'Genoa's a diamond in the rough'

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Leah Armstrong and her husband Edoardo Beraldo. Photo: Leah Armstrong
10:59 CEST+02:00
After years sailing around on a cruise ship with her other half, Canadian Leah Armstrong decided it was time to finally lay anchor on Italy's shore. She speaks to The Local about the challenges - and rewards - of life in Genoa, in the northern region of Liguria.

How did you end up living in Genoa?

My Italian husband and I worked on cruise ships together for six years, but it was a lot of back and forth because it was difficult to get assigned to the same ship.

You reach a point in a relationship when you make or break it.

In 2007, I made a commitment live in Italy, on a three month visa, and in 2008 we got married. It took almost two years to get a visa after getting married!

Your blog has an interesting title - Help! I live with my Italian mother in law - is it really so bad?

For the last two years I’ve lived down the road from her; for the first three years I was living her - I finally lost my mind and had to get out!

But I realized that I was living in a protective bubble; when I got my first apartment I made some pretty big mistakes! The apartment had no proper heating system whatsoever and it was one of the coldest winters!

It’s trial and error; you learn a lot.

Have you faced any other challenges?

I’ve found it very difficult to learn Italian, which is at basic level, so most of my friends are expats.

The people in Genoa are not the friendliest and are very difficult to get to know. I’ve had some really nasty exchanges, especially on public transport. There are a lot of grumpy old people!

I’ve spent a lot of time in Tuscany and I really notice the difference, people smile more there.

Is there anything you miss about Canada?

I miss the snow! I didn’t love snow when I lived in Canada, but there’s a fresh crisp air that goes with it. When you step outside it’s so cold that you feel the cool area throughout your lungs; I miss that feeling.

How about the good points?

I found a job immediately, with no teaching experience. I got lucky. I got thrown in at the deep end at a private school and given a teachers’ handbook.

Genoa’s a diamond in the rough, you really have to take your time to explore its gems. It has its treasures but they’re not really on the map; I’ve been here for five years and I’m still discovering new places.

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What would you recommend seeing?

The fountain in Piazza De Ferrari is impressive, I never get tired of walking past it with the waters changing colour.

Be adventurous! Go down a side road that you’re not sure of; Genoa’s incredibly small, you start walking around and you’re back where you started.

The San Lorenzo Cathedral has traditional black and white stripes, common to the Liguria region, and giant statues of lions.

A bus ride out of the city you find the Staglieno cemetery; it’s world famous and yet it was four years before I even went. It’s enormous; you need a map. 

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