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Jim Letourneau's Blog

Investing, Technology, Travel, Geology, Music, Golf. I think that covers it.

Road Trip Castell'Alfero-Genoa Return

In theory, the trip from Castell'Alfero to Genoa can be done in 90 minutes. We took a wrong turn at Alba (querque) and got off the Autostrade and it took some effort to get back on it. As a cultural note we did manage to see a stretch of road with Nigerian prostitutes out in the noon day sun. It was surreal. Imagine driving from Sylvan Lake to Drayton Valley and seeing a working girl instead of a mailbox at every minor road intersection or culvert crossing. It wasn't the best of Italy and it definitely wasn't in the shadows.

Fortunately, Julia navigated us back onto a 110 km/h road until. Since we were approaching hour two of our 90 minute journey, we had to make a pit stop at a rest stop. Very similar to a North American truck stop but the food was prettier. How do we make ham and cheese taste meh?

Eventually We rolled into Genoa through a series of tunnels and bridges and worked our way down to the seaside. Our destination was the Grand Hotel Savoia which was located opposite the train station. It is reminiscent of the Grand Budapest Hotel in terms of color and the interiors. We eventually gave up on our paper map after driving 10 minutes on the equivalent of Genoa's Gardiner Expressway. We got off the elevated road and booted up our Google Maps and backtracked for 15 minutes. We didn't feel too ambitious but hit up the stunning rooftop bar after unpacking. We had a great view of the harbour.

Wednesday morning we were up in time to catch the free hotel breakfast and ambitiously take public transportation to scenic Portofino. The train stop we needed was Santa Margherita Ligure. On route, we were asked to present our tickets. It turns out that we had not validated them. This led us to be fined by a train official for 5 Euros each. Julia insisted on paying her share by collecting all of her loose change. She can be very "stick it to the man" sometimes.

We had a lovely afternoon in Portofino.  Some massive yachts were moored in the harbour leading to what I like to call "yacht pollution." Don't get me wrong, I'd love to hang out on one of these monsters but they are a bit large for Portofino.

Yacht pollution in Portofino.

Yacht pollution in Portofino.

Given our train issues going to Portofino, we were both nervous about returning to Genoa. We made sure to validate our tickets but we ended up rushing onto a train that was headed for Milan. Some of the crazy thoughts that Julia and I shared included:

  • Is the train non-stop? What if it doesn't stop at Genoa!
  • Is the train going in the right direction?
  • Are we in the right class of rail car?

Given that our hotel was right across from the main train station in Genoa, our odds were pretty good that things would work out, and they did. 

The next day we had to drive home and there was some tension between driver and navigator upon leaving our hotel. Consider driving the Pacific Coast Highway vs. the 101 and you'll get the nature of our conflict. I chose the slow road along the Italian Riviera instead of  taking the Autostrade but we hadn't really discussed exactly how we would be getting to Savona. The coastline was gorgeous and every rock beach was dotted with colorful umbrellas. I'm glad we took the long way. My navigator was as well... eventually.

At Savona we headed upland and drove past some major industrial locations including a town that first made explosives and then color film (Ferrania) and a little bit further along a steel town (it looks black on Google Earth). The further upland we went, the fewer people we saw to the point of it being almost eerie. Eventually we started seeing hazelnut trees and eventually vineyards and soon we were back in populated territory. We made it home without incident. 

Find the steel mill...

Find the steel mill...

What I love about the English version of Google Maps is that it pronounces all the Italian road names incorrectly, just the way I would. It works pretty well.