Thursday, July 24, 2008

Italy: part 2
Mini-trips from Pisa:
Pisa is centrally located, so from the Ipata house, M
om and I could take day or overnight trips to nearby places such as Florence, the Cinque Terre and the countryside.


Our first trip was two days and one night in Florence which is only an hour away by train.

I really like Florence. It has a smaller city feel to it and is almost entirely walkable. It's a little more quaint and manageable than Rome. There is no way I could say I like one city over the other, but if I had to choose one to live in for a little while, it'd be Rome for it's hustle and bustle and liveliness, but for a more permanent stay, I would have no qualms dwelling in more peaceful and cozy Florence.

Pointe Vecchio Bridge.

The famous Duomo. I will always remember the amazing colors and its uniqueness.The Campanille Tower. Hmm, I think this is the one that UC Berkeley's Campanille is based off of!

In the Galleria de Academia. I missed it the last time around, so this was the highest priority on this trip. The moment we arrived in the city, I dragged Mom across town to the museum. The only thing you really go for is the David. And it really is that impressive!

We also did some shopping at the famous outdoor leather markets and the regular stores. I just loved hanging out in the different squares and stopping among the many restaurants, cafes and gelaterias. Overall, a well spent 2 days in Florence.

At last I made it to the cinque terres! I have been wanting to go since 2000 (along with many other places in Italy - I have been waiting a LONG time for my return to Italy as you can tell).
It was worth the wait! The moment our train bursted out of the tunnel next to the cliff among the pristine water with the sun glistening on the sparkling blue ocean, I knew the cinque terres would not disappoint.

The five towns lie along the coast. You can walk between all 5 of them in about 6 hours. Each one has only one main street which you can walk in about 5 minutes. They are picture perfect with the little houses, cliffside and ocean view. You can dip in the water off the cliff near the towns. Here they are in order:
1. Riomaggiore: nice and small.
2. Manorola: where we stayed, and it ended up being our favorite town. Nice and quiet and peaceful.
3. Corgnilia: perched up on the cliff. The only one we did not visit.
4. Vernazza, which is probably the most talked about. It was nice, but more crowded and not our favorite. This was also the only place where we had really bad gelato :(
Mom hanging out on our balcony in the town of Manorola.

We were at the base of the main and only street. This town was not overpacked with tourist and fun to meander into the vineyards and view the sunset.

Joy and I reunite in Manarola.

Now, my good friend Joy, who lives in Stockholm, and who I visited there for Thanksgiving in 2006, and I planned to meet up in the Cinque Terres. (I do seem to love meeting friends in random places around the world!) Within the first few hours, Joy and I were running back and forth between our places leaving messages with our kind, but confused Italian B&B owners looking for each other (we just kept repeating "Mi amici!" "My friend!") We managed to get the messages passed and found each other on this street. This was our first of 3 encounters across Italy.

Me enjoying the grapes in the vineyards winding up the cliffs.The beautiful, HUGE lemons! The fruits and vegetables are just so fresh here.

The town of Manarola and the ocean behind.

Monterosso. It's most north of the 5 towns and had a boardwalk. It was definitely the most touristy of them all, but it was also the only sand beach (which unfortunately had some jellyfish)

Mom and me on the boat that went between the towns. We only walked the cliff walk for about 30 minutes and opted for the gorgeous boat views and quick trains the other times.

I would love to come back and spend more time here. One night and two days was not enough! I definitely want to do some hiking on the cliffs and the hills. Yet, another reason to come back to Italy, yet again. But I guess at this rate, it will be 8 more years? There is just too much to see!

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