Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Staglieno Monumental Cemetery and Goodbye to 2013

Staglieno Cimitero Monumentale
Genova, Italia
by Santo Varni
(9m high)

Vincenzo picked me up that day, from near the Aquarium, and we drove over the hills to the Monumental Cemetery of Staglieno. On the way, we were realizing that it was getting late in the day, and they might close, before we got there! In fact, when we arrived, the gentlemen said they were closing, but then Vincenzo explained that his friend was there from America, and that she really wanted to see it … Well, that changed things. 

It's funny, there is a reputation for the Genovese not being very excited about tourists, but every time someone found out I was visiting, they were very proud and excited to show off their amazing heritage and culture. Really, I had an amazing experience there, even when I wasn't with Vincenzo.

A little mood music ...

Anyway, the man at the gate said we could go in for a half hour. This was kind of crazy because the Cemetery is enormous, but we were grateful. I could have spent hours on end, exploring, taking photos and just taking in the incredible sculptures and mausoleums.  

The original part of the cemetery was designed by Carlo Barabino (1768-1835) around 1835. Barabino was responsible for the neoclassical influence, unfortunately he died the same year that the project was approved, because of an outbreak of cholera. His assistant, Giovanni Basttista Resasco, took over when Barabino passed away.

The cemetery officially opened in January 1851. Most of the large crypts and mausoleums were done from then, until second world war. You can see that most are very dusty and need a little care and restoration, but the government doesn't have the funds, and many of the ancestors have died out, or moved from the area. There are some volunteers, but it's an enormous job.

According to Wikipedia, the size of the cemetery is now 250 acres, with sculptures ranging from neo-classicism and realism, to Art Deco, Nouveau and Symbolism. Some websites say it's the largest outdoor monumental cemetery, in Europe.

Grave of Caterina Campodonico
Carved by Lorenzo Orengo

This is a popular grave, because Caterina was a nut seller, who saved every bit of money she could, in order to have this tomb in Staglieno. You can see, she was sculpted with a long string of walnuts.

Mark Twain visited Staglieno, while he was in Genoa, and wrote: 
"... We shall continue to remember it after we shall have forgotten the palaces. It is a vast marble collonaded corridor extending around a great unoccupied square of ground; its broad floor is marble, and on every slab is an inscription—for every slab covers a corpse. On either side, as one walks down the middle of the passage, are monuments, tombs, and sculptured figures that are exquisitely wrought and are full of grace and beauty. They are new and snowy; every outline is perfect, every feature guiltless of mutilation, flaw, or blemish; and therefore, to us these far-reaching ranks of bewitching forms are a hundred fold more lovely than the damaged and dingy statuary they have saved from the wreck of ancient art and set up in the galleries of Paris for the worship of the world."

In the process of letting go
you will lose many things from the past,
but you will find yourself.
It will be a permanent Self,
rooted in awareness and creativity.
Once you have captured this,
you have captured the world.
~Deepak Chopra

Holding on is believing
that there's only a past;
letting go
is knowing that there's a future.
~Daphne Rose Kingma

Right in the difficult
we must have our joys,
our happiness,
our dreams:
there against the depth of this background,
they stand out,
there for the first time we see
how beautiful they are.
~Rainer Maria Rilke

We need to learn to love the flawed,
imperfect things that we create,
and to forgive ourselves for creating them.
Regret doesn't remind us that we did badly,
it reminds us that we know we could do better.
~Kathryn Schultz

Death and the Maiden
(At this point it was getting dark, so it was getting rather eerie in the cemetery.)

Without freedom from the past, 
there is no freedom at all …

I use memories
but I will not allow memories to use me.
~Deepak Chopra

I do not understand the mystery of grace-
only that it meets us where we are
but does not leave us where it found us.
~Anne Lamott

While we were in there only a short time, and saw but a small portion of it, I was so grateful we made it there. 

However, that short time was longer than the 1/2 hour that the gentlemen had given us, and we got locked in the cemetery! The huge gates were padlocked! My heart started to race a little, until we found the man with the key!

I hope some day to return, and spend few hours there (at least!) exploring all the areas I didn't get a chance to see, but as I said, I am so grateful that man let us in, and that we got a chance to walk around and see what we did. 

We also started singing, in low voices, at one point. Beyonce, was somehow stuck in Vincenzo's head. "To the left, to the left … everything you own, in the box to the left." Kind of appropriate for a cemetery, eh?

For the Staglieno website, click here.
For more of the history of Staglieno, here is the translated link (not the best translation but at least you can get more info) click here.
For more Links, and the American Friends of Italian Monumental Sculpture site, click here.

There are a lot video slideshows on youtube, of Staglieno, if you want to see more of the sculptures, in areas I didn't make it to. Here is one of them, that I ran across.

Staglieno Cemetery
Piazzale Resasco
16100 Genova
Open daily from 7:30am to 5:00pm.

Hope you all have an amazing and safe New Years Eve!

May your coming year be filled with magic
and dreams and good madness.
I hope you read some fine books and kiss someone
who thinks you're wonderful, 
and don't forget to make some art-
write or draw or build or sings
or live as only you can.
And I hope, somewhere in the next year,
you surprise yourself.
~Neil Gaiman

Big blessings and much light!!!

Sunday, December 29, 2013

Boccadasse, Pizza … and the Serious Business of Pesto in Genoa

Boccadasse, Genoa

Pesto is serious business in Genova. If the topic comes up, be prepared to stand your ground, with your opinions, or just nod in an manner that shows your appreciation for the other person's vast knowledge on the subject. I suggest the latter.

On my first night in Genoa, Vincenzo told me that we had been invited for a Sunday lunch, with his family. "My mother will make pesto," he said, "have you ever had pesto?" 
I smiled, "Yes, I've had pesto. We do have pesto in California." It seemed like such a funny question, but now I understand.

Up til now, Vince and I had been lounging, on the sofa, watching Kitchen Nightmares, dubbed in Italian. He had been in a laid back, reclining position. But now, as he started to explain to me about pesto, he was not only sitting up, but leaning forward and getting very intense.
"But you see, real pesto only comes from a particular type of Basilico, (basil) from this little town … they water it with a particular water from this particular well … and they use only the very smallest leaves from the basilico…

I smiled. "I can see by the way you are sitting, that this is really serious business." We both broke into laughter.

Funny thing is, later when we went out with his friends, he turned to his friend Alessandro and said, my mother is making pesto tomorrow. Then, Alessandro began to explain, very intensely about how "pesto is made from only the basilico …" and then of course Vince and I started cracking up all over again.

After our night out on the town, and getting home at 5 am, we somehow managed to get to his sister's place at 1pm. There was wine, loads of yummy antipasti, these fabulous little egg dishes in little ramekins, a great pasta with tomato sauce, … and then out it came.

His mother's pesto. 

The thing is, I thought I had had pesto. You might think you have too. Nope. Sorry. Now, I understand.

So, this pesto lasagna, was several layers of paper thin homemade pasta, with layers of pesto, beschemel, and parmiggiano between every layer … and it was the brightest green, that my camera couldn't really get. I guess it was from using the tiny new leaves, from the basil plant?

Anyway, It was … out of this world spectacular. Somehow, those tiny thin layers actually made it seem so light! I don't know how! Every bite was like this perfect mixture of wonderful fresh flavors and textures … 

Seriously, if you get a plate of pasta, when you arrive at the pearly gates, I'm pretty sure the angels would hand you this.

I had two helpings, and would have had more, if I hadn't known that the meat course was coming. And dessert. And after dinner wine. (Thank the lord, we got to take the leftovers!)

There is no love sincerer
than the love
of food.
~George Bernard Shaw

His family was incredibly sweet to me. His sister was so kind and welcoming, which was great, because for some reason, I was a tiny bit nervous. Her 5 year old Laura was there, and was more than a little bit enamored by the fact that I came from America. So cute. She couldn't wait to show me her room, and her private little notebook.

His father spoke a bit of English to me and was really welcoming, along with his brother and sister in law. His mom didn't speak English, but Vincenzo translated. I understood bits and pieces but I was also running on very little sleep. At one point his mom asked me something simple, in Italian, and I answered back, in Italian. Little Laura's eyes got as big as saucers, "Lei capisce!" (she understands!) As if she'd found me out! I told her, just a little! (In Italian.)

Laura and me, on her Mamma's balcony ...

Her rather spectacular view ...

Vincenzo and I headed down the hill and decided we should try to get to Boccadasse, an old mariners neighborhood, before sunset. Not much time!


We got down to the waterfront, with a little bit of light left!

But the low light also made it even more beautiful!

Boccadasse, Genova

My little point and shoot camera, wasn't too happy with the lack of light, but it really was a gorgeous time of day … I was happy that we'd made it there for the end of "magic hour" and sunset.

Chiesa Sant'Antonio in Boccadasse

While we are still in night mode ...

On my last night in Genova, we went back to the shopping area along that huge main Boulevard (Via XX Settembre) I'd been on the first night. (That's when I actually bought my fuzzy socks. I know you were dying to know that.)

We went into this crazy coffee place with all sorts of yummy caffeinated deliciousness.

Can you tell which was "coffee" and which one was Vincenzo's? Yes, his is the straight up espresso, above, and mine is the one below, which was basically like a dessert. So good. It was the "Pan di stelle caffĂ©" which was coffee, chocolate, whipped cream, vanilla cream, biscotti and some sort of chocolate biscuit. 

Anyway … how cute is this Piazza???

One thing I had heard about, in Genoa, was this huge wonderful covered market, called Mercato Orientale, which I think was kind of hidden, behind all the big shops on that main drag.

It has everything you can think of, including spices, meats, cheeses, nuts, olive oils … more produce ...

… boatloads of fish ...

And then, there's an upstairs area, where I got a great little woven shopping bag for the trip home, to stuff more of my loot into, along with my pillow. Yes, I brought my pillow.

For my last night in Genova, I told Vince that I'd like to have whatever he thought was the best pizza. I think it was actually in Boccadasse, or at least just to the East of it, somewhere. 

Um … yeah. Really, really good.

This, below, is before we left, but when we arrived it was jammed packed.

Fortunately, outside the main restaurant, they built this area ...

I ordered the spicy "Diavola" pizza.

So good. The cheeses on the pizzas were simply amazing. Look how big that beer is, too! I don't know if I finished the beer, but I think I finished the whole pizza.

I couldn't find a website for the pizza place, but click here for their Facebook Page.

I seriously had the most amazing time in Genoa, thanks to Vincenzo. I would still go back again, if he wasn't there, but it would never be the same. 

It was so special and warm and wonderful getting to meet his family and friends, stay at his place, and hang out with him … sing silly pop songs in the car … and Beyonce in the enormous cemetery. (Saving that for another post,)

Anyway, thank you Vincenzo!

Hope you all had a beautiful Christmas, those that celebrate. Mine was great but I think I still have a butter hangover. If I had a blood test, my cholesterol would be off the charts. I feel like a juice cleanse might be in the works. I've never done one, but it kind of sounds like a good idea!

I have more memories
than if I were a thousand years old.
~ Charles Baudelaire

Blessings and light!