A Travellerspoint blog

Italy

Itali(u), I Don't Want to Leave

In this post, I Tell U about my final trip through the beautiful Cinque Terra and Venice.

sunny 70 °F

This blog entry comes two weeks late, I'll admit. My two day trip (yes that short) to Italy to see the Cinque Terra and Venice was as last minute a trip as is possible. I had booked 3 flights (no not two, I didn't know which day I had to come back) about a month in advance but, besides that, I had still not made up my mind whether to go or to stay an hour before I had to leave for the airport. I had just barely gotten back from Barcelona, only had the opportunity to study for a few days for finals, and didn't know if I could afford to give up another two days by myself. I quickly figured out, though, that it was not a zero sum game after all: I did not sacrifice studying or doing well on finals for that one last trip. My finals went okay, and I am so thankful that I had the opportunity to go to such a beautiful place for my last trip in Europe.

Going on a trip by oneself does not seem like a fun thing to me, or at least it didn't until then. Who would want to be alone and not be able to enjoy the new experiences together with friends, family, or loved ones? This was one of the reasons I didn't want to go. I wasn't scared, per say; I knew I would be okay. I knew that, even though I was flying by the seat of my pants the entire time, booking one night in advance and finding out the ropes while I'm climbing them, I would survive. I just didn't want to be by myself! But something I realized as I hiked for 8 hours in between the 5 cities of the Cinque Terra is that you're never really alone. In these small, historic, and ultra-touristy cities on the steep western coast of Italy, you may one second be hiking all alone, walled off on one side by the huge wall of blue sea and on the other by a thick unforgiving mountain, and then the other meet 5 people from all over the world doing the same thing that you are. And that right there is why you are never alone. My amazing and memorable experiences were shared among so many other people simply by being there together.

It was a Monday night when I left and flew to Pisa. After taking the obligatory leaning against the Leaning Tower pictures, I headed up the coast on a train towards the Cinque Terra, having booked my Airbnb just 8 hours before. I made myself study on every train ride, to combat the other reason that I wouldn't have gone: I had 4 finals the following week. But hey, you only study abroad once right? The thing to do in the Cinque Terra is hike between the cities and enjoy the quaint fishing village culture and beautiful scenery. I did just that, and I am very thankful that I brought my hiking boots. This was probably the hardest day of hiking I'd ever done: I hiked somewhere in the region of 16 miles, almost always straight up and straight down. Most of the time it was me and my thoughts, drumming to the sounds of ferocious waves and a peaceful stirring breeze. After absorbing every ray of the sunset and watching the violent crash of waves for what felt like an hour, I retired to a small scale fish pasta dinner where I met and talked to a recently married couple from UT. It's a small world, and you're never alone. The next morning I hit the 6 hour train to Venice (read: studied the whole time), which is a city I've wanted to go to probably more than anywhere else in the world. It was idyllic and well-preserved, just how I imagined it. You could easily get lost in the labyrinth of canals and alleys barely wide enough for one. This was in fact just what I did for the whole afternoon, until I had to return to the real world via a delayed (due to the airport workers' strike) Eurowings flight Wednesday night (read again: studied the whole time). One of those realities was paying 75 euro for a taxi since my flight was so late, but oh well.

Both of these beautiful Italian jewels are places you'd typically visit with someone else. But I did them by myself, and I loved it. I was able go my own pace to soak in the scenery and was at peace with everything in my life at that time. If you're on the edge about whether to do something or not do something like I was, "go for it!" This was what my dad told me about this trip, and I'm so thankful. In fact, that's what he told me about a semester abroad as well.

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Posted by jbolt 03:56 Archived in Italy Tagged sunsets_and_sunrises canals venice hiking italy sun cinque terra Comments (1)

We(talian)

Over the Alps and through the boot, to Italy we go.

sunny

After a friend's birthday weekend trip to Dusseldorf, Germany, we embarked on what I would consider the best trip yet. Of course, I say that about every trip I go on, but Italy is something special. I've always wanted to visit Italy ever since I can remember; I read a book when I was much younger about an orphan who lived in Venice. Unfortunately I didn't get the chance to visit Venice this trip, but no worries. I will definitely be making the trip back. It was 5 of us friends and 5 amazing days.

My long Easter weekend through the boot of Europe started with a beautiful early morning flight over the Alps to Milan. If I was a pilot, this would be where I would want to fly all the time. Visiting the Alps in person was breathtaking--seeing them from above was even more stunning. All of a sudden there were these huge snow covered mountains below, almost like a white blanket had been ruffled up. Even though they felt so close that our wing might clip a particularly high one, the behemoths were transformed into a wrinkled sheet no larger than my airplane window. It was awesome to see the mountain range from a different perspective, and I could easily see where these little valley towns like Kitzbuhel, Austria fit into the landscape. Complete with a fly-over of Lake Como before landing, we spent about 5 hours walking around Milan and exploring what it had to offer before heading on to Tuscany. On this high speed train ride I realized just how small the world is--we met and talked to some recently graduated students who knew one of my good high school friends really well.

When arriving in Florence we walked directly to the hostel, only to find out that it didn't seem to exist. There was no huge welcome sign or friendly lighted name; only a number and a plaque, as we found out after calling the hostel owner. Apparently we were lucky not to have our reservation canceled--we had arrived after check-in and he had to come back by scooter to let us in. It ended up being a quaint and cozy small-scale operation which was right in the center of town. The town of Florence, speaking of which, was exactly what you might imagine an Italian city to be: tight streets, bustling crowds, fresh air, gelato. There was so much to do, from shopping in genuine Italian-leather markets, to climbing the duomo (basilica/church), to watching the sunset and riding bikes through the hills. It was perfect. Oh, and you can't forget the free wine for students at dinner.

Rome, too, was as cool as anything. We averaged about 13 miles a day walking, and saw pretty much everything you can see. The first day we knocked out just about the whole city, criss-crossing from famous-cool-old thing to old-cool-famous thing. We arrived around noon, had a small lunch, hit the Coliseum, site of the Circus Maximus, Roman Forum, Trevi Fountain, Pantheon, Altare Della Patria, Spanish Steps (for the sunset, of course), and numerous churches and smaller things. There are literally so many historical things you get accustomed to seeing old buildings and taking them for granted. Day 1 in Rome complete. Day 2 we took a deeper dive into some things. Day 2 happened to be Easter Sunday, and we managed to squeeze into the Vatican City and attend the 10am mass with about 100,000 other people. I was not able to meet the Pope--maybe next time--but it was still an experience of a lifetime. For the afternoon and evening we reserved the Coliseum and Forum ruins, probably with the same 100,000 people. The Coliseum was huge and imposing, but the other ruins I think made a bigger impact on me. They are scattered over the entire city, with the most concentrated around the Forum and one of the 7 hills of the city. Circus Maximus (though only a portion "stands") supposedly held 250,000 people, which absolutely blows my mind. 2,000+ years of history stood before us in this open field of walkable ruin, and was bathed in a warm orange sunset that evening. Even after 2,000 years and being 99% crumbled, what they built is still impressive today. Day 3 was planned on being Pompeii and Naples, but the weather turned German and was rainy and gray all day. After a sub-par bus tour (don't take GLT tours), I appeased my classical roots and rode bikes on the Appian Way, a famous road that was depicted in a scene of Respighi's Pines of Rome (everyone should listen to this piece). It was used back in the Roman times and is still around today.

Wow this post was long, so I should end soon. I will remember this trip forever (just like I will every other trip here) for its beautiful history, pushy but kind people, warm weather, and good company. I learned that world is so much smaller than it seems, yet still so full of beauty.
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Posted by jbolt 12:05 Archived in Italy Tagged bikes the italy florence rome vatican coliseum milan alps forum boot easter Comments (0)

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