Saturday, April 9, 2011

Ulteriori esplorazioni

I last wrote from Bologna, but I haven't been spending much time here recently.  Last Saturday I took the train south to meet Ellie in the Cinque Terre for a bit of hiking before returning to Florence with her for the remainder of the weekend.  

I had, of course, always heard that the Cinque Terre were incredibly beautiful.  However, my fear of tourist-infested must-see destinations (heightened following the tragedy I had recently witnessed in Venice) had ensured that they were never especially high on my personal must-see list.  So I have Ellie to thank for convincing me to go with her and reminding me that it would take a lot more than a few tourists to spoil such immense natural beauty.

I took the train from Bologna and met Ellie on the train from Florence to La Spezia.  We had been sitting in the same car facing opposite directions for several hours before I finally realized that the likelihood of there being two trains between Florence and La Spezia arriving at 12.20 was slim and that we were therefore probably on the same train.  Oh well.  At least we found each other.  From La Spezia we caught the train to Riomaggiore, the first town of the Cinque Terre...or at least we tried to.  We found the train without difficultly, but when it had still not left twenty minutes after its scheduled departure time, we figured something must be up.  The train had, in fact, broken down, and a mad dash ensued to find the replacement train.  We ended up sharing a car with an Italian liceo (high school) class on field trip.  Oh, memories.

From Riomaggiore, Ellie and I walked the seaside path to Manarola, the next town over.  The path was stunningly beautiful, but rather clogged with tourist groups (including all of those high schoolers from the train).

A view of the Ligurian Sea and the Via dell'Amore. 

We walked right down to the water.  So blue!

From Manarola, we decided to hike the overland path to Corniglia, the third town.  This proved to be an excellent decision, as we not only lost the tourist groups and managed to do a bit of real hiking, but the higher altitude meant that we didn't lose the incredible views of the sea.  We were also able to take a lot of little side trails through the nearby vineyards and olive groves.

View overlooking Manarola.

We climbed up the hills of Manarola and began our hike in earnest.

Then we got lost in a vineyard.
(Guess whose fault that was.)

We didn't mind too much because the view was incredible.

Then Ellie started minding because we had to bushwhack and she was
wearing shorts.

An enticing side trail.

The gorgeous vineyard to which it led.
(Note Ellie's victory dance in the background.)

Taking in the view.

The view I was taking in.

Who knew when we met on WP as freshmen that in fewer than three years
we would be hiking the Cinque Terre together?

More trail.

The stairs leading back down to Corniglia.

We missed our train back and spent another hour or so at the station.

Our view for those few hours.

Ellie and I met up with Parker and Corey in Corniglia and we all took the trains back to La Spezia and Florence together.  Back in Florence, Parker headed off to stay with some other friends and Ellie, Corey and I headed up to Fiesole, a small town in the hills where Ellie's dad lives.  Sunday and Monday were spend exploring Fiesole and the outskirts of Florence (and navigating around town during a surprise bus strike).

Looking over Florence from the hills.

The ubiquitous Duomo.

Fiesole is in the hills on the right above the city.


The door to the apartment in which we were staying.
The whole place smelled of lilacs.

There were donkeys!
One was named Pavarotti.

View from the window in the apartment.
Again, note the Duomo.

So we were truly lucky to be able to stay in such an idyllic pastoral setting.  It was lovely to experience Florence from the perspective of someone who lives there rather than as a weekend visitor.

I made it back to Bologna on Tuesday morning, only to leave again early Wednesday, this time for Milan.  I took a day trip with my friend Vittorio because he had an audition there and wanted to make the several-hour-each-way-by-regional-train trip worthwhile.  We spent the morning on the train and then walking around the city near the hotel where his audition was taking place.  Then I got to spend an hour observing Italian aspiring actors and assuring the man in charge that I did not, in fact, want to try out for anything.

After the audition Vittorio and I headed over to the Duomo area, where we shared a picnic and people-watched in the shadow of the great church.  When we had eaten as many of the tomatoes as we could manage, we spent some time checking out every H&M in the vicinity (there were several) searching for suspenders, because Vittorio's had broken and apparently a belt was out of the question.  

When we eventually headed back to the station after some more lying out in the Piazza del Duomo, we missed our train.  Which meant several more hours of aimless wandering and gnawing on the cheapest bread we could find.  Fortunately we did make the next train, which was divided into compartments.  As we had a compartment to ourselves, we were able to spread out, sleep (in my case), and practice headstands (in Vittorio's case).  

Back in Bologna, I discovered that the past week or so of travel and adventure had completely worn me out.  How did I discover this?  By going to sleep for what I intended to be a quick nap between classes only to wake up twenty hours later.  Oops!

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