SPRING BREAK: PART 1. Brace yourselves, this is gonna be a long one.
I woke up at 8 on Saturday and realized I had slept through both of my alarms. Thankfully, I still had enough time to get ready and make it to the train station on time. I lost track of time and forgot to check where car 7 was going to be, so the train got there and we started running around trying to find it. We ran a long way in the wrong direction and then finally asked someone who told us it was all the way at the other end. We ran and then decided to just get on another car so it wouldn’t leave without us. We made it to Paris and navigated the metro to the airport. We saw snow-capped mountains from the plane, which I think were the Swiss Alps!
We landed in Pisa and headed to the leaning tower and stopped in the botanical gardens on the way. They had the biggest palm trees I had ever seen.
The town of Pisa was much smaller than we were expecting, so we were surprised when we were talking and all of a sudden, we approached an intersection and I saw the tower peaking through. We walked through the cathedral and then around some town squares with markets. We went to dinner, where we split an octopus risotto appetizer and I got cod with zucchini in a creamy tomato sauce.
The next morning, we walked to a fortress/garden area and then walked to the train station and sat outside by the fountain. We took the train to Cinque Terre and got to see the countryside of Italy.
Map of Cinque Terre (a group of five towns along the west coast of Italy) and where I traveled:
We arrived in Riomaggiore and went to the apartment we rented for the night. Just outside the apartment was a great view of the beach.
We got fried seafood and vegetables in a cone for lunch and then got gelato. We walked uphill away from the busy town area and hiked up a narrow path of stairs along people’s gardens and vineyards. We walked back down and went over to a lookout tower. We tanned on the rocks on the beach for awhile and then went to dinner. It was a really nice place with a view of the town and the sunset on the sea. We split a caprese appetizer and fresh local spinach. I got a pesto pasta dish with green beans and pine nuts.
On Monday, we went to withdraw money since most places only accepted cash, but my cards wouldn’t work at that bank, so thankfully Emily was able to withdraw some cash. We had breakfast at an outside table downtown and had omelettes and a lemon crepe that was delicious! They grow their lemons here, so it was really sweet and tasted like lemonade. We took a train to Corniglia and walked through a church, went to a lookout point, got gelato, and then started our hike up the mountain. It took about 2 1/2 hours to get from Corniglia to Manarola. The hike led us on narrow stairways and through someone’s backyard. There were grapevines all the way up the mountain, but they weren’t in bloom yet. We walked through a town called Volastra and then walked down the mountain to Manarola.
We checked into the hostel and walked to an outdoor restaurant a little up on the mountain where you could see the town from the restaurant. It was an amazing view and great food: we got sandwiches and a cheese platter with 4 Italian cheeses. The restaurant had a pet stray cat named Filipo that kept eyeing my food.
Tuesday morning, we walked around Manarola and then took a ferry to Monterosso. It was a tropical-looking town with sandy beaches. It was more spread out along the water where the others were more zigzagging up a mountain. We found two churches right next to each other and walked through them. We then sat down on a beach for awhile.
We took the train back to Manarola and got lunch, then took the train to Florence and got there at night.
The next day, we went to the other side of the river and walked around Michaelangelo Plaza where an outdoor market was set up.
We walked through the Giardino delle Rose (rose garden) and then to the Abazzia di San Miniato al Monte, a large 3-story church, and then the cemetery surrounding it where many famous people from Florence were buried.
We walked back across the water on the famous Vecchio bridge made of buildings, which are apparently just jewelry shops. I learned later that they used to be butcher shops, but on top of the stores was a passageway for royal people to cross from government offices to a fortress, and they didn’t want to have to walk past butcher shops.
We got a pass to walk through the Giardino di Boboli, a 20th-century Italian women costume museum, and the Giardino Bardini.
We walked over to some town squares and sat at a little park and then went to dinner. It was a fancier place, and I got veal ravioli in a tomato and creamy sauce and we each had a pistachio cream cannoli with strawberry sauce.
On Thursday, we walked to the Duomo cathedral. The line was too long to get in, but we walked around the outside to take pictures.
We found a Gothic church from the 15th century that we walked in instead.
We went on a tour through the Uffiza gallery, a big art museum with paintings and sculptures.
For my last dinner in Italy, I got gnocchi with eggplant sauce, tomatoes, and ground beef.
We walked back to the hotel and sat on our balcony at night just in time to watch the moon rise over the mountains.