Italy (Part III) - Pisa and Cinque Terre
OK. I've slacked off again for long enough, and its about time i actually shared a bit more about my exciting travels.
Rightio then (Matt pauses for a few seconds, and goes and looks up what the last thing he wrote about was... hold music plays softly in the background...). OK, back again. The last thing that i wrote about was Florence. So, in Florence, we'd met Lindsay, Lindsay and Fraser, and we were all heading in the direction of Cinque Terre - a place that I'd never heard of before arriving in Italy. So, we all jumped on a train, and headed out in that direction. The good thing was that Pisa was pretty much in a direct line from Florence to Cinque Terre, so we thought we'd drop in and say hi (funnily enough, the tower didn't say much back...).
Anyway, pretty much there's only two things worth seeing in Pisa, the tower, and the basilica thats right next to it. Walking up the street to the tower, I couldn't help myself but laugh. Talk about an engineering cock-up. I can understand making the mistake, but they realised it was leaning when they'd put the third story up, but for some reason, they decided they should keep going, and put the rest up. What makes it worse, is that they started straightening the upper levels, so its got a decided bent to it. But, I think the town council must be impressed - it definitely brings in the tourists. Only problem is, there's not a lot else in the town to look at. So, all up, we spent about 3 hours in the town, and that included getting lunch. After that, it was straight back to the train, onwards (ever onwards) to Cinque Terre.
Arrived at Cinque Terre, and managed to find out what kind of place it is (brief pause as Matt thinks back about how cool the place was... sorry...). The name strictly translates to “5 Lands” - but it's 5 villages spread out along the Mediterranean, on a really hilly coastline. Each of the villages is crunched up pretty tightly, and the surrounding hills are covered in vineyards. The train station at Riomaggiore was perched on the cliff, with views out over the Med. So, as soon as I got there, I loved it.
So, it was a few days of swimming, sunbaking (on very rocky beaches), kicking back, relaxing, reading, getting sunburnt, going kayaking on the Med, and generally doing not a lot really. I kinda enjoyed it. Just a little bit . One of the touristy things thats there is a long walk between all the towns. Its a 12km walk, but some of it is pretty damn hilly. Pretty damn nice scenery though - pity about all the other tourists on the trail . Was a fairly warm day, so not the easiest trek - but I'm glad I didn't do it in summer - when it would be a lot worse.
Met a couple of mad Americans there - Chris (in your best game show host voice) a advertising account manager from New York. Mad as a hatter, but a lot of fun. Also met Mara - a student from Chicago University, over for a history subject as part of her course, for a few months. Sounded pretty interesting. She'd also just finished doing language school for a few weeks to brush up her Italian - had a few days off, so she dropped in to check out the beach. Come to think of it, i've met quite a few American students studying o/s - seems fairly popular to head over and do a fairly intense 6-8 weeks on a subject in another country. A good idea actually.
Oh, yeah, thats the other thing - the local wine there was excellent. Ate out quite a bit (couldn't be bothered cooking - and the food was excellent), and we got a bottle of the house wine - very very nice. And that was the cheapest wine they had. Scary, but quite enjoyable...