We lug ourselves and our backpacks up the decrepit staircase to the top floor and are welcomed in by our host, Ivo. The opera music is still on full blast as we exchange handshakes. Ivo tries to ask us something, realizes we can’t hear him, then moves to turn the music down.
We look around, the apartment is beautiful: high ceilings, spacious, light. Paintings adorn the walls, photos and books line the shelves, and a grand piano sits peacefully in the center of the room.
This is definitely the apartment of an artist.
“Cafe?” He asks with a smile.
“Si!” We reply instantaneously.
He shows us to our room, where we drop off our backpacks. We then follow him into the kitchen. An erotic painting greets us in the hallway adjoining the two rooms.
Ivo places the moka on the stove and bids us to sit at the table.
“You have a beautiful apartment,” I say.
“Grazie”, he replies. “Ay decorate myself.”
“Are you an artist?” I ask.
“Ay was opera director, but now ay just teach.”
When Ivo speaks, his Italian accent dominates, almost to the point of exaggeration. He rolls his r’s and accentuates his vowels. As is standard in Italian pronunciation, each word ends with an “uh”. He speaks carefully, but passionately.
“’Ave-uh you-uh been-uh to-uh Genova before-uh?”
We shake our heads.
“Is it safe for me to walk around here alone?” I ask.
“You mean ’cause of de ladies on de streets and all de migrants?” He asks, sensing my apprehensiveness.
“Ees safe! Genova ees port city. People come and people leave. Many eenteresting people. That’s why de ladies are here. And thees ees a first stop for many migrants. You must watch your wallet like any other ceety, but otherwise, you are safe.”
He gets up, takes the moka off the stove, and sets it on the table. He places a small espresso cup in front of each of us, and begins to pour.
We watch him as he empties the coffee gracefully into each of our cups, and I admire the geometrical hourglass design of the moka. So simple, stylish and attractive.
He notices my gaze. “De most critical part of de design of de moka ees the valve.” He says pointing to a little bolt on the side of the moka. “Eef eet weren’t for de valve, de pressure would build up and de pot would explode.”
A short silence follows as each of us sip our coffee, contemplating exploding mokas.
Ivo breaks the silence, “Ay will show you what dere ees here to do een Genova.”
He proceeds to cover the kitchen table in maps and flyers of various things to do around the city, pointing at different areas, and marking key spots. He finishes by handing us a few business cards from restaurants he recommends.
“Thank you,” my boyfriend says. “Is there a particular restaurant you recommend? One that say, you go to regularly.”
“Ah, yes. Ay don’t have card for eet, but eet ees around de corner from here. Eet ees small but de food ees delicious, and ay am friends with de owner. He ees very nice. Tell him ay sent you.”
We finish our coffee and get acquainted with our room. Its bohemian style, decorated in dark reds, deep purples and dull oranges, complements the design of the apartment, along with a bare, brick wall, odd furniture, a black metal bed frame, and steep stairs leading up above the entrance of the room to nowhere. At the foot of the stairs, a thin, red linen curtain conceals a small bathroom.
“I guess we won’t be having much privacy in there,” I say, looking to see if there is a solid door hidden behind the curtain. No luck.
We decide to go down to the restaurant and reserve a table for tonight, and go on to explore the city.
We say our adieu’s (or rather, arrivederci’s) to the artist and step out into the labyrinth once more.