Sunday, November 20, 2016
It’s Sunday night, and I am home! That is, Florence, Italy; I love saying that. It was a fun weekend with the entire FFE group, but we are all glad to be home now and ready to finish the semester strong! Here’s my travel recap:
Friday, November 18, 2016
Today we all piled onto the bus at 6:15 AM after meeting in the lobby of our apartment building at 5:45 AM. I swear everyone was half asleep… except for me. I’ve been on a daily caffeine schedule in the morning, so I drank a cappuccino Sasha made me (it’s her new passion/hobby/way of life) and was wide awake for the 3.5 hour bus ride to Genoa. It was a gorgeous ride through the mountains and small Italian towns– reminded me of Vermont. You don’t get the same view when you’re on a train. Everyone slept or listened to music, and I read my book and enjoyed the sunrise.
We arrived in Genoa around 9:30 AM. Genoa is a huge port city. It’s obviously on the coast, and there are pretty houses lining the nearby hillsides. It was gray outside but still breathtaking. We could immediately tell it was a lot more run down than Florence. Some buildings looked like they were falling apart, and there was a lot more litter on the streets.
We visited two museums in Genoa. I did the blind museum tour first then a tour on Italian immigrants at a museum close by. The blind museum (on an actual boat) was so cool. Eight of us were led by a blind person through a pitch black tour where we tapped into our other senses. We felt statues and plants, crossed a street, tasted coffee, pretended to ride a bus and grocery shop, and moved around a ‘house.’ It was very odd not being able to see for 20 minutes and being surrounded by people in a claustrophobic manner, but it was an awesome experience. I don’t know how our blind guide managed to guide us so well by her hand and voice. That was one of my favorite museum visits ever.
Afterwards we did an Italian immigration tour on the fourth floor of the museum across the street. We learned a lot about the history of Italian immigrants and toured a ship that immigrants would have traveled on. It was very interesting, and our guide provided a lot of information. However, it was not as exciting or adrenalin rushing as our first museum stop.
Genoa is known for focaccia, so we walked to the town to devour some. I had a hefty piece with tomato and mozzarella. So delicious– salty, buttery, melt in your mouth. Colleen and I explored the town with our remaining couple of hours. Genoa is very diverse: a lot of Africans and non-Europeans; they stared at us, and the men made a few cat calls. We tried our best to ignore them. We had fun just wandering around, making a few circles. The narrow streets reminded me of Venice.
At 4 PM we departed Genoa and left for Levanto. We had a terrifying bus ride down the mountain to the town of Levanto. I could see my life flash before my eyes on the windy, narrow road. Only a guardrail separated us from a huge cliff. Luckily, we made it safely into the town around 6 PM. We checked into our hostel and made our own beds before going out to dinner at a local restaurant. We love paid for four course meals! We had spinach pockets, pesto, pork with potatoes and salad, and ice cream with berries. The breadsticks and bread before the meal were just as yummy. All 60 of us (including chaperones) filled the entire restaurant. It reminded me of orientation when we ate all our meals together. This time we were split into friend groups naturally. We took our slow, Italian time and stayed at the dinner table for two hours. It was great.
We are back in our hostel now. There are bunk beds! Just like the good days at Camp Ondawa. I’m sharing a room with Colleen, Erin, Sasha, and Vasudha. We have a huge bathroom with a big tub. My friends told me I’m not allowed to take a bath because I’ll get a disease. They’re good friends.
Saturday, November 19, 2016
Today was a fulfilling day in Cinque Terre. We woke up around 7:30 AM for an Italian breakfast in our hostel. Our hostel actually used to be a school. There are long hallways, and the rooms were most likely classrooms. They had a hot chocolate and coffee machine as well as bread and crackers with nutella and jam. Nana would have loved it.
We had a presenter talk to us for an hour about pilgrimages after breakfast. To be honest, I was doing my own journaling, so I can’t tell you much about what he said. Unfortunately, my classmates weren’t too excited about it since several of them started to fall asleep. But our professor was really into it!
We left from Levanto train station to Cinque Terre at 11:30 AM. Then we hiked from Corniglia to Vernazza! Hiking in Cinque Terre is up there on my top 10 favorite things to do in the world. Nothing beats the view of hiking along the gorgeous coast where five colorful towns exist. Last time I was in Cinque Terre (early October) we hiked from Riommagiore to Manarola. This hike was a lot easier because it wasn’t as steep! It took us a good hour and a half to finish though. I absolutely loved it. Here’s a photo from the view before descending into the town.
Once we got to Vernazza, we took the train to Manarola for lunch. It is so dead in Cinque! Talk about an off season! Many of the restaurants were closed, and practically no one was in the town. In the summer, it is absolutely packed– the towns and the trails! It was peaceful being there. We ate gnocchi with scampi at a restaurant overlooking the sea. We saw where we swam last time we were here (the water was too high to swim there this time) in addition to the classic Cinque Terre view. Stunning. There are no words. My mom said it looks like a painting, and she’s right.
After lunch we wandered around into the shops and relaxed. We took the train to Riommagiore and poked around there too before going back to Levanto. We (Jill, me, Sasha, Vasudha, and Olivia) ate dinner (pasta ragù) on our own and came up with a skit for our presentation tomorrow. Everyone has to tell a story within a story because all First Year Seminar courses at Marist involve a presentation component. We spent all day thinking of ideas but finally came up with a good one at dinner. We practiced it once tonight and will run through it again tomorrow before presenting. We are exhausted and ready for bed after a fun packed day in Cinque Terre (chink-way • tear-ray).
Sunday, November 20, 2016
Fun last day of our class field trip! We had another hostel breakfast before our presentations. Nine groups went, and we were the fifth group to present. We did our skit based off of the plot from “Sex and the City”; we made it “Sex in Florence.” Five best friends going to Cinque Terre on Carrie’s honeymoon because Big ditched her at the alter. We referenced experiences we’ve all had in Italy and threw in some funny quotes and memories. It was great; everyone laughed. Ours ended up coming in second place!! We got candy as our prize. Very memorable and totally unexpected.
We walked in the town and on the beach after all the presentations. They were all clever and funny. The beach was very pretty, and there were surfers in the water disappointed by the lack of waves. Levanto is a great place to stay and is close to Cinque– only a train ride away.
We ate individual pizzas at the hostel then left at 2:30 for a two hour bus ride back to Firenze! What an adventure. I’m glad we were all together and enjoying ourselves. Now it’s time to hit the books again! We will be eating a Thanksgiving meal in Florence this year. xo ~e.