European Travels: A Trip To Italy

As some of you know I have moved across the world from Japan to Oxfordshire in England.  I am only two months into the three years I have to use and have already seen so much.  I can not wait to start sharing more of my travels with everyone but I did not want to start the new series with a smaller english town, I needed something big.  A week or two ago I took a two day trip from England and flew into Pisa.

 

The first thing I noticed was the pleasant weather but after that it was absolutely the change in architecture and style.  The whole city has a feel to it and sticks to a theme fairly well.  Bright colors, thin alleys hiding wonderful surprises, and shops tucked into every nook they can.  Italy felt very alive, everyone is out doing something or enjoying a drink at one of the many outdoor cafes.

 
 

After pulling some euros and stopping in a few places on the main roads we opted to dip down some smaller streets and catch a glimpse behind the scenes.  The tight roads had a really cool look to them and offered some interesting perspectives on the way to the leaning tower.

Now to talk about something else.  Pisa was a very cool city however the tower is a large tourist attraction.  Along with the crowds it doesn't help that the tower is all the city really has to offer, We spent about 3-4hrs taking itin before feeling like we had seen enough and got on the train to La Spezia.  It's also good to note that the food here didn't blow me away, it was good but with all the talk I did expect to be a bit more impressed.  It was sad to see that recent events have prompted some added security in the area as well even if it is warranted. 

 

I will say the people always seemed willing to help and were pleasant.  We met some awesome girls while waiting for the train to La Spezia who helped us make the right train, bumped into some cool taxi drivers near the tower, and plenty of the shop owners were open to conversation and knew enough english to get by.

The train took only about an hour and sadly with our timing we were on it for most of golden hour but it did offer some fantastic views of some distant mountains.  I never pictured Italy as hilly or mountainous before visiting but after the hikes between villages in Cinque Terre I won't be making that mistake again.

Once arriving in La Spezia we ran into some confusions.  With most of the trains done running and none of the cabs wanting to take us we opted to just walk to the first town in Cinque Terre, Riomaggiore.  This turned out to be a horrid idea and after an hours walk up the hills we found a restaurant who helped us out with a cab the rest of the way to town.  I did manage to get a little view of La Spezia at night before we loaded up however so the hike wasn't for nothing.

Once arriving in Riomaggiore the trip got a little wild.  Due to missing sunset we wanted to see sunrise and to avoid sleeping through it we told ourselves it would be a good idea to just see the towns at night and stay up till sunrise and get our sleep in on the flight back.  We stayed in Riomaggiore until about midnight walking around seeing the town and even at night it was something to take in.  

The towns pack down into these small little valleys right on the ocean.  While walking around we kept hearing some music and laughing coming from somewhere in the center of town and after some investigation figured out that the town has one or two bars that were basically the only things open.  Perfect!  We stopped in of course and got some light bakery snacks along with one of the strongest long island iced teas ever made.  We stuck around for about an hour, used the wifi to make some calls to folks back home and tell them what we were up to, and then headed out.  We decided if we were staying up we should hike over to the next town, however the usual coastal path was down so we would need to take an older route over the hills the bar tender had mentioned.

The hike was brutal but the views were incredible.  I would say it took us about two hours and most of that was spent sweating up the slope of the hill under the moonlight.  The moon was crystal clear over the ocean and at some point we stopped to take it all in for 10-20 minutes.  I will be returning to hike all the way up to the last town for sure.  After coming off the hill and snapping a few shots of the town from above we headed down to the port to get a nice image of that and set up for sunrise.

At this point in the night it was a good hour or two until the sun was going to come up and we were exhausted from a long day and the brutal hike into this new town of Manarola.  Some benches near where we were set up made for awesome nap spots and I am pretty sure both of us got in a little bit of shut eye before waking back up to see the sun come up.  Sunrise was sadly not amazing as the mountains block a lot of the light but we did catch some good colors behind us looking to the next town.

After sunrise we ran into a man from Colorado on his honeymoon and opted to go grab some coffee and much needed breakfast in town with him.  However it would be almost two more hours before a single shop opened in the town.  Apparently the folks in this little village don't like to wake up to early.  Eventually we found some food and took to exploring the town and all its glory in the sunshine before heading back to pisa for our flight out.  I honestly can not wait to head back and see the other towns and do the full hike.  Cinque Terre is a place I don't think I will ever forget even with how rough we made the two days there.