We’ve decided to sleep in a little today because this will supposedly be our shortest, least stressful drive. It’s only a couple of hours at most from here to Genoa, so we have plenty of time. We rise at about 9am, to the sound of cling clang in the kitchen. Seems like Francesca is already up. I wander out in my knickers to find a table laden with coffee, freshly pressed orange juice, scrambled eggs, roasted cherry tomatoes and mushrooms.
We have now collectively officially fallen in love with Francesca. We leisurely enjoy our breakfast before heading out for what should be a nice easy drive to a beautiful coastal town on the Mediterranean where we can swim and frolic before our gig. Images of blue water and rocky coasts abound as we merrily consume our breakfast.
We walk outside and immediately begin to sweat. Dusty (our beat up old Mazda) has been warming in the morning sun. We deflate a little before we take off. The first mishap of the day, and there are indeed many, is that we drive the wrong way down the highway and have to go through the toll booths twice. Italian roads are freakin expensive to drive on in the first place, and we just managed to pay twice. Go team.
Finally we are heading in the right direction. This mix up serves us right for believing we had plenty of time to faff about sleeping in and having breakfast. It’s okay though, there is still time. The plan is to go and check in at the hostel first, have a shower, then make our way to the venue of what will be a very special experience and a first for both Tali and myself, filming a Balcony TV session on a rooftop in the old city of Genoa. We have kind of assumed thus far that the hostel won’t be far from the venue. We assumed wrongly. We check the map and find that an insane labyrinth of hairpin turns snaking unpredictably up the side of a mountain lies between the venue and our accommodation.Okay we say, we can do it. We still have time at this point, so we’ll make it there first for a shower and then head down to meet Michele, our promoter for this evening, for the Balcony TV session.
This plan becomes less and less realistic the longer we sit in the unexpected traffic jam we hit just outside of Genoa. Our easy two hour drive has become and easy one and a half hour drive followed by a roasting hot one and a half hour crawl. When we finally hit Genoa City, we suddenly realise that this place a squirming mess of looping lanes and u-turns and bridges over underpasses, the turns come too fast for us to navigate them and we quickly end up lost on the wrong side of the city. The layout of the city coupled with drivers who don’t seem to have a lot of regard for speed limits, or the concept of lanes, we realise we are heading straight on into insanity. Thanks to the traffic jam, our time is running out. Considering that from looking at the map we thought that Genoa City would be the easy part before snaking up the mountain, and now the ‘easy part’ is pure mayhem, we decide to abort mission and instead just go un-showered and sweaty to Balcony TV.
Once we’ve pulled over to let the GPS readjust, we find that the location of Balcony TV is 600 metres away. Alright, we make it on time. Michele greets us with a smile and shows us to a bathroom where we can freshen up before the shoot. Wolf drives through the city again, this time with the direction of Michele, a local who is totally chilled out amongst the mayhem of the traffic. He guides Wolf through the madness and into the old town. You know, one of those really really really old towns, built centuries before cars were even conceived of. Probably somewhere around the time when the Romans were wearing long white robes and watching people fight lions for entertainment. When they were eating porridge, yet to learn of tomatoes from South America and noodles from China. These tiny lanes were built for people and donkeys to carry their wares to the local market, and here we are centuries later trying to squeeze a Mazda 626 through them. Wolf handles it like a boss, and drives us right up to the restaurant, into the tightest parking spot in the history of the Roman empire.
The roads might be hard to navigate, but the people are not. They are warm and welcoming, we are greeted with the same Italian hospitality we enjoyed yesterday in Turin. A particularly exciting fact I learned yesterday is that Genoa, as well as being the most confusing city in the world, is also the birthplace of pesto, you know that delicious basil based sauce. It actually comes from this city. It can be traced back to the sixteenth century, by which time all its ingredients were already present in the region through trade with other parts of the world.
The friendly staff ask us if we are hungry, what else should we order but the pasta pesto? Now I’m not just saying this, it was really the best pesto I’ve ever eaten, ever ever. At that moment, with my handmade pesto sauce paired with Sardinian wine, I’m in heaven. We go upstairs to do balcony TV. It’s the most insanely beautiful place to do a song, nothing short of breathtaking. Tali and I do one take each of our songs, then Michele does a little interview with each of us. He asks me what I think about Brexit and whether I think all the artists from London will move to Berlin now. I manage to form a reasonably intelligent sounding reply about the movement of people between the UK and Europe being restricted from now on, again I’m quite proud as I usually come off sounding like a half-wit during interviews, but this time I think I’ve done okay. Here’s a cheeky look at the videos…
After a while it becomes unbearably hot on the rooftop and we head back down to the venue to sample the local wine. We’ve been chatting with one of the ladies at the bar, she tells us her name is Jade, like the stone she wears around her neck. We order wine from the bar, Jade seems to have taken a liking to us so she brings us pizza and garlic bread. Or maybe it’s just normal Italian hospitality we Michele appears with a glass of Prosecco for all the Balcony TV crew, to celebrate the making of the videos. Again we are overwhelmed by the Italian hospitality.
Now we have to decide what our plan is for the night. It’s time to face the insane labrynth up the side of the mountain, it’s our only hope for a shower. Our GPS can’t find us here in the old city, so we have to find our own way out. Wolf goes for a walk to suss out how to actually get out of here. The locals would like to help, but having grown up here, we’re not sure they understand the magnitude of our stress and confusion driving around this foreign place. They tell us it’s fifteen minutes drive and we’ll be fine. We make it out of the old city, and the following ensues. Wolf is driving and I am navigating, with a slow clunky offline map. It goes a bit like this:
‘Okay now in about 100 metres there’ll be a crazy hairpin turn, you’ll have to go back on yourself around to the left, immediately after that there’ll be a roundabout with five exits, take the third… no not this one.. the third… no no oh shit okay we’re going the wrong way.. can you do a U-turn…?’
‘A U-turn? Where the hell am I supposed to do a U-Turn?!’
‘Good point.. it’s readjusting…’
This ‘fifteen minute drive’ takes us roughly an hour. On our first try we manage to get half way up the mountain, but our first wrong turn leads us right back to where we started. The second time around we avoid disaster. We eventually climb further up the mountain, Wolf is smashing the hairpin turns by now, he’s quickly becoming a pro, and Tali and I are getting right into the spirit of the adventure. We are rising higher and higher, around every corner is a sweeping view of this port city, and thanks to the snaking roads we get to see it from every angle. We enter into the fog of the mountains, the sun has begun to set, and we finally lay eyes on our accommodation. We’re really running out of time now so we have a super fast shower and a quick chat with the nice English lady who’s sharing our room.
Meanwhile, as much fun as the crazy drive was, we notice there were no streetlights on the way and we’d rather not have to do it again at 2am after the gig. We decide to get a taxi down the mountain and back. When the taxi driver arrives, we understand exactly how you do that drive in 15 minutes. This guy knows the roads like the back of his hand, he’s snaking around at high speeds but we never feel unsafe, he’s cool and confident and we can’t help but burst out laughing at the contrast between his driving and ours.
We are greeted straight away by a big smile from Michele. He offers us dinner, about which we are very happy. Wolf and I order the Salsiccia and Tali gets a couscous salad. We enjoy more wine and good company. The sound engineer’s name is Davide, he’s attentive and professional, and also really nice, like everyone else here. There are two guys playing experimental music with an upright bass, a synth, and an electric guitar. Their music is something special and we have a chat afterwards about experimental German bands from the seventies like Neu! and Faust.
We play to a great crowd in Genova, Tali and I have mastered the phrase ‘Buonasera’ and are no longer trying to greet the audience by reciting the name of Argentina’s capital city. We sell a few CDs, have a few chats to the lovely crowd, drink a few more glasses of that delicious Italian wine, and make our way out of the old city to flag a taxi. We are amazed again at the ease with which the taxi driver navigates the impossible streets, and we are very glad not to be responsible for the journey at the moment.
It’s been an exciting adventure of a day, and we’re ready for our last day on tour tomorrow, in Vagney, France. It’s going to be a long drive for us, so we reluctantly set our alarms for 6.30 am, and I fall asleep as my head hits the pillow.