Week 4: Cinque Terre and a Little Slice of Pisa

Last weekend was a great weekend. Not because we took our Italian final (not great), but because a lot of people from the program decided to celebrate with a trip up to Cinque Terre (the great part). Cinque Terre is a little gem of Italy that consists of five neighboring towns with amazing sea views and a lot to explore. There are cliffs, churches, hiking trails, beaches, and all the amazing seafood you can possibly eat.

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I thought only millionaires could afford to vacation in places like this! The trip was very affordable, mainly because I stalked the Trentitalia train ticket website and got my tickets both ways for around twenty-five euros, and my hostel for only thirty-five euros. Crazy, right? All this for that little? (I promise I do not work for Cinque Terra tourism board, but I’m just extremely happy with my trip).

My group that travelled together woke up at 5am to be at the train station at 6am, which was no easy feat. Luckily, the three hour train ride up was smooth enough to sleep on, although we still had to pay attention to when we needed to switch trains. An upside to waking up to take a train at 5am is that you get an unparalleled view of the sunrise along the Italian countryside.

After we successfully transferred twice, we were greeted with a beautiful view of the coast of Cinque Terre. I forgot how much I missed the beach! Growing up along the coast and attending school at UC Santa Barbara made me accustomed to cooler weather and spoiled with the option to swim or hang out on the sand whenever I want to. Even though I’m on the other side of the world from Southern California, being at the beach made me feel like I was experiencing a little bit of home.

Once we arrived in our town, Riomaggiore, we got to our hostel and dropped our stuff off. The location of my hostel was a bit unexpected, as it was a fifteen minute walk up a steep cliff. Check out this view though:

Once we trekked back down to the main part of the town, we got food at a little cafe with amazingly soft bread. I ordered seafood pasta and wine because I heard that Cinque Terra is known for their fresh seafood. After we enjoyed our food and people watched, we went to Riomaggiore’s little rocky beach. It was secluded and eerie looking and wasn’t the right atmosphere for us, so we took a short train ride over to Monterossa, another one of the five towns in Cinque Terre, to meet up with more people from our program.

At Monterosso, also known as heaven, we rented lounge chairs and relaxed on the beach. Once the sun came out more, a few of us went swimming in the perfect water that was overlooked by luscious, green cliffs. We stayed in Monterosso for a couple of hours before it got too cold at night, then headed back to Riomaggore to get ready for dinner.

We took a train over to Manarola, another town here, for some pesto pizza which was amazing. It was so rich that I couldn’t finish it, but eating the leftovers cold in the morning was just as good as eating them fresh out of the oven the night before.

Something cool thing about going to Cinque Terre is that everyone had a different experience there. Some people chose to be quite active and hike all of the trails there, while I opted for a more mellow stay and spent most of my time swimming at the beach and eating great food.

Returning to Rome was more eventful than leaving Rome because I accidentally missed my connecting train and saw the Leaning Tower of Pisa. This happened because I waited on the wrong platform, hopped on a train to Florence, quickly realized the train was going to Florence, ran out of said train, and talked to the ticket office about what just happened. I had to wait two hours to take the next train home. And what’s a girl to do in Pisa for two hours?

That’s right, I saw it in all of its crazy glory. But the most ridiculous part of it wasn’t the structural slant; it was the fact that most of the tourists posed like they were holding up the tower. And this wasn’t a shock to me (that people posed with big statues like this), but it crazy that everyone was doing it. I didn’t partake in the madness but had fun watching it play out in front of me. Notice how everyone is on the grass…

Needless to say, I missed Rome.

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