Giddy Up Europe

Germany, Netherlands, France, Switzerland, Austria, Hungary, Greece, Italy, Vatican, Monaco, Spain...

Sunday, August 07, 2005

Florence and Cinque Terre, July 20 - 23

Boys and girls, I have booked my reservations for Venice (I'll be there for six nights, one of which I am thinking about sleeping at Marco Polo Airport because I arrive at midnight and would have to pay a lot to get to my hostel which will cost me an extra night's worth, to sleep like five hours) to chill with Tubes and possibly his immediate family. Twins! Well, it will be nice to see Venice, seeing as it is near the city of this update, Florence.

Florence is a crazy artisan city in the way that Vienna is a musical city. All the greats studied and worked there, including Da Vinci and Michaelangelo. It's expensive to get into museums and there aren't really student discounts, which sucks. But it does have sites like the Ponte Vecchio (The Old Bridge), museums like the Uffizi, Michaelangelo's "David," and the Duomo. It's a pretty sweet town and reminds me of Heidelberg, however, I have since learned from a German in Nice, France that there are tons of cities like Heidelberg that are unknown. In any event, it's pretty expensive, but there is a decent cafe and bar scene at night.

Allison and I managed to meet up with a fellow Pi Kapp, Solarz, from Miami (Ohio), who was doing a study abroad there similar to the one we did in Stuttgart. So we went out with him and some of his friends one night and went sightseeing with him the next day. Pretty sweet considering I only met him a couple times on road trips and such. But it's really nice to meet people in different places, such as Europe. It makes you feel connected to the rest of the world since during the trip, I've not really had time to know what's going on in current events, save a few. Giddy up.

Here's a shot of Florence and the Arno River at sunset taken from the Piazza Michaelangelo. There were plenty of tourists checking out the sight as well and a bunch of street artists trying to sell stuff.

Here's the Palazzo della Signoria downtown with a replica of David out in front. Yeah, Europe's all about al fresco dining.

If you want to check out some Italian Gothic architecture, you should head over to the Cathedral, or Duomo, preferably early in the morning to avoid crowds. Well, go to all tourist traps in the morning or an hour or two before closing, unless you want to queue up ridiculous amounts. Queues? Whateve's man!

Or better yet, head up into the dome in the Duomo and gaze up. It's huge inside and you can look down into the nave and see how cool it really is because of how open it is since there aren't supports.

Climbing up, you can get outside and take a look all around Florence. It's really a cool spot to hang out at for a little bit, and everything's so bright!

Here's Allison, me, and Solarz outside on top of the Duomo.

Many people come to Florence to hit up the Galleria dell' Accademia, which houses David. And really, that's all you come to see there. Pretty steep at eight euros. But there are some unfinished works there, which are nice because you can see his progression and there is also a digital model of David that you can manipulate. It is a pretty awesome sculpture and it's huge. He took over the block after another sculpter had already started using it and the detail and anatomical accuracy is amazing. No photos! =P

But here's what you really want. You can be David, up close and personal.

Here's a shot of the Ponte Vecchio, the oldest bridge in Florence, spanning the Arno and built in 1345. It's got tons of shops and was a place where many marriage proposals took place, so jewelry shops started openning up all over it. Hi guys!

Here I am in the middle of the Ponte Vecchio having another tourist take my picture. I think it was the only bridge in Florence during World War II that wasn't blown up.

Cinque Terre, July 22

On a whim and the advice of Jane back home and Solarz, I took a day trip to Cinque Terre, which is about three hours away by rail. Its name comes from the fact that it's made up of five small towns along the Mediterranean and you can hike from one end to the other. I started at Monterosso, as seen here, and made my way along the mountainside to Riomaggiore. Including stopping in the towns for a little bit, it took about six or seven hours, though the hike itself is only like four.

It was ridiculously hot and the sun really bares down on you, but here I am shortly after I started hiking. There are vineyards all over and Cinque Terre produces wine from each small town. Bring water because you're going to need it and there won't be any between the towns. I drank like four or five liters just hiking around.

The second town I came to was Vernazza, which was an awesome place with a tiny sand beach. The beaches were so small and people really just hung around on the jetties and rocks, tanning themselves. Some tourists, but still a really great spot to vacation. It still seems relatively untouched and you can get rail passes to hop around from town to town, as the trains run right along the sea.

Here's a shot of the beach in Vernazza when I got there. I was pretty spent after the first 90 minute hike in the blazing sun (it was about noon), so I hung out in the town for about an hour and rehydrated myself a lot. For better or worse, there was finally a sand beach Along the Mediterranean. Most beaches you come across are pebble beaches, which means that most people don't go for strolls on the beachside because it hurts too much. Right behind this shot is a small square with some nice outdoor cafes. Definitely a nice place to come vacation and get away.

I saw some two euro gelato and decided to get some because it was so hot and I needed to cool down. I guess they make some pretty decent ice cream products in Italy.

The next stop was Corniglia and about halfway through the next 90 minute hike, you see a sign for a free beach that points a couple hundred meters down a steep, almost non-existant path. The sign has autographs of many Americans and their colleges, saying that they've been there. So I decide to go down and after about 30 minutes and skidding down, getting lost as there are virtually no other signs, I make it to this nude beach. But there are mostly guys over 50, climbing around the pebbles and pillars. It was exactly like the movie, Planet of the Apes, the original of course, except it was all nude people. Kind of trippy and I left after a couple minutes. I decided not to take any pictures. Anyway, after climbing all the way back up to the path and heading toward Corniglia, you find it to be really chill and there are little grocery shops for you to refuel, so I bought some peaches.

The 40 minute walk to Manarola is much easier and you get to walk along an actual path that's fairly level. As you can see, there are just people laying all over the jetty and rocks, as there was not really a beach.

If you decide to go to to Cinque Terre, they have their own wine products that you can buy from each particular town. I don't know if you can purchase them elsewhere in Italy, but they are reasonably priced. Don't know how it tastes, though.

The super easy 20 minute walk to the final town, Riomaggiore, runs you past the Via dell' Amore, where many a proposal has taken place. It's actually not that romantic aside from the fact that it's this secluded place along the sea. There is graffiti and etchings of people stopping by, which makes it look somewhat dirty. Anyway, I guess it's one of the more well-known sites in Cinque Terre. There are also some sweet public picnic areas where you can be alone with your peoples.

Finally, you hit Riomaggiore, which seems to be the most modernized town of the five (if you can really say that). They have lots of good eats and it's a good starting point if you want to hike further up the mountain. Way up, that is. Anyway, I was trying to take another self-picture here, which for some reason was not happening, but this gorgeous Italian girl comes up nd asks me in Italian if I wanted her to take my picture. She walked down the path and then I looked around and she was nowhere to be found, even though you can see pretty far down the winding catwalk. Maybe I was hallucinating. It had been a long day in the sun, but if you stop to look out over the Mediterranean as the sun is setting, which is the whole time, everything is peaceful. Your body is exhausted, but you feel so good, even though your muscles are spent. It's hard to explain. And then you have a three-hour ride back to Firenze. Buon viaggio.


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