Monday, November 22, 2010

The Most Amazing Hike of My Life: Cinque Terre

Wow, what a weekend! We went to Cinque Terre: the most beautiful place in the world, I'm convinced! We did a 7 km hike up and down the incredible mountains, through the five islands of the Cinque Terre, and the view was just breathtaking! At one point we'd be down at the beach of the Mediterranean, and the next we'd be up in the clouds!

There were nine of us that went; 5 girls, 4 boys. It was so perfect. Again, I find myself at a loss for words...

Hiking has become a new love of mine. It keeps me fit, it's fun, and most of all, it makes me feel at one with nature.

We ended up (after a long day of hiking) in Monterosso, where we stayed in an apartment set up for us personally by an angel-- Jerry. You see, Ali and I were stuck planning most of the trip. The week of the event. On the weekend of a special holiday. While everything else was relatively painless, finding accommodation was not! To make a long story short, after hours of fruitless phone calls to hotels, hostels and the like-- trying to book for 9 people no less-- we found Jerry, who worked in a hotel in Monterosso.

Jerry is one of those people. The people who are so nice you can't even believe it. He ended up offering us his own apartment, and a friend's place for the boys! It worked out perfectly, and I give all the credit to our angel Jerry.

Immediately when we ended our 5 hour hike along the cliffs, the nine of us went straight for the local wine shop that Jerry had recommended per our phone conversation. It was amazing, and the people were incredibly hospitable, feeding us cup after cup of delicious wine and cheese-- all homemade!

After this, the girls decided to head for the Mediterranean coast, and told the boys to meet us there with more wine and cheese! They brought the wine, but accidentally bought wax instead of cheese. But it didn't matter; we were in the most beautiful place on Earth! And Jerry was riding his bicycle up to us, ready to show us to his place.

This has been the best weekend so far on my trip... Perhaps one of the best weekends of my life.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Tuscany, Flowers, Wine & a Banjo


We went on our excursion to Tuscany today. It was absolutely beautiful. As you can see by the photos, everything was picturesque. I can't even describe it, so I will let the pictures speak for me.

We went to two little villages. The first was great because it was Trinity Sunday (a Catholic holiday), so the streets were covered with decorations made from flowers. There is a parade for the Pentacost holiday that lasts for the entire month of May, and we were extremely lucky to catch the end of the month! The timing couldn't have been more perfect.

The second town we visited (Montepulciano) featured an amazing winery. We had a free tour of the historic place, as well as a free tasting. The award-winning 2003 Rosso di Montepulciano was especially tasty, so I had one ordered and shipped to my parents back in the states.

On the bus ride back to Rome, we stopped at an adorable restaurant on the hillsides of Tuscany. While we were there, Ali and I met some cool people who are going to Cinque Terre next weekend, and they invited us to join! I'm very excited. My brother told me it was by far his favorite part of his trip while he was traveling in Italy.


Last night Mel, Ali, Malaika and I went out for a night on the town. It was really fun. Glad I met these girls. They have made it a lot easier here and keep me from missing home too much. We also had fun with a new friend, Brent. He is great, plays the banjo, has a humungous beard and lives in Knoxville! The real deal.

The five of us went to Piazza Trilussa (right by school) and it was packed with drunk Italians sitting on the steps, smoking, singing, playing drums and guitars... Brent pulled out his banjo and just started playing, surrounded by four American girls, their Peronis, humming voices and bodies swaying to the music. Needless to say, it was an incredible night.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

McDonald's, the Beach & Ancient City of Ostia

Wow. So last night ended up being really crazy! We went out to the Spanish Steps where apparently Travel Channel said the best McDonald's in the world resides! So, despite my prejudice and unwillingness to go in a McDONALD's in ROME, ITALY, I was forced inside because of this Travel Channel nonsense.

But apart from the unmistakable golden arches and Big Macs, this McDonald's was unlike any I have ever experienced. It was insane. There were statues, plants, a gelateria, and it was quite an experience! The food wasn't great, but the atmosphere was definitely worth a visit.

So yesterday, Ali, Mel and I went to Ostia Beach. It was recommended to us from my American friend who had become a Roman local citizen. He said it was the least touristy and the most beautiful. He was right.

The only bad thing was that Mel got really burned and ended up getting sun poisoning... But it was a good day anyway! Ali and I actually ended up getting towels from a street vendor because neither of us remembered to pack one. It ended up being great bartering experience and a good excuse for a souvenir!

Now today, we went back to Ostia, and went to Ostia Antica. I've been there before, but it was fun today too because we didn't have a guide and were just able to roam around on our own time and explore. It's crazy to see an ancient village from over two thousand years ago. There were theatres, bathrooms with plumbing, apartments, spas, restaurants with signs... A seemingly modern day society! Except for the fact that the city was founded in the forth century B.C. As in before Crhist even existed. It was mind blowing.

And we went with a new friend that Mel met in one of her classes. Her name is Malaika, and she is a really awesome person. I have a feeling we are going to be great friends by the end of this trip!