Cinque Terre will always be remembered as the “best day”. We woke up bright and early and left our apartments at 5 to catch our train on time. We started in Vernazza, which if you only know Cinque from google images,
is the one with the colorful houses. I spent the whole day trying to find the picturesque Cinque, little did I know that I was in the town the whole time and you can’t see the colors when you’re actually there. Our first stop was food. We ate a big brunch because we hadn’t eaten yet and had been travelling for the majority of the morning. I was still scared of coffee so I stuck to a smoothie and a mini pizza and we were on our way!
We explored the colorful houses/buildings and walked through the town enjoying our views and getting a taste of the water. We even went on the top of a castle and got to enjoy seeing each of the four other towns from above. We booked a private boat for about 10 Euro each and rode from Vernazza to Monterosso. Monterosso is known for its beach and small restaurants on the boardwalk above the sand. During our journey on the boat, Sam and I laid at the front of the boat and I felt like I was flying on the water enjoying nothing but the wind and the sounds around me. About ten minutes in, we stopped at a cliff and got to go under a waterfall. We swam to the edge of the rock and the first thing I did was fall on the slippery rock (typical, I know). Somehow each of the four of us ended up injuredduring the boat ride. Brittany cut her toe on a rock, I fell on the rock, Sam had a charley horse on her way back on and Alyssa thought she came out unscathed, later to realize that she was bleeding. Despite our injuries, we laughed them off and were able to take in everything we could on the boat. Our driver was named Miguel, he was from Barcelona and was living in Cinque Terre for the summer because his girlfriend lived there. We liked him a lot because he gave us a lot of time to swim on our break under the waterfall.When we got off of the boat we were starving and found a little restaurant/bar on the beach with views of the water and the other towns. We ordered bruschetta which were each named after the five towns of Cinque Terre. We chose Vernazza and Manarola, which had tomoatoes, pesto, balsamic, pepper, mozzarella, basil, we paired them with drinks, I had a caipiroska and the rest of them had a rossini. Monterosso was more of a beach town than Vernazza was. After we ate our small meal we explored the little shops and bought souvenirs. We ended our time eating dinner at an incredible restaurant where I had gnocchi al ragu (very yummy) and grabbed gelato before waiting for the train.
You know how when people go on trips there’s always that one story that will never be forgotten? This day is full of those, starting with the four of us exhausted sitting at the train station waiting for ours to arrive. Because this was the beginning of our travels, we were always at least 45 minutes early to every single transportation stop we had to make sure that we didn’t miss it (we weren’t used to Italian time yet). So, when a train pulled into the station, we didn’t look at the destination or even what time it was, we just jumped on excited to finally sit in a comfortable seat and be on our way back home. Once we were adjusted in our seats, we looked at the time and realized we had left the station 20 minutes before our train was supposed to go out. We jumped off at the next stop and freaked out for a couple of minutes trying to think of what to do next and how to get back to the station in time for our real train. The next train going in the right direction to Florence was not ours and I suggested walking back through the tunnel and to the other station until we heard the train going back to Vernazza and we ran. With six minutes to spare we got on the train and anxiously looked at our watches as we waited to move and once we made it, sprinted to the other side of the station to our train. We made it with THREE WHOLE MINUTES TO SPARE. It’s amazing how slowly time goes by when you’re waiting for something to happen. It felt like a lifetime as we waited at the station for our train to get to us. We made it. The best way to describe this train was the Hogwarts Express. There were little cubicles and we got a little one with a coach who was writing out his game plans for his team in Milan. We took shifts as we did in the morning to sleep on the train and made our way back.
Once we got to Florence, we changed quickly and decided to go to a club called FLO that the waiter at Zaza’s recommended to us. I was ready to continue celebrating my 20th birthday, this time including my roommate who I’d only met once before. Our friend Sam has become the GPS or navigator to our group because she has a great sense of direction, so we usually follow her wherever we may need to go. We didn’t really think of it (remember this was our third night) as we walked up and down hills on the side of Florence. We were excited to go to FLO and knew that the city was safe and well lit. Once we made it to the top, we rounded the corner to a dark path that lead through trees and had music waiting for us at the end. We walked about three minutes before I reminded the group “if you wouldn’t do this in your home country, don’t do it” and we turned around and went on our way back home. Along the way we were stopped by a car of guys who wanted to bother us but we ran and made it back down to ponte vecchio and the big lit stores. Moral of this story? When you’re studying abroad and walking around at night, 1) NEVER go anywhere alone 2) make sure you know where you are at all times. We were lucky that nothing happened and that we generally knew where we were. Now when we go places at night we wait for a taxi to get us so that we’re not lost. We ended my magical 20th birthday night at an overpriced gelateria where we paid 10 euros for a gelato (never again). In order to turn the night around, I decided to go to the Porcelino and rub the stout one last time and stand in front of the duomo for ten minutes and stare at its beauty.