Crossroads Tour – Of Ships and Sea Creatures

The Genoa Aquarium

  • Built for the Genoa Expo 1992, the Genoa Aquarium houses 63 tanks in its 10,000 meter space, and is said to be the largest indoor aquarium in Europe. The first tank features a reconstruction of a 15th century pier in the harbor of Genova, considered the starting point for the voyage of Christopher Columbus and other prominent Genoan navigators.

I was struck by the intense landscaping of the tanks. Unlike the Seattle aquarium whose tanks are bare, these hold your attention even if there were no fish. Some of the coral is from the coastline along the Cinque Terre.

The penguin tank was a scream!  I succeeded in capturing them in this short video clip. The tank replicates the environment of the Falkland Islands and is inhabited by both Gentoo penguins from the Antarctic and Magellanics from the coast of Chile and Argentina. They buzzed the glass constantly and were very interactive with us.

I watched a diver cleaning the tropical lagoon, where Cuba, a playful sea turtle kept coming up to ‘kiss’ the diver’s face mask. Cuba is a rescued turtle who was discovered in 2000 in a box addressed to the aquarium, with a note that gave a birth date of August 1996 and that she had come from Cuba.  Another rescued sea turtle named Ari, was smuggled into Italy by a tourist from the Maldives and later abandoned. It too, was adopted by the Aquarium.

Cuba and her human keeper

The Galata Museum of the Sea

Past the farmer’s market and Jamaican vendors selling purses and sunglasses, past the Neptune galleon, I find a nautical museum which my dad would have really loved. It’s a multistory building housing 10,000 meters of exhibit space separated into 17 galleries, not including the submarine outside.

The ground floor, housed in what looks like an ancient wooden Quonset hut, is themed The Age of Oar. There are banks of armor, a reliquary containing some of the ashes of Christopher Columbus, and a full scale replica of a seventeenth century galleon.

Morion helms. Some of these were made in the workshop of Pompeo della Cesa,
a renowned Milanese armorer during the reign of Philip II

The Age of Sail includes a nice collection of globes and navigational instruments, although the room is very dimly lit and it was difficult to get decent photos.

The Age of Steam walks you through rooms on board a ship as a third-class passenger would have experienced them, complete with engine noise and a view of the sea out of the tiny porthole. Towards the end of this exhibit you are given a ‘passaporto’ and immigration papers, and are taken through the immigration process at Ellis Island. As an American, it was eye opening to see this process from the side of an Italian immigrant.

The washroom for third-class passengers aboard a steamship destined for America

After signing a release and checking my bags into a locker, I put on the supplied hair net and hardhat, and board a reproduction of the N. Sauro, Italy’s largest submarine. I missed the pre-show which would have taught me how to use the periscope and hydrophone. I can now add “has been on a submarine” to my list of life experiences.

Control Room inside the replica of the N. Sauro submarine at the Galata Museum

I opt out of dinner and return to my room in the convent. I take off my shoes to find that one of my blisters has a blister. I didn’t think that was physically possible… I end the night with a bath, and packing for an early day tomorrow to La Spezia.

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