Genoa, Italy — Fremantle's soul sister
Maybe it was the wood-fired pizzas in restaurants hugging the harbour — or the university in puzzle pieces across the city.
Perhaps it was the art in the streets, or the progressive culture of the youth. A déjà vu I could have sworn I had dreamt before. It was as if I had awoken in Fremantle, Western Australia, yet I was a very far 13,682 kilometres away. The painting in my hotel room read ‘Somiglianza’ — a sweet sounding word that rolls off your tongue like a rolling pin on pizza dough. Somiglianza. It is Italian for ‘similarity’.
Although differences are what make us unique, similarities can bring us together. To me, there were so many similarities that I could see, taste and feel between two cities that speak in different tongues. As it seems, Fremantle has an undiscovered (and much much older) Italian soul sister.
Genoa, Italy bears an uncanny resemblance to our own famous West Australian port city. Very rarely are we introduced to a city that that sits within a new pair of coordinates, yet still reminds us of a city we know back home. The cobblestones line Balbi Street, which is a short walk from the Genoan port and an even shorter walk from the train station — making it as accessible and convenient as the modern day microwave. The aroma of pasta marina filled the air, with chefs taking full advantage of the nearby Ligurian riviera and fresh seafood.
University students would rustle past with backpacks not big enough for their books (although everyone has laptops nowadays) and a hip hop class in an apartment above would shake the century-old buildings harder than OutKast told us to back in ‘03.
There was electricity buzzing through the city’s veins, alongside dusk-lit alleyways filled with gelaterias and well-behaved dogs. There were crazy drivers and pedestrians who knew how to survive the crazy drivers, and there was also tranquillity amongst the madness.
There were houses stacked along the Italian riviera, washed in all colours of the rainbow. It was a giveaway that the over-Instagrammed (guilty) tourist destination Cinque Terre was just a short boat ride away. Yet although it is home to Europe’s largest aquarium and the birthplace of Christopher Columbus, Genoa is fairly unscathed from tourists and you are invited to explore the city at your own pace.
Fremantle, Western Australia
Drawing these comparisons closer to home, Fremantle also invites you to explore the realms of its aesthetically rich coastline at your leisure. With seafood to boast about (hello Ciccerellos) and an alternative music culture to envy, it tops the list for one of WA’s most culturally sound locations.
Just a 30-minute drive from Perth you’ll find there renounced markets with homemade produce and barrels of art. There are spacious beaches with soft sand and sharks, and some of the state’s most authentic Italian cuisine.
Fremantle also has prisons and maritime museums, shipwrecks and cappuccino strips. Within the sun-kissed city sits the Fremantle Arts Centre — arguably one of the best music venues in the south west. With hanging lights that warm the night and soft stone walls touched by the native pines, every gig is turned magical.
Just as Genoa has day trips to Cinque Terre, you can also experience Rottnest Island by ferry just off the coast of Fremantle. Here, quokka selfies will spam your Instagram and the smiley little marsupials are sure to steal your heart! Don’t touch them however, or you’ll be smacked with a $300 fine because the species is protected.
In a nutshell
So whether you’re travelling to Italy or Australia, both cities are well worth a visit. They are youth havens filled with pretty ports, fresh seafood and lots of history (with both cities even having well-known prisoners; Marco Polo and Ned Kelly.) You are welcomed to create your own adventure.
Perhaps such striking similarities stem from the Italian migration to Australia and Fremantle in particular, after the Second World War. Yet, the heart and soul of both places feel the same.
Migration can gift a city with a new wave of culture — and perhaps Fremantle is a reminder that migration is something to be celebrated.