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Published: September 5th 2008
Riomaggiore - village #1
Well, as it turns out I didn't have too long to wait to (hopefully) catch up in my blog. Josh and I are currently in Pisa after Kristin left early this morning to meet up with her school group for their tours. Pisa, it turns out, isn't really too exciting of a town, which is why I'm once again on the internet (plus it's siesta time here). If you happen to remember from my plan of destinations, you would probably be wondering why I'm in Pisa when that definitely wasn't on the list. Weeell Josh and I have decided that we didn't like the plans we had after Rome and are now going to change them. We don't know exactly what they will change to yet, but that's OK. We're pretty much just planning on making it up as we go and seeing what happens. Hence, a little day trip to Pisa which will most likely be followed by a night train to Munich to spend a day there - I thought it would be a cool place for him to see and I'm willing to return.
Now that I've explained my current situation, I'll move on to the past.
On the Via dell'Amore, the easy and scenic hike between Riomaggiore and Manarola
We left Milan on the morning of the 2nd, and headed for the Cinque Terre. The Cinque Terre (Ching-kweh Ter-eh) are five small villages along the West Coast of Italy with trails connecting the villages in a line. The setting is simply amazing. The villages are either set up on the top of cliffs or down at the bottom of cliffs, always right on the can't-believe-it's-that-blue Mediterranean and always surrounded by rolling mountains - covered with forests and terraced vineyards. Hiking all the way from one end to the other takes about 4 hours, not including any time in the towns. The day we got there, we hiked to #4, Vernazza, before deciding to stop for the day. We also looked around each of the towns along the way, and stopped for a dip in the Mediterranean off of a private little cove we found. The villages all have a really small-town feel, like Story City but even more. They're very isolated from the rest of the world, in their own little paradise. As I was exploring Vernazza a little bit on my own I was walking behind this little girl on her tricycle, and everytime she passed a local
The water was soooooo perfect
they would have something to say to her. It felt like we had escaped from the tourist train we were on, even though there were plenty of tourists there too. Everything just seems to calm down there, even tourists.
When we hiked in to Vernazza it was arond 6pm and we didn't have a room, so we were talking about starting to look for one. Lucky for us, a room found us. A guy overheard us talking and walked up offering to show us a room he rents (most accomadation in the Cinque Terre are private rooms rented out - we weren't doing anything dangerous here). After a little haggling we got him to let us take a room for one night for really cheap... and it was awesome. We basically had this place to ourself, which included a terrace that overlooked the city, the sea, and the surrounding cliffs. It was beautiful - we couldn't believe our luck. We enjoyed our patio for a while, then went out to eat at a restaurant underneath the local castle... also overlooking the Mediterranean. Josh and I had the best food I've had so far in Europe, a pesto lasagna that
Via dell'Amore translates roughly to "Road of Love" because it used to be the meeting point for young people from the two towns.
we both couldn't stop gushing about. We dined like true Italians, staying in the restaurant for 2.5 - 3 hours just enjoying the setting. Then we explored the local nightlife for a while and went to sleep.
The next morning we made the last hike, which was probably the most difficult of all. I should mention that some of the hikes were pretty rough, but the scenery made it worth it by far. We were treated to beautiful panoramic views of each village as we approached, and of all the country surrounding it. We didn't really get to explore the last village before we reluctantly left to catch our train to Rome. And before I get to Rome, I want to say that Vernazza (town #4) might be my favorite place so far, for more reasons than I can list, but it was just awesome.
Anyway... now on to Rome. Rome is going to be very hard to beat as my favorite big city. It was so cool, in so many different ways. We got there kind of late, and went for a night walk through the center of town. The city felt lively, but not loud or
The current trend in Italy is to place a lock somewhere romantic with your significant other... Apparently it came from an Italian movie?
stressfully fast-paced, and elegant, but not to the point of boring 3 students. We wandered from Piazza to Piazza (that's plaza, not pizza), and each one had more interesting stuff. One was filled with artists and street performers, one had the best ice cream I've ever had, and one had the Pantheon. It was fascinating how you could walk through relatively modern shops, restaurants, and apartments, and then out of nowhere be standing in front of a church thousands of years old. After our walk we went to sleep, in need of solid rest for the next day I had planned.
The next day - yesterday in present time - we had what has to be one of the most exciting days sightseeing possible. We woke up early to get in line for the Vatican Museum, which was definitely worth it. When it opened we didn't even wait 10 minutes before getting in, and the line behind us went further than I could see. The museum was worth it as well - the art/artifacts were cool, the Raphael rooms were particularly incredible, and the Sistine Chapel was beyond words. From there we hopped in to St. Peter's Basilica, which
brings me to a problem. I've had the incredible luck of pretty much continually one-upping myself on the sights I see. This is great for me, but very bad for my writing. St. Peter's was by far the most impressive, awe-inspiring cathedral I've seen so far, but I don't really know how to describe that when I've already complimented so many other things to the best of my ability. I'll just settle with saying I enjoyed it.
After St. Peter's we left the Vatican and returned to Italy for more ancient sights. We took the metro and got to walk out of the station and stand directly in front of the Colosseum, a really cool experience. Visiting the Colosseum was great... it was really easy to imagine it in all its glory. Probably due to Gladiator, but that's OK. From the Colosseum we walked up to Palatine Hill, where all the emperors built their palaces, looked down on Circus Maximus (very disappointing, actually, it was nothing more than a dirt oval in an empty park), then strolled down to the Roman Forum. The guidebook we had really made the Forum cool - it told us things like "over there
View as you leave Manarola towards Corniglia
is where Caesar turned down his crown" and "right ahead of you is where Mark Antony gave Caesar's eulogy." After our re-living of the Roman Empire we walked back to the Pantheon to see it during the day, got our favorite gelato again, and then called an end to our ridiculous day of sightseeing.
We went for a walk at night one more time before we had to split up, and then this morning Josh and I decided to go to Pisa. And now I'm finally to the present!
*One more thing about Rome: the traffic there is crazy/ridiculous/unbelievable. Not that there are too many cars, more the fact that there are no traffic lines, not really any traffic signs, traffic lights are mere suggestions, and just the lack of really any traffic laws in general. On top of that there are scooters and pedestrians everywhere. I don't know how people don't die daily from accidents... but it works. We took videos of an intersection for a while just to prove how chaotic it is, and we never saw an accident.
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