60 Years Ago Today

Monday, 23 June 1952:

I had my bags down at 7:30 a.m. and then I went foraging for breakfast. The Italians stared even more openly than the French. I decided I liked Italian bread better than French bread.
We began the day with the Beghin Lido beach with a striped beach house. Farther down there were school kids doing callisthenics on the beach. Another beach had a tank barrier and a woman washing clothes in an almost dried up stream. Everywhere there were dozens of blue and white round signs.

Next was Genova, population 330,000, which had five harbors wrecked during World War II. This area became important during the Renaissance period. It grew rapidly and compelled commercialism with Venice and Florence. There were battle scars mixed in with some new modern buildings.

Christopher Columbus was born and lived here. There were five monuments here in honor of Columbus. The highest culture in Europe was found in Italy in the republic cities during the time of Columbus. Then we discovered the chapel of John the Baptist and one of the most ambitious cemeteries with many fine monuments and tombs. The tomb of Magzona, a famous Italian writer, was here.

The Italians stopped the blasting and were trying to reclaim and rebuild the bombarded buildings. There were crowded narrow streets everywhere with signs of Gillette Blue Blades, even in Italy. Italians were repairing and rebuilding streets, wharves and warehouses. This city really had been pummeled. Even now the city was in tremendous ruins. The harbor had been almost totally reconstructed. A big ship had just come into the port.

Gilosde Genova had a huge granary near the wharves. There were marks between old scarred buildings, clothing hanging from the windows of the buildings, big gates of old city walls, and a street named after Petrach. A beautiful fountain was in the center of the square. In modern Genova there was a definite contrast between ancient and modern. Genova imported from four to six times more products than they exported.

The vines were growing all over Columbus’ house in the center of the city. The wall of the city in 1249 a.d. had dirt and filth inside the wall. We stopped at the street named Dante right along by Columbus’ home and a bank. Those Italian eyes were really boring holes in us.

France and Italy rivaled each other in population. Italy had a larger immigration than any other country in Europe. Italy’s huge population was counterbalanced with the lack of opportunity available for its citizens. Rome used to control the entire Mediterranean world. In the 1800’s Garibaldi, an Italian military and political figure, who sailed from Genova and landed at Palermo, sought to gather volunteers for his impending campaign here.

As we drove high on a hill above the sea coming out of Genova, we gradually came down again and then up again past an old castle and estate by the sea. Trees grew out of the bank at a horizontal angle. We crossed a bridge which looked like it was only partially built. Whew! We made it! In looking back at the bridge, it didn’t look very substantial. We passed a church by the sea with a big clock on each side of the tower. There was an ugly red house with green shutters and beautiful gardens between the road and sea. There were more trees growing at an angle above the sea. I spied a beautiful castle down by the sea.

Rapallo, a city in Italy, was coming up. This was a short trip and we spent the afternoon on the beach. Our Verdi Hotel was high on a hill overlooking the town and the sea not far from the beach. I had room 46 with Alene. We were the first ones to our rooms.

We had a balcony in our room. Everyone who had a balcony promptly used it as a communication with everyone else with a balcony. It caused quite a commotion. Afterwards we ventured down to the beach via the little trails. There were steps and paths between the buildings. It cost 100 lire for the beach and bath houses. The water was warm and fairly clean as we played water baseball and catch. When we returned, I had a cold bath in Helen’s room.

Then we went out to eat dinner. However, no one served food until 6 p.m. We wandered around the shops, and met another bunch of kids including Eloise from Utah, who had just eaten at a pensione or guesthouse across the bridge. Phew—smelly river! Finally we had dinner at Mello’s. It consisted of spaghetti and later some pastries, like in France. Afterwards we met bunches of kids at a movie where it was 150 lire for my second pastry. It was a nice theater, but not a large clientele. We crawled through the dark to find our seats and sat down just as the lights went on.

The lights turned on subsequently after every short trailer and intermissions. The movie, Incantesimo Tragico, had a very dramatic plot which we were able to follow for the most part. We were slightly confused on some of the side plots, however. It was a tragedy, but we couldn’t tell for sure whether the heroine died or not.

All of us ended up at Mello’s for more spaghetti later on. The manager showed us how to eat spaghetti. The delicious bread veal cutlets with potatoes and beans was even better than the spaghetti before the cinema. There wasn’t a cover charge, just 10% service for the two big baskets of fruits the waiter brought in for dessert. Andre came in to eat as well.

Afterwards we talked to an Italian looking lady. However, she ended up being an English lady from London, who was non-Italian speaking with an Italian friend. She had purchased for her little girl a pair of wooden-soled sandals and the little girl squealed with delight for everyone to hear. They seemed to be friends of the manager.

When we were so stuffed with food that we could scarcely move, we noticed it was dark outside and we were too scared to leave. Finally, we decided to go. When we crossed the bridge and street to Hotel Verdi, it was dark and windy. We kept imagining noises with the little lights here and there in the dark that looked like lit cigarettes. Gratefully they turned out to be fireflies. But we ran the last stretch to the hotel and found a maid waiting at the door.

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