The next day in Cassagna Michał was supposed to cook breakfast. It could not have gone any better for him – he slept through the entire morning and woke up to the smells of Keane and Karol’s delicious homemade carbonara. Bacon bits, egg yolks, and delicious fresh Italian pasta were all mixed together to produce a hearty meal.
When breakfast was over, we finished packing and went down the winding mountain path, passing small vineyards and the mine that probably employed most of the townsfolk back in the day. After making a few stop to take in the scenery, we were on our way to Genoa with our quest to find the source of Genoa salami!
After an hour drive and squeezing our large van into a tiny garage (and an even tinier parking space, thanks to Keane’s mastery), we decided to split up and explore. Bowe, Lena, and Naomi were set on finding out what the Italian McDonald McFlurries are all about and seeking out the best cut of salami in Genoa. In the meantime, Karol, Keane, and Michał speed-walked through the streets of Genoa to the Porto Antico – the ancient port from which Christopher Columbus departed on many adventures – and then dove into the largest Aquarium in Europe.
The aquarium exhibit was indeed quite large, with about 40 rooms dedicated to different marine and tropical lifeforms, and included a large shark tank and an even bigger dolphin tank. The exhibit was well annotated and there was an emphasis on preservation of marine life and conservation of freshwater.
When other reports came it was confirmed that Italian McFlurries are in fact delicious and that – to our surprise – Genoa is, in fact, not known for its Salami but for its Pesto! Naomi purchased some type of salami, however, and it was fantastic. It can be concluded that Genoa knows what it’s talking about when it comes to food.
As we headed north towards Switzerland, we passed many road tolls, and had to pay customs (around 40CH, about $40) when crossing the boarded, but we did not go through a search or a passport check. On the way, the group shared a little about their favorite sights and experiences so far.
Favorite Experiences So far
When we finally, as Naomi put it, “arrived in the Swiss,” the scenery has quickly changed. Everything was very green and all of a sudden we were driving through valleys.
In the later afternoon we finally arrived at our apartment in Bellinzona, a small town in the Italian-speaking part of Switzerland, which happened to be a UNESCO heritage site, hosting three medieval castles within its city limits. We stayed in repurposed offices of the beautiful Bellinzona school of journalism, right in the middle of town and walking distance from the castle.
Our host, Matteo Cheda, explained how the town of Bellinzona was always very literate and even the poorest people would learn how to read and write. He told us that when the Swiss from the region migrated to Northern California, there were many letters going back and forth and a lot of history was documented this way.
After earning our PhD's in history of Bellinzona, we went out to explore the town center where a blues festival was going on. We quickly discovered that everything is pretty pricy in Switzerland!
With the Swiss Crown being an equivalent of the US Dollar, the prices were as high or higher as they are in Hawaii when it came to everything from groceries to restaurant meals. Not being able to find a good spot with a reasonably priced dinner menu, Bowe and Lena headed back to make a meal at home, while Naomi, Michał, Karol and Keane stumbled upon $10 kebabs. Feeling extremely guilty about eating so cheaply, they grabbed a few beers to compensate, sat down by a nearby fountain and talked about their journey.
When we went back to our spacious apartments (we were given access to two flats) we were able to quickly fall asleep – despite some noisy Italians conversing loudly in the square right outside our window. In the morning, Bowe would find out that noisy Italians are the least of his worries, but more about that later!