There and back again: Italy 2013 Part Two

July 6th

We had spent two days in Florence now and decided we would go back to Pisa for the day and take in some if it’s sights.

Having learnt from our previous mistakes regarding which trains to catch from Florence to Pisa, we successfully arrived at our destination after an hours train journey.

After filling up our bottles with water we followed every other tourist in the direction of what we hoped was the leaning tower. It was a scorching day and when we arrived just outside Piazza del Duomo, where the iconic tower stands, it was quite a sight to take in. This was slightly ruined however by the wave of hat and “rolex” sellers who we had to fight our way through to finally get to our destination.

The hat sellers even managed to get in this picture

First impressions were great and the tower itself was pretty cool but there was just so much going on around us I found it hard to fully concentrate on anything else other than the countless people trying to take one of those pictures where it looks like they are holding the tower up.

All the people trying to get the right angle for the picture

After doing a circuit around the green, we decided we would go get some lunch in a restaurant we had seen on our way there. We decided to sit outside and were eating our main, enjoying the view of the tower when I see a man wearing about five hats on his head start walking in our direction. I try warning Adelle but before I can, he’s walked up beside her and placed a hat on her head. For the next five minutes, we tried as politely as we could to tell this guy we didn’t want to buy anything from him and eventually he gave up on the hard sell and decided to leave.

After food, me and Adelle headed back to the tower and chilled out on a more quiet part of the green. After about an hour though we were ready to leave and so made our way back to the station and then Florence.

In the evening we headed back to Ponte Vecchio to watch the sunset again. It was full of people so me and Adelle found a good spot and stayed there the entire time. Over the course of the sunset we saw a man propose to his girlfriend (she said yes) and a newlywed couple having their pictures taken all to the cheers of everyone on the bridge. It was a great atmosphere tainted a little by the most miserable buskers in the world who threatened to stop playing twice, told a tourist he hoped he would lose his phone when taking a picture of them without tipping and got annoyed by the proposal and wedding pictures to the point where they were just sighing into their microphones.

As the sun had almost disappeared I held Adelle’s hand, truly content, soaking up the moment when the miserable buskers decided on a rendition of The Scientist by Coldplay, a song I actually don’t mind but was completely butchered by the American woman stood behind me who tried and failed miserably to harmonise with the song. Screeching cats came to mind.

Once the sun had set, we headed over to a takeaway pizza place and eat in the luxury of our hotel room.

July 7th

Today was by far the day we were looking forward to most. A few months back, before we had even planned this trip Adelle came across a picture on Pintrest of Riomaggiore, one of the five villages or “five lands” that make up the Cinque Terre on the coast of the Italian Riviera. The picture looked beautiful and at the time Adelle said she had to go there at some point in her life. Well today, we were.

We had booked the trip through Walkabout Florence, a well recommended tour guide on tripadvisor and were looking forward to a day where everything was planned for us and all we had to do was to show up and take in the scenery. Obviously it wasn’t quite as easy as that though. You see this wasn’t a straight forward tour where you’re carted around from village to village, this was a trek where we were expected to walk for miles at a time over tough terrain. “How bad can it be?” I thought to myself. How bad indeed.

During the two/three hour coach trip to Cinque Terre we were introduced to our tour guides and giving the plan of the day. Throughout the journey the guides would constantly give us information about the areas we were driving through and the sights we were seeing such as the marble mountains where Michelangelo got the materials for David, which even from a far distance looked incredible.

Before we arrived we were told that we would be starting our trek in Manarola rather than Riomaggiore as is usual practise and would instead visit that village last. This was fine by me as I thought it would be a fitting end to the day to end up where Adelle first saw pictures of this stunning place.

We got off the coach and began our trek into the first village. A lot of the walk was downhill so this was a great way to ease us in and lull us into a false sense of security. Once we arrived at Manarola, greeted by this almost bizarre image of the houses and flats stacked upon one another, we were given time to take a few pictures and soak up the atmosphere.

Manarola

From here we took a train to the next village, Corniglia where again we were given a lot of time to walk through the bustling side streets and take more pictures. It was great seeing so many locals going about their day to day business, sitting and chatting, probably about us clueless tourists and this was were Adelle saw her first Italian cat. Clearly a big moment.

Such a big moment that we took a picture of it

Once we’d had a good look around we began our walk up a ridiculous amount of steps to get to the restaurant we were having lunch in. After a few stops and a couple sprays of water to the face, we finally made it to the clifftop where we would be eating.

The actual lunch consisted of a seafood starter where I had the opportunity of trying Octopus for the very first time and a Pesto Pasta main which is without a doubt the best Pesto Pasta me and Adelle have ever eaten. As we eat we chatted to a couple from Miami, a refreshing change from trying to speak Italian for the past couple of days and afterwards asked them to take a picture of us on the clifftop.

Now the real fun began and we started our main trek to Vernazza. I don’t know how long the actual walk was but it was by far one of the toughest things I’ve ever had to do. I put this down to two main reasons, one being the fact that I had just eaten a big bowl of pasta which no matter how good it tasted isn’t exactly a good idea before a hike. The second is the shoes I was wearing which frankly weren’t suitable at all. My feet took the brunt of every bump and step on that walk to the point where I thought I was going to have to be airlifted off of the cliff side, a joke I had made to the Miami couple earlier but seemed to becoming more of a reality.

The sun was scorching and about half way through we had run out of water. Adelle was feeling it too and after a while we stopped in a shaded area and took part in what can only be described as the complete and utter destructing of two Kiwi fruits. We were so thirsty and so thankful for this fruit we must have looked like Kiwi junkies to anybody who happened to see us.

An hour later we arrived at our destination and were rewarded with a picture of us taken by one of our tour guides. We grabbed some water and downed about two bottles before taking a walk towards the sea. We grabbed some of the best chocolate gelato I tasted out there and sat on a bench giving our feet a chance to recover.

Vernazza

Half an hour later we headed for the train station to meet with the group and headed towards Monterosso where we were allowed time to take a dip in the med if we wanted. Now I can’t swim so was adamant that I wasn’t going in but as always Adelle managed to twist my arm and after buying some trunks from a shop we headed to one of the beaches.

When there we met with another American couple from our tour and decided we would take it in turns to have a swim and look after each others stuff. They went in first and me and Adelle went in afterwards. Of course she attempted to teach me to swim and of course I tried and failed miserably, pulling Adelle under with me and nearly causing us both to drown. That was enough of the sea for me.

I was to get more of it though as once we were done in Monterosso we boarded a boat to take us by sea all the way back from where we came and further to Riomaggiore.This was the moment I had been looking forward to all day and proved to be the best part of the day. The boat trip was refreshing due to the occasional breeze we’d get every now and again and to see the Cinque Terre from another angle all together was awesome.

When we finally arrived at Riomaggiore me and Adelle both had massive grins on our faces partly from relief that we had made it through the trek but mainly due to the sense of achievement that comes from doing something you’ve wanted to do or going somewhere you’ve wanted to go for so long. Whilst there we walked around slowly trying our best to take it all in before leaving and bought some fruit for the coach trip back.

Riomaggiore by sea
Riomaggiore by land

Once we arrived back at Florence we went straight over ZaZa and had some food and a bottle of wine which after one glass hit me like a ton of bricks. I was slightly dehydrated, my feet were killing and I had almost drowned but the day had been a triumph and is one of the best experiences I have ever had.

July 8th

Today was Adelle’s birthday and after the day we had yesterday we decided to just chill most of the day and visit some of the places we’d already been.

In the evening though we headed over to Piazzale Michelangelo which was said to have some of the best views of Florence. It certainly didn’t disappoint. We sat at a bar looking over the city, had some more gelato and toasted Adelle’s birthday.

This is me toasting Adelle’s birthday..
This is me with a bug in my eye seconds later

We watched the sunset once again, this time to the songs of Oasis and The Calling, compliments of the nearby busker who didn’t seem to know a lot of the words.

The view from Piazzale Michelangelo

July 9th

This was our final full day in Florence so we decided to check out the Pitti Palace and the Boboli Gardens behind it as it was the last real sight to see. The Palace itself was okay to walk around but the gardens  were much more of a spectacle.

We spent a good hour and a half walking around them alone and around each turning there was something interesting to look at to the point where we were bound to have missed something in these vast gardens.

After this we had some lunch and again just wandered around the city, soaking up everything one last time. In the evening we eat our last authentic Italian pizza and gelato before heading back to Piazzale Michelangelo where we enjoyed our last Italian sunset with a few beers.

Our time had come to an end and the following day we would be introduced back to reality with a 5 hour delay on our flight.

I loved every minute of my time in Italy and since leaving neither pizza or ice cream has tasted the same. Whether it’s the landscape, architecture or culture, it’s a beautiful place and one which I can’t wait to visit again.


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