May 7, 2011 – Saturday
Well it’s been a couple days since I last wrote so I don’t know if I’ll be able to remember everything. Here we go. Wednesday morning, we checked out of our hostel and stopped by the store on the way to the train station to buy some yogurt for breakfast and bread and jam for lunch. Bread and jam is our new favorite. We hopped a train to Pisa and saw the leaning tower. It was only about a 10 minute walk to the tower from the train station so it didn’t take us very long to go check it out, eat some lunch and then get back to the station. I thought that the leaning tower was really cool, and there were also several old churches around it that were also really cool. It was quite different from what I had expected. I had been picturing the tower just sitting out there all by itself surrounded by sand. Instead of that, it was situated in the middle of the city, within the ancient city wall and surrounded by some other cool old churches and stuff. It was definitely worth the hour or so that we took to check it out. We did not climb up the tower because we would have had to buy tickets and the soonest we could get tickets for was about 3 hours later and we really wanted to get along to La Spezia so we could check out Cinque Terre and find our campsite that we were staying at.
When we got to La Spezia, we had to hop a different train that went along the coast through all the cities that make up “Cinque Terre.” That was really beautiful. Our stop was in a little town called Deiva Marina. When we got there, Bryan and I were both like, “Ok, now what?” There was supposed to be a shuttle bus that ran from the train station to the campsite but we had no idea where exactly to meet it or anything like that. We wandered around and found a pay phone where Bryan called up the office and they said that the shuttle would be down in a minute. Happy day. We were only a few minutes away from the campsite by car but I definitely would not have wanted to walk it, especially with our packs on. Checking in there was a piece of cake and we were soon shown our little tent that had two cute, little beds in it. Once we had gotten settled down we realized just how hungry we were and took off to catch the shuttle back into town to find something to eat. We walked around the town, which only took about 5 minutes because it was so small, and settled on a little pizzeria. After eating there we just milled around and enjoyed how quiet and peaceful everything was. By then we decided to just head back to camp and get to bed early and plan what we would do for the next couple days. We waited for about half an hour at the train station for the shuttle bust. Then we waited a little more. Finally we decided to just start walking and hope that we would meet it as it was coming down. Well, no luck. We ended up just jogging most of the way in our flip-flops which still took about 15 minutes or so. When we got back to camp we looked at the shuttle schedule and realized that it stopped running at 7:05 and not 9:05 like we had thought. We had a little laugh.
This whole trip, we have been washing our laundry in the sinks at the hotels that we’ve been staying at but since we’d stayed at a hostel the last few nights we didn’t have anywhere to hand up our wet clothes. We decided that since we were out here camping it would be the perfect time to do all our laundry because we didn’t know when we would have another chance. We thought about taking it to get washed but it would have cost about 10 Euros just to get it washed and dried. The bathrooms and showers at this campsite were really nice so we decided to just wash them. This we did. My hands were pretty tired at the end of it from wringing everything out but we got it all done, hung it up in on the lines in our campsite and went to bed. That night it got really cold. We had not been expecting that at all because of how hot it had been during the day. The next morning all of our clothes were still wet so donned one of my soccer jersey’s that was almost dry and we both put on our swimsuits and we took off to do some hiking.
We took the shuttle in and got on a train headed back to Riomaggio, which is the start of the trail and the location of the main tourist office. There we bought our hiking passes and took off for the trails. The trail between the first two cities was really short and only took like 15 minutes. The short trail between the next two cities was closed, but we decided to take a higher trail that was a little longer. All of the hillsides were covered in vineyards and there were little trails going everywhere. The maps that we had were not very detailed so it took us a little while to find the other trail. Or at least we thought that we had found it. Somewhere along the line we took a wrong turn, but we decided to keep on going for a while and explore the hillside and the vineyards. It was a pretty hike and there were some good views of the sea. Finally we decided to head back because we weren’t getting anywhere and Bryan’s knee was giving him troubles. When we got back down to the town we decided to take a little break and go for a swim. Where we were at the beaches were mostly just rocky cliffs, so we got on another train for the short ride up to Monterosso where there was a beach. It was pretty hot so we laid out for a bit and then dove into the sea. The water was pretty chilly but it felt really refreshing. After we got tired of the beach we hiked from Monterosso to Ventazzio which was the prettiest hike of the day. The trail was really narrow at some parts and there was usually a really steep hill or a small cliff on the downhill side of the trail. Occasionally there were guardrails but the always seemed to be in not narrow parts which didn’t really make much sense.
That night we stayed in the same campground. We found out that they had internet so we got out the netbook and tried to find a place to stay in Florence for Friday night. The internet was really poor but we finally were able to book a place right as the battery died. We weren’t sure if it had gone through though so we had to go to the bathroom to charge the battery. Luckily the reservation had gone through so we were set. We had another cold night, but this time we were expecting it so we wore our sweatshirts to bed to stay warm.
Friday morning we caught the first shuttle to the train station and from there got on a train to La Spezia. We looked at the schedule and figured that the fastest way to get to Florence was to go back to Pisa and from there go to Florence. This we did and arrived in Florence a little after lunchtime. The city was really small, especially compared to Rome. Since we were walking everywhere we were relieved at that. It didn’t take that long to see most of the sights. We decided to take a break from art museums and went to the Museum of Galileo instead. That was really cool because it was all about science, Galileo, and how the Medici family had been involved in science. They had on display a tooth, thumb, index finger, and middle finger of Galileo. I thought that was rather interesting but hey whatever. We also went inside the Duomo, which has one of the largest domes in Europe. That was awesome. Later that night we walked up to Piazzale Michelangiolo, which was a plaza/square on a hill that looked out over the whole city. That was really pretty to see the city all lit up. On the way back, we stopped by a jazz concert that was just out in one of the city squares. Today was the first day of the Festival of Europe which is here in Florence. We’ve been pretty good with hitting festivals on this trip. The canonization of the pope and the Festival of Europe. After milling around at the concert we started back to the hostel, stopped to watch a street performer for a while who I’m pretty positive had lost his mind. He was nutty. Anyways, we got back to the hostel just before 11, skyped with dad and mom. Mom was in the Chicago airport with my new siblings about to board a plane for the final leg of their journey home. That’ll be weird to get home and have 3 new siblings! It’s way cool though.