana, and, for my personal pied-à-terre, Palazzo Lomellino. Triple-volume ceilings throughout, two enormous bedrooms and a lounge for entertaining, huge bow windows looking onto a private courtyard with fountain, stuccos and frescos. Run-of-the-mill stuff when you live in the Strade Nuove.
Furniture is decidedly minimal and they certainly didn’t splash out on bathroom fittings either, but on the whole it’s a magical experience. I pick up the keys from Palazzo Cicala a few minutes away, and am on my own until breakfast is delivered to the door in a picnic basket the next morning. Prices are very reasonable and vary according to the number of people occupying the apartments. Lomellino ranges from €119 to around €199 a night and sleeps six.
Forever grateful to Paolo for making me fall in love with Liguria in the first place what feels like a lifetime ago, and to Raffaella, Giulia and Gaia for making my every visit more special than the last.
Take a look at our ‘Behind the Scenes’ of the Digital Diary Liguria coming out in mid December.