Genoa Pre Quarter
Parallel to our elegant Balbi street, conceived as a triumphal entrance to the city for travelers – from the most beautiful station building, through the square with the monumental Columbus – A Cristoforo Colombo dalla Patria (“Christopher Columbus – from the Motherland” – this is written on the monument to the great discoverer, who is home to no one didn’t contribute to his famous expedition), past the ancient hotels, palaces and the university (the university is also a few palaces with lions on the stairs, hanging gardens, courtyards, etc.) is a long, narrow ay, dark and scary street Pre. Behind her, just twenty meters away, the port begins. Now, of course, the port is no longer quite a port. More recently, the famous Genoese architect Renzo Piano, who became famous, like most famous Genoese, outside of his Patria, with a wave of his hand turned Old Harbor, or Porto Antico (I beg you, do not try to translate antico as “antique”!), In a white and clean walking zone. The Genoese immediately fell in love with the new version of Old Harbor, now they are actively walking there, foreign tourists are lining up to visit the largest Aquarium of Europe, built all in the same Old Harbor, trimmed yuppies are constantly running along the promenade, all the visible space of the sea is filled with snow-white yachts, and … nothing was left of the noisy port, as I imagined it from the stories of my grandfather, a sailor.
But it was no coincidence that I started the story about the port from Pre Street. Only recently I realized what the enduring meaning of this narrow and ugly street, crowded with blacks, Chinese, Mexicans, Arabs, Ecuadorians, and I don’t know who else. This is an existential sediment left over from a motley, dirty and noisy port crowd. Here you have prostitutes (very scary, but there are), and eateries with exotic food (judging by the smell, fried cats and dogs are nothing but that), and Negro hairdressers and butcher shops halal, and even the Quick Mart shop, just like Apu from the cartoon about the Simpsons. You can’t hear Italian speech on Pre Street, it’s customary to go for a walk in national costumes and graze very grimy children in the gates (the children seem very happy) … Our municipality should already have guessed and let out unemployed actors dressed as sailors on this street – then the illusion of port life will be complete. And from passers-by to take a moderate fee for passing along this street.
This quarter knew better times. On Via Pre, as well as on Via Maddalena, Via Giustiniani and other streets of the 15th century (that is, the famous quattrocento), houses are usually very interesting, there is always something unexpected – frescoes, bas-reliefs, stained glass windows, statues, fountains. Yes, it’s easy – you call an ultramodern intercom, open a heavy door with medieval spikes and find yourself in a three by three or two by five patio – a patch of Italian blue sky above your head, and a small angry grinning Neptune erupts right in front of you waterfall – almost under your feet. You look a little at Neptune and you go to the gym on the second floor, or to the lawyers – to the third, or to the center of Ayurveda – on the fourth. I just really understand that. In the 15th century, premises were needed for merchants and armatures, in the 21st century – for lawyers and Ayurveda. Only lawyers and Ayurveda are in other quarters, and here they sell shoes for prostitutes and stuff tattoos. Walking along Via Pre, it’s hard to even imagine that inside these dilapidated houses, there may be anything other than dirty dens. However, I myself would never have guessed it, I discovered it by experience when I was invited to visit this very Pre district.
Behind the thick walls and a closed door, a forest of slender white marble palms opened, a glossy black staircase from the famous Genoese ardezia (also called slate stone) went somewhere into the darkness of arched vaults, the floor was paved with black and white stone tiles, like a giant chessboard. The combination of black and white is a trademark of classic Genoese architecture. Probably also because in such a darkness, which usually reigns in the old Genoese palazzo, you can see nothing but black and white – why then suffer, some murals to paint, if no one really considers them? This, incidentally, is one of the reasons immigrants live in the Old Town: apartments that, by definition, do not get sunlight, are not very expensive. However, the talkative black woman with a child wrapped to her back said that they have on the fourth floor at exactly noon on one of the windowsills a direct sunlight for a quarter of an hour. She spoke very proudly about this when we noticed that it must be a bit dark here.
And our friends bought an apartment on the top floor – spacious, bright, with magnificent views of the port, with a terrace, a balcony and another additional covered terrace, more like a birdhouse, which…