I arrived at Sojin’s (one of my best friends from the USA) Milan apartment block before she did. Night was coming on and as I tried to match Sojin’s previously sent picture to the buildings around me, I heard voices coming from the street gate. Upon closer observation I realized it was Sojin and her roommate searching for their keys after their journey home from Florence. It was a bit ironic that I let them into their gate. We headed up to their apartment chattering away.
The next morning, after a visit to Soj’s school, we had paninis and then shopped all afternoon. It was so great to walk around in the Italian sunshine, giggling with Soji, eating gelato, and marvelling at the stylish Italians that were everywhere. Milan is not your sandstone Italy with piazzas and jolly, big bellied Italian chefs around every corner. It is a big city, with a more modern and industrial feel. I enjoyed being there, it is different face of Italy.
The next day we had some cannolis, then went to meet the five year old Lupa for his english tutoring session. This consisted of Soj, Lupa, and I running around Lupa’s very nicely decorated flat with matchbox cars and puppets yelling in English. Soj does this every week, and Lupa’s very pregnant mother seemed to enjoy the two hour respite from her busy boy. I was pretty excited to see yet another example of Italian living, this time in the city. Lupa and his three siblings shared a one and a half story flat with their well to do parents.
That night we went to Apperitivo, where one buys a drink and with it gains access to a buffet full of noodles, veggies, and pizza. Pretty good dinner if you ask me.
The next morning I awoke at five, hugged Soji goodbye and scrambled into a taxi to the train station. Four hours later I arrived to my hostel in Biassa, Italy. A town fifteen minutes from the coastal Cinque Terre.
The Cinque Terre are five brightly painted fishing villages that cling to the coast of Italy. My family visited them when I was younger, but other than a brief flashback of a beach, I don’t remember the trip.
Cinque Terre was by far my favorite place in Italy. I started in Moterrossa, the northern most village and hiked along the coast to Vernanzza, my favorite of the five villages. In the villages, I wandered the small streets, poking into artist’s shops and caught glimpses of locals. I ate more gelato and enjoyed the sunset over the ocean then headed back to my hostel around 9:30.
Back at my hostel, the chef prepared the most amazing pasta dish for dinner. and for a good price. While eating, I met two girls from California, both teaching english in Madrid, Spain. We talked about the U.S. and what we missed. One was adamant that she never wanted to go home, they just do it better in Spain, according to her. The other agreed with me, that although the US has many problems, it is still great to be an American. No matter how shiny a country appears, there are always things to be reckoned with underneath.
Bright and early the next morning I hiked from Rio Maggiore to Manarola, coming across many farmers tending to their terraces of grapes and olives. I wondered Manarola, then caught a train to Corniglia, the only village that isn’t right on the water. After exploring Corniglia, I spent the afternoon on Monterosso’s beach, using stones to write words in the sand.The beach was deserted save me and a group of local teenagers. They came over to look at my stone words and one boy and I got to talking.
Monterossa is home to 1,000 people, this boy being one of them. He trains to La Spezia everyday for school and when I asked him how he likes all the tourists, he just smiled and said, “you get used to it”.
The next day I hiked four hours to Porto Nouva, another town on the coast, then made one last trip to the Cinque Terre to enjoy the sunset.
Florence was my next stop. It rained alot. Pretty much the whole time. As an epicenter of Renaissance architecture and art, I roamed the streets buying leathers goods, and marveling at the statues littered throughout the city. Michelangelo’s David was beautiful and I saw works of art by Boticelli and Leonardo Da Vinci.
Pretty amazing culture wise, but by this point in my trip I was getting tired, it was cold and wet, and I missed being with my family on Easter Sunday. My mood would lift at my next stop, Roma!