Thursday, May 23, 2013

Cinque Terre, Italy

"Just ten more minutes." I called back over my shoulder to our small group for the third time, silently chuckling to myself.  If I had a dime for every time my Dad said that to my brothers and I growing up I would be a rich man.  Whether it was simply a long drive or a brutal hike back to camp and time just felt like it was standing still, Dad would very calmly say the same thing he said ten minutes ago...or twenty.  "Just ten more minutes."  
Thomas, Michela, Nicole, and I were attempting to walk back to our B&B, which is perched high up on a hillside, around midnight.  The path we were on was supposed to lead us back easily, the owner showed me were it was on a map so I was confident. The others were not.  The path, or probably to be more accurate should be referred to as a trail, was also supposed to be a nice, evening stroll after dinner to help us digest and leisurely discuss the evening up to that point.  One problem, there was no moon and the sky was overcast, absolute darkness. One flashlight and three cell phones were all we had to light our way for our, much longer than anticipated, single file trek.  The immensely overgrown trail would be comprised of ancient uneven cobblestones one minute turning into a tiny goat path with a large steep drop off to the left the next.  I was having a blast.  On cue someone grumbled "you said that ten minutes ago!"  I smiled again, I just couldn't help myself.  It was spring on the Italian coast and we were hiking a trail in the middle of the night that has probably been around for generations. The scents and aromas of blooming flowers enveloped us as the ever present firefly's blinked on and off through the trees. We kept carefully trudging along.  A wild boar suddenly snorted and rustled in the underbrush just off the trail.  Everyone jumped. "It's just a pig" I said calmly acting like it was no big deal and then for good measure a quick, "just ten more minutes."  I did pick up the pace slightly, silently hoping it wasn't a mother with babies nearby, never good, especially with boars.  After a few more switchbacks and the immediate danger (from the boar anyway) had passed,  the trail began to even out, eventually turning back to cobblestones as a lone lamp abruptly broke through the foliage.  That lamp signified that we had, indeed made it and our impromptu trek was over.  Victory!  We all high fived and needed to celebrate our conquest! Thomas and I promptly jumped into the freezing pool, got in trouble by the owner, and we all went to bed scolded and spent.  A great start to the trip.  It may have taken a little more than ten minutes....but who's counting anyway.     
That was obviously my personal highlight of trip, but there were many.  The Ligurian Coast is a fantastic place to visit and the options are endless. We chose to be off the beaten path (literally) and stayed above a small town called Sori with only two restaurant/houses within walking distance (for normal people).  The weather was horrible, but we managed to make the best of it and had an amazing time.   Due to the weather and landslides, we were only able to hike the first portion of the Cinque Terre region from Monterosso to Vernazza, but took a boat to the last town called Riomaggiore.  If I was to guess at Thomas' highlight, it would be the boat. If you saw him, you would have thought it was Christmas eve and he was seven he was so excited. There is a picture of him on the boat....he didn't sit down the entire trip! Michela is Italian and Thomas is fluent which made for a very authentic trip that Nicole and I would never have been able to achieve without them.  It seemed like everywhere we went were treated like family.  The restaurant in Riomaggiore called Via dell Amore was one of those places.  We stopped in for lunch and stayed for four hours! The food was to die for and the wine and Amaro (Italian Liquor) were just perfect to take our minds off the wind and the rain outside.  I decided that if I lived in Italy I would way three hundred pounds.  One interesting dialogue does comes to mind with a family that were contemplating sitting down at a table across from us: 
Michela: "Listen, I'm Italian and this is the best food you are going to find in the region."                    Women: "Oh really, well we are just trying to find someplace with the best WiFi. Do you know were we can go?" 
We all just looked at her like she was an idiot and turned back to our table.  I know I am one...but sometimes I really hate American tourists.  It did make for an ongoing joke for the remainder of the trip though so I can't be too upset.  Every time anyone said something was great, someone in the group would immediately say "yeah...but do you have the best WiFi!"   We had several more delicious and personal dining experiences but I have already gone on too long and won't go into detail.  Thank you Italy for always re-confirming your spot as the number one European country! 
 Next stop Turkey, you have your work cut out for you! 
16th Century Pirate Ship in Genoa!  I was looking for Willy's treasure.
This was the terrace outstide our room.
The pool at our B&B above Sori.








Thursday, May 16, 2013


 Dear Italy,
How do I love thee, let me count the ways.   Ummm...never mind, there are just to many..  We had a pretty typical Tuscan weekend that is commonplace throughout the region.  You know nothing out of the ordinary, just things like absolutely mind blowing food, museums with works done by Michelangelo, Da Vinci, Raphael, etc... and of course delicious wines from the great sangiovese grape that pair so perfectly with the cuisine.  Italy just doesn't surprise me anymore...basically holiday heaven.  There were, however, a few things that really stood out to me that set Florence apart:  a) The, thought I was in College Town, USA.  There must be a huge study abroad program or something because I have not seen or heard some many young Americans since leaving the States.  Normally this might have been annoying, but Nicole and I began embracing it and subsequently started eavesdropping in order to hear great college sayings.  After walking away from the Duomo or some amazing piazza with statues done by Michelangelo you might here something along the lines of  "OMG...that fresh!"  b)  The shopping deals....great place to buy anything leather at a very good price.....and  3) will never do this justice.  It is hands down the greatest sculpture I have seen and most like will ever see.  First of all, the thing is gigantic! The sheer scale with that amount of detail and precision is absolutely incredible to behold in real life.  You stare at it and begin to think he is breathing.  At any moment he is going to shrug his shoulders and walk off the pedestal like he just got tired of standing there.  I couldn't stop....just fantastic!  Florence is a perfect place to spend the weekend, can't wait to go back.  I am cutting this short because we are just about to leave for some more Italy....Cinque Terre here we come!  
Best Florentine Steak Ever!
Picture of me enjoying the best Florentine Steak ever!

Fountain that I call "fat man riding little turtle"

The dirty bell tower Nicole made us climb....I'm telling you the girl just cannot pass up a chalenge!