Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Day 3-Saturday, March 6th

This started out with a breakfast in the hotel. Of course, breakfast was on the top floor with a beautiful view of some of the surrounding area. It was fantastic to have that in the morning, a nice start to the day and so much better than the drab view from the basement cafeteria in London.

The view:

The Cinque Terre area has the most amazing views I have ever seen in my life. I think it beats any city skyline I’ve ever seen, or any purely man-made object in my life. The Cinque Terre is 5 small Italian towns perched (I think I’m borrowing the word from some website I read it on, but it’s really the only word that works) on these steep hills along the water. The whole area is a National Park, although people still live there, and a UNESCO World Heritage Site. There are a number of walking paths, biking paths, and horse trails. I took the paths along the water. In some spots you are walking on a path that is built into the side of basically a sheer cliff, with a straight fall down (I was thankful for the railing on the side here). But you have an unbelievable view. It was sunny with very few clouds, and the water was an amazing turquoise color, turning deeper blue as you looked farther out. It’s amazing to see these houses, I can only imagine what waking up in the morning would be like there (I’ll stay in a hotel there someday). It wasn’t too cold out, and I think this was a good time to be there. It isn’t as busy this time of year and so there’s a little more room to stop, or walk fast as I tend to do. I saw Riomaggiore, Manarola, and Corniglia, starting on the most southern one (Riomaggiore) and working my way north. The first walk was very easy, and the second one slightly harder. But it was completely worth it for the views. To get up to Corniglia requires, at the end of the walk, climbing a very very big set of stairs, which did provide some good views.

One of the towns:

The path:

I had a small world moment while getting lunch. In the third town (Corniglia) I stopped and got lunch, after seeing a little church up there and saying a quick prayer. I walked into a small place that looked like it had basic food, and there was a group of Americans. After ordering my food I asked where they were from. One girl said she was from South Carolina, so of course I told her I went to Clemson. She got all excited and told me how she knew all these people who went there.So she ran a few names by me, and I knew three of them: Gray Segars (a ridiculously tall guy), Jenna Guthrie, and Melissa Hulbert (two good friends of mine).

I went back to La Spezia after this, and figured out what time the next train was to Florence.After finding out it was something around 1:30 or so, I had some time left to kill, and decided to walk around. La Spezia, while not all that exciting, seemed like an interesting place. I saw a Saturday market around the middle of town. I tried to get to the water, but one place was a military port (somewhere I figured I probably didn’t belong) and it seemed like every other spot was blocked by some shipping place. So that didn’t work out, but I had fun just walking around. I finally got on the train, saw some more water, but then left the coast behind. I saw some snow-capped mountains, which I think might just be the first time I’ve ever seen snow-capped mountains in my life (maybe I’ve seen some in New York at some point, but I can’t remember).This train ride wasn’t all that exciting otherwise, but I arrived in Florence alive and with all my belongings, which is always a good thing.

This was my first night in a hostel. I was staying with a guy and his wife, both young Australians currently living in England. The husband is teaching in England, and they are traveling around Europe when they can. I settled in, got on the internet (we all had to share a computer unless we had an Ethernet cord for our laptop) and then decided to take a walk around. My walk ended up at the Duomo, or Basilica, basically church with the ridiculously huge dome (which I could see from a window in the hostel). Right next to that is a famous Baptistery that my mom wanted me to check out. Unfortunately I never got around to going in on my trip...

The Basilica:

A pretty good day overall.

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