All the pictures I wasnt supposed to take

Today was an early day for us, as I had secured tickets to the necropolis under St Peter’s Basilica. I did this way back when I came to Italy the first time with Carthage back in 2014. I didnt realize you could request tickets until Susan mentioned it when I was back in Chicago a couple months ago, so I did and within an hour of my request I got our reservation back! So we had to wake up early and head to the Vatican via the subway. I think this is the most public transportation mom has ever taken – trains, trains, trains, trains, trains!

Anyway, we got to the Vatican a little early so mom could take in the enormity of the country (because it is a country!). We have to go around to what feels like a top secret door to get into the necropolis, through the police check point, then past the Swiss guard to the little office. We had to wait until 915 to start our tour, but right at 915 we were told to all get into the little office (there were 10 of us, in a tiny office), while they closed the door and the window coverings were down. However, there was a half inch crack in the shade so we saw the motorcade coming through security. It was 2 cars, then 5 vans, then 2 cars. They couldnt tell us what it was, but it could have been the Pope or a head of state coming for a visit. It was a cool experience.

After the “lockdown” we got our tour guide, Katie, we started our tour of the Necropolis. It started coming back to me from my previous visit. However, I forgot you are not allowed to take pictures (please note, I do not follow directions well). Katie first started by telling us the history of St Peter’s and the Vatican as a whole. Originally it was a pagan burial ground. After the history of the site, we headed down to the necropolis (literally translated to dead city). This “city” was a burial ground of tombs for middle and upper middle class individuals from Rome, on the other side of the river. For hygienic reasons they did not bury the dead where they lived, but outside of the towns.

Anyway, the necropolis was awesome. Its very humid down there to keep the frescos in tact as they had been kept under dirt for like 1900 years!! In fact, there is still more than 95% that is still buried, but hasnt been excavated because St Peters basilica and the square and parts of North Western Rome are above it and it may just crumble if they try to dig it out.

Of course I broke the rules nice and easily this time and grabbed some pictures by my side of this tiny little area we got to walk through. The end of the little corridor St Peter was discovered, in the 1930s (ish maybe?). But it happened when one of the Popes decided he wanted to be buried in this specific place and while they were carving out the area they broke open the first look at the necropolis in over 1900 years!! But since of course we were in the middle of the war, the crew was ordered to work only at night and only with hand tools – so you can imagine how horrendous that task had to be!

They discovered his tomb, under many alters. Currently there is a huge black 4 post alter within St Peters, stacked on top of an alter that is a story below (which they can reach via stairwells right next to it), which is stacked on top of another alter from many moons ago – that even found graffiti from back then, anyway, that is stacked on top of another alter which was TINY. So, they show us this red light through a little corridor where they originally found his bones, in the 1940s or whatever.

Anyway, we then got to see each layer of his alters. Include the one with graffiti, which is where part of his bones are currently housed. I should also point out it is BELIEVED to be his bones, and we have no DNA to prove it was him, but the data of the DNA that we do have does line up with a man his age and situation.

Our tour finished in the Tombs of the Popes, JPII was still alive when I was here in 2004, and when I came back in 2009, it was Benedict, but I dont think JPII had his tomb open to the public yet. Anyway, he had a mosaic portrait and it was beautiful (you couldnt take pictures, and I couldnt sneak it). We walked out of the Tombs of the Popes to the right side of the Basilica, which is also where you can head up to the dome!! And, I must go up! I talked mom into going, because you can go up via elevator for part of it. However, when we got there, it was not what I remembered, and thought mom was screwed and was going to have to walk up the whole thing with me, thankfully that wasnt the case and she could come inside the dome and see the beautiful work close up before heading out to the roof, while I headed up the 304 or so stairs to the top of the dome.

It was so tight and curved. The stairs are like 2 feet wide, but only like 6 inches is actually used because the walls are so curved!! Anyway I made it and the view is awesome! The have it all caged off now – so depressing. Damn the cages!! After I got my pictures, I headed back down to mom, who I thought was all the way down at the bottom, but thankfully she had waited on the roof!!

It was great, we got to walk around, she got to see St peters Square from up high (not the greatest view, but still) and we got to go to the gift shop. Weve been wanting to get something to commemorate this trip by, a necklace or something, and we hadnt found anything. We had seen a feather before our tour and mom said “Oh look, a feather, Bill is here!” And ya know what, he probably was! Because, at the gift shop we found what we were looking for. There were two (one little, one big) Tree of Life charms for a necklace. And we both just felt it was perfect. So we got em! Mom also got the chain she has been wanting. But it was perfect!! Like it was meant to be!

After our little shopping trip, we headed down to finally see St Peter’s Basilica, like three hours later haha! Anyway, its huge! Mom was just in awe. Id seen it a few times before and every time its just a little different.

After our church visit, we headed out to get some lunch and head to the bone church!

We lunched near the Vatican, pizza, caprese salad and bruschetta! Mom also asked the waiter for ice for her Coke Zero – she was one happy camper! I also got some ice for water too – so I cant complain. After lunch we headed back to the Metro to go to the bone church I googled.

Quick and easy 4 stops away! But guess what, they said no pictures in the Bone church – psh, whats that about. Ive been to like 6 of these now, everyone always lets pictures, but apparently not this one (again, not a good listener). It also had a little museum that explained what the friars that built the church were like in the past. They were the ones that used to torture themselves with the studded brace on their thigh. They be cray!

Anyway, it was a small church, 5 rooms, but it was cool. It was mom’s first bone church and she was in awe. They are just so unique and something that is hard to explain. How can you explain a bone church, the words just dont come very easily.

After the bone church we walked over to the Trevi Fountain to tick another box of things mom can say she has seen! They were not really letting people make wishes with coins – police were there blowing their whistles at people sitting on the ledge of the fountain or tossing their coins. It was packed with people too. But it is always a beautiful site.

After the Trevi fountain we decided to head to the Spanish Steps and eat some gelato and people watch. The problem was, is they werent letting people sit on the steps anymore!! So after failing to find a covid testing site, failing to find gelato and failing to get to people watch, we went back to the subway to head back to the hotel.

Once we got to the hotel we switched shoes and headed out to get on the hop on, hop off bus tour. We wanted to buy our tickets from the guy who had helped us, but he wasnt at his “post” so we headed down to the pharmacy, and thankfully they had covid testing! So we got our test (both negative) and then headed back to our little guy and buy our tickets and get on the bus. We had JUST missed the bus, such a bummmmmmmer.

We road for about an hour and half back to where we started, walked back down to our gelato place, mom got some gelato, I got a crepe and we enjoyed our little walk back to the hotel for the night.

Just before bed, the fire alarm went off, thankfully it went back off before we left the room, but we were getting ready….

Tomorrow is our last day here and we are going to the colosseum.

Back to Rome we go!

Today we are heading back to Rome. After yesterday’s busy train and today being a Sunday we decided to buy our ticket online yesterday, so we have a train time and are ready to go at 126pm. So, after breakfast we headed out to take the water bus down the grand canal.

It took WAY longer than I thought, so we turned around after St Marks and headed back – sadly we ran out of time to get mom some of that yummy pizza from the night before. We loaded up our stuff from the hotel and crossed the bridge to the train station. We did some people watching outside before heading inside to grab a snack before the train ride.

The train ride is about 4 hours so I upgraded us to premium cabin with leather chairs and they are supposed to be a little nicer. I havent quite figured it out why, but you do get drink service. Mom of course just asks for more drinks (just water) but they give it to her.

We made it to Rome and had a nice 10 minute walk to our hotel. We are staying at the ever so fancy, Double Tree by Hilton. In reality, it is very fancy by European standards, big bathroom, big beds (twin, but big twin), mini fridge, etc.

Once we settled into our room we headed out for dinner – and boy did we strike gold! Crazy enough it was like the first place we came upon, but it was sooooooo good!! We got caprese salad, 4 cheese pizza and 4 cheese gnocchi. It may have been the best gnocchi and pizza that we (ok me for sure) have had this trip.

After our super yummy dinner we walked up the street for gelato before heading back to the hotel for the night.

The place of liquid roads

Today we headed to Venice! This was top of mom’s list to see. Originally we were going to day trip from Rome via flight – but they had canceled it a while back. At the last minute I swapped around a couple things and added it back in via bullet train.

We decided to take the 1120 train so we could enjoy your room as long as possible (really the only downside to the room was the fact we got eaten alive by mosquitos). Mom has been carrying my Nike backpack and her pink purse and I have been carrying both big backpacks. It has been working for us! I would much rather carry a backpack any day than help move a suitcase. Anyway, its a nice 10 minute walk over to the train station from our room so we headed out a little early since I had to buy tickets.

We havent been planning anything other than our hotels in advance and we ran into an issue of having to sit across the aisle from each other on this train, but that still wasnt a big deal because we were still at least close. This train to Venice was busy, probably because it was a Saturday. After two hours we had made it to Venice, the city of water!

We had a quick walk, over the grand canal to our hotel. Thankfully we keep getting lucky and getting rooms only one flight up so we arent stuck lugging our bags up lots of stairs. We got a corner room with THREE windows (one of them was in our shower). The front of the building is being redone so one of the windows didnt open, but the other two did and we had a view of a couple bridges and the grand canal. It is awesome!

We unloaded our stuff and headed out on foot to St. Marks Square so we could go to the basilica and see the wavy floors. After about 15 minutes we stopped at what ended up being our favorite meal so far on the trip – by far! We started with bruschetta, mom had lasagna and I had 4 cheese gnocchi. It was just wonderful.

After lunch we headed on our way to St Marks square. We crossed over so many little bridges, saw so many narrow passage ways. Its just so cool wandering through Venice. When we made it, we took a little break next to the church. I got up to try and figure out where to buy tickets because online it said you had to buy them off site on Saturdays and Sundays. (it should be noted, this was a lie.) I got online and there were no tickets left for the day so I thought for sure we couldnt get in. I was so bummed. We had given up and were walking away towards the water when I saw a long line. I realized this line was for the tickets you could buy IN THE CHURCH!!

So, we waited. We had 45 minutes until they stopped letting people in, I thought it would be close, we may not make it. But luckily WE DID!! While we were in line there, we bought tickets to the bell tower, because they have a lift you can take to the top (the only way I can get mom to go up anything now).

We got into the church after a vaccine check and a temp check. The floors werent as wavy as I remember – but it was still cool to see. I also forgot how beautiful the ceilings were decorated. In November of 2019 – they had a major flood that did some damage to the floors so they raised money to have them worked on. Shockingly – the work has already started. Not shockingly, its not even close to being done. Italians are known for taking FOREVER to get anything done.

After St Marks we walked around the square until it was our turn to go up in the bell tower. The sights from the top were just amazing. It was a clear day and we could see forever.

After the bell tower we went to take the boat/bus back to the hotel. We went on the outside of the islands. Basically the boat just bounces from shoreline to shoreline stopping at each stop like a bus would.

We got off a stop earlier than we intended because I saw a grocery store and we have been on the lookout for these Nutella biscuit things. And guess what – we FOUND them!! Then we had to figure out how to check out haha. That took longer than finding them!! Once we checked out we walked back towards our hotel, but by then I was hungry so we sat down at a pizza place and had some of the best pizza!! It was Naples style but it was so good!! Four cheese of course!

After pizza we had a really long 10 steps back to the hotel for bed. The room is like 1950s style. Fabric padded walls, old beds, really old comforter (the views and bathroom made up for it). We were nervous we werent going to sleep. We ended up sleeping fine. But of course, we left the windows open so we had more bugs come in and bite us.

Tomorrow we head back to Rome! And we are staying at a Hilton, so hopefully we have screens on our windows?

Mom, lets climb some stairs!

Today we woke up to more bug bites (if you can believe it, I am up to over 100 bug bites on my arms). Dont worry though, they are like mosquitos or no-see-ems. The only randomly itch and havent welted up. Anyway – we have only two items on the agenda today: to climb the Duomo and to see the David.

So after our breakfast, we bought our 1130 tickets to the climb and headed out the front door to stand in line for our ‘green pass’ (ie covid vaccine card) check. Once we passed that, we scanned our tickets and the climb began. Its 463 stairs to the top – its a lot. You get three breaks. One at the statues, one on the inside of the dome, and one before you descend the stairs basically straight up over the dome to the cupola. At the first break I was sure mom was going to kill me. Thankfully she didnt. When we got to the inside of the dome, she said, “oh we made it,” to which of course I had to say, “no, we didnt.”

Once we finally made it o the top, she sat down and said “I wouldnt have done that if I would have known.” but the views are so pretty and its an experience youll never get anywhere else – so its worth it. Its not easy, but its worth it. So, if you have the chance and you are in Florence, go and climb the Duomo.

The climb down, you also have a stop on the inside of the dome, before heading down a whole bunch of steps, with a stop and “how it was built.” Of course they do not release you into the church when you are done, you are escorted out of the church and if you desire to come back in, you must stand in a queue again to enter from the front. It is free (I believe and have been told). The church isnt as exciting from the inside as it is from the outside. The outside beauty really is one of a kind.

After our climb, our hands were nasty from holding onto the rusting handrails and dirty blocks so we went back to our hotel to wash our hands before reserving our tickets to the David (to avoid the lines) and walking over. Our hotel really was in such a wonderful location, because we had to walk about 5 blocks to get to the Academia (museum with the David).

We picked up our tickets, had our vaccine cards checked and entered the museum. You basically see the David right when you walk in, there is no waiting. It’s a great way to set the museum up, especially since that is what most people have come to see – but there are also some unfinished works, and some plaster molds used to plan the marble carved statues that can often be overlooked. The museum is nice and small. You are not overwhelmed with business – just the David.

We spent some time taking it in and doing some googling to find out more about it, since as crazy as it sounds, they dont have much information written about it IN the museum haha. I think it is their way of encouraging the audio guides or tour guides, but google was fine.

After we finished at the Academia, we decided to walk over to the food market our tour guide had told us about yesterday. We were excited to try some more local food. However, when we got upstairs to the cafeteria, we realized it was a lot of tourists and not a lot of good looking food. None of it really did much for either of us. So we each enjoyed a pop and people watching for a bit, then headed out to find some dinner.

We settled on a place in the Duomo square and got to enjoy people watching again for a while. It is so much fun to watch people see the Duomo for the first time, see the sleezy sales people try to sell selfie sticks and battery packs to tourists and the tour guides explain things to their clients in a million different languages.

After our day of climbing all the stairs we headed back to the hotel for an early night. Tomorrow we head to Venice!

how do you say pasta in italian?

Today we took our time in the morning – we really are enjoying this hotel. The beds are great, the room is nice, the view is wonderful and the breakfast was great! We had reservations for a golf cart tour of Florence at 1130, so that was the first thing we did. We headed out a bit early to make sure we found the place.

Our guide got there right at 1130 and we headed out. Ive been to Florence a couple times, but Ive never seen it by golf cart. We stopped by a couple churches the Santa Trinita (this was moms first church and it was cool to see her reaction) and Basilica Santa Maria Novella before heading across the river to see the Pitti palace, Ponte Vechio, the Vasari Corridor, and the Basilica di San Miniato al Monte and Piazzale Michelangelo. The Piazzale Michelangelo was the place on my list to go this trip because I had never been and it is the “post card picture” of Florence that everyone sees.

We passed back over the river to see the library and Basilica di S. Croce – this is where Machiavelli, Galileo and Michelangelo are buried. Our tour ended back where we started. We tipped Simone and headed back to our hotel to drop off some things before heading out to Basilica di S. Croce to go check out the tombs and head towards our pasta making class.

You have to show your green pass to get into the Basilica (or in our case our vaccination cards). After you pass that, then you can pay to enter. We bought our tickets and started walking around the huge cathedral. We found Machiavelli, Michelangelo and Galileo. It was pretty cool. They had a whole bunch of people there, not that I know who any of them are haha!

After the church we saw a street vendor selling scarves and mom wanted to check them out. She ended up finding a checkered multicolored one she liked, so we picked it up and headed toward our cooking class. We crossed the Ponte Vecchio bridge so mom could take a look at some gold and silver shops – but didnt find anything she had to have. On the other side of the bridge we stopped for some gelato and people watching. After a bit we kept walking and window shopping our way to our pasta making class.

Mom was pretty tired and not so much looking forward to the class because she was also hungry. I was too. We thought we were going to be the only ones, but all of a sudden 10 other people came from no where and boom, 12 of us in the class. Our class was awesome! Valentina was our instructor and she was just AMAZING. She had such a sense of humor and was a good teacher. She made us all separate from our groups so we could get to know others and it was such a great idea.

We made ravioli, some sort of other stuffed pasta and a noodle. The ravioli was the best, ricotta with truffle oil was the stuffing and it was cooked with butter and sage. They plated all 3 pastas on one plate – it was just divine. I hate all the noodles first, I dont like red sauce much. But the stuffed pasta with nutmeg and ricotta wasnt as great. They also served house wine – I had a sip. Wine just hurts haha!

We were given dessert too, basically like a flourless cake with cookies in it – so yummy. We chatted with some of the other travelers, all Americans in some form or the other – we all enjoyed our time there!

After dinner we headed home to crash. Eating is hard work!

A train ride

Today I had to say goodbye to Riomaggiore and say hello to Milan (only for 5 hours-ish). I caught the train with Lisa and Emma to the first stop, they continued onto Pisa, then Florence and I switched trains to Milan. The train ride was 3 hours, 3 long hours and I was so tired, just because we were on a train, not for any other reason!! I slept for like 30 minutes though, I forced myself to stay awake!

When I got to Milan I checked my bag at the bag check and headed to the Metro to take me somewhere. It took me to the Duomo. This Duomo wasn’t as big as Sienna’s but it sure was cooler! It had buttresses everywhere, and you could climb up to the roof and walk around!

I headed down a street and treated myself to a 4 cheese pizza and water and enjoyed my own company. I took my time and watched some Englishmen make fools of themselves. After lunch I grabbed a gelato and headed back to the Duomo. I climbed the 250 steps (dad, these were easy steps too!!) to the top and walked around. You could see all the details of the buttresses and of Milan.

I had no idea what there was to do in Milan, but knew I was going to need something to hold me over on the train so I popped in a hotel and got directions to a market. It was 15 minute walk, but it was the cutest little market! I got a yogurt and grapes (which magically were seedless and I had no idea!) water and a gatorade.

I decided to head back to the train station and just wait there. I ate my dinner by the tracks and went and fetched my bags around 7. My train got called at 720 so I boarded early and checked out my sleeping quarters. I thought they would be rough but they have lots of room. I’m in a 4 person sleeper (couchette) and so far there are only 2 of us (we’ve been on the rail for an hour now) since we don’t have much luggage and there are only 2 of us, I think that’s why it seems larger! It has a sink in our compartment too!!

The train ride is 12-13 hours, overnight, and I will arrive around 9am. Barcelona is expecting a cool off and some showers these next couple days, and I couldn’t be happier! I’ve been hot for 3 weeks, a cool off sounds wonderful!

New country, new food, new language…all when I wake up 🙂

Last day in Cinque Terre

Today is my last day here, and I just didn’t know what to do. I laid in bed until about 9, then got up and people watched from my window until about 10. Then I got ready, bought a banana and a yogurt and headed out to another town. I caught the train to the 4th town to shop and relax. I am currently sitting on steps in the 4th town just people watching and it just feels so wonderful to not have anything to do.

I’m now writing from the train on my way to Milan! Yesterday was just the perfect day!

I got lunch in the 4th town, the caught the train to the 3rd town. From the 3rd town I walked back to Riomaggiore. The walk is just so beautiful, right above the water the whole time! When I arrived back in Riomaggiore I went and changed into my swimsuit to go sit on the beach (rocks really). All I wanted to do was enjoy the water because I was so hot. Unfortunatly the waves were too rough to swim in with all the rocks around so I sat on the rocks with the locals and let the water crash onto me and cool me off. I sat there for awhile but grew tired in the heat so I decided to try and nap on the beach. Surprisingly its easy to get comfortable on the little rocks, so I laid down and fell asleep for a bit. the heat woke me up though so I grabbed my stuff and headed back to the room. My new roommate, Kate, had just arrived and she was heading down to the beach. I warned her about the waves, but she didn’t seem to care. I laid down and fell asleep for 2 hours, it was so refreshing!

When I woke up, Lisa, Emma and Kate had just gotten back. Kate got beat up by the rocks I warned her about!! Kate and Emma left and Lisa hopped in the shower. While they were gone, my towel fell off our line to the line below!! I couldn’t reach it even with a broom, so I headed down and buzzed the people, they weren’t home. I headed down to the ground and tried again with the broom, no luck. I eventually was able to get it because of my triopod. I extended it as far as it would go, headed down to the ground and after 5 minutes managed to knock it off the line. A lady was laughing at me, but I couldn’t help but laugh as well. I learned my lesson: no more line drying without clothespins!!

I got washed up and met Lisa and Emma for pizza. I found clothespins for the rest of my travels and grabbed a Fanta before we headed down with our pizza, to the rocks. We enjoyed our pizza and good conversation down on the rocks by the water. It was the most beautiful night, calm sky and calm water, it was just perfect!!

I am currently heading to Milan, Italy to catch my next train to Barcelona, Spain! I get there tomorrow at 10ish in the morning! I have 4 hours in Milan, then a 13 hour train to Barcelona! Long travels!! 

Let’s go for a hike

Well first I must fill you in last night. After the beach, I ran into Pip. Pip checked in with me, and is in another room. She invited me out for a drink with her and her roommates, so I decided to go.

We went to the same place I went to lunch at. We had drinks (I had a Coke light with lemon) and after awhile we ordered dinner. It was yummy. We decided to head to bed around 10, but as soon as I opened the door to my room, I heard a concert! There was a party in the square, apparently just because it summer. Emma and Lisa were in the room so we decided since we couldn’t sleep, might as well go down. We went and just watched everyone dance. I left around 1130 to shower and journal the day.

The party ended at midnight, so we could finally sleep! Thank goodness!

I woke up to an overcast sky and cool weather. All of us roomies got up at once, so we all got ready and headed our separate ways. I stopped at the Co-op to get some blackberries and a yogurt to snack on during my hike, and then headed out. This is the first time I haven’t taken my big camera with me! But it was too heavy for such a rough hike.

The first leg (from town one to town two) was paved, and covered and just simple, some curves and a very few steps, but nothing difficult, at that point I thought this 9KM hike can’t possibly be that bad! I thought too soon, that’s for sure! The second leg (from town two to three) was a little more challenging, but still mostly paved, its distance was longer than the first leg, but still not too tough. I don’t even remember seeing the 3rd town, so clearly I was in a zone. From town three to four it got a little more difficult. Many many steps and actual hiking paths, not paved. At one point you could opt out of stairs and take a road, but I decided since I was doing the official walk, I was taking the stairs. 

I stopped in the fourth town to have a snack and get a cold water. I took about a 20 minute break, then headed towards the final town. According to the park guide, its a 2 hour walk from town 4 to 5, so I was ready, or so I thought. The first 20 minutes of the walk was just stairs!! I couldn’t believe it! After the first ‘set’ of steps the path narrowed and got tough, and there are no handrails either! The steps never really stopped leading up. I had to take a 5 minute break at what I thought was as high as I could get, it ended up being close to the top, but I had another 10 minutes of steps after that!

Once you made it to the ‘top’ the descent started. And oh goodness, it was the most beautiful part of the walk, a stream ran next to the path, there were little waterfalls (not that you could see, but that you could hear) and 2 small bridges to cross. And then the stairs started, again! At least this time they led down to the town. I would say easily over 1000 steps down (which means if you are going the other way, you have to go UP them). The steps were of varying heights and widths, so it kept you on your toes, literally!

I reached the last town in 3 hours and 30 minutes, which was an hour and a half faster than the ‘average’ time! I was proud of myself. I decided to go sit on the beach and maybe go in the water. However, the weather was so weird that every time I stood up to go into the water the sun would go behind the clouds, and it got cool. The water wasn’t as warm as the other day, so I was a little disappointed. I took a short nap, then attempted to get back to my town. I missed 2 trains because they showed up on the wrong tracks, but I wasn’t the only one, so I didn’t feel so bad then!

I made it back to my room, and was going to get in the shower when Lisa came in. We decided to go have a drink (or in my case Fanta or Coke light) up on a ledge over looking the water. We showered, then headed up to a small bar to relax. Emma came and joined us a little later and we closed down the place (it closed down at 8pm). We headed to another bar until our dinner reservations at 930. We have fun talking to the locals and they love finding out where people are from. 

Our dinner was at the ‘best’ restaurant in town (there are about 10 total restaurants in our town). The atmosphere was nice, but the selection of food was poor and I really didn’t enjoy my dinner, just wasn’t ‘the best’ I guess. Our other roomie, Illia (the guy from Russia) came and joined us for some gelato before we all headed to bed. Lisa and I were so exhausted from the hike, we laid in our beds and our bodies shut down.

First day on my own!

Well goodness! My day started early, and now I’m starting to get tired, and its only 7pm here!! (Ps, I’m writing this from the rocky beach in town)

I’ll start where I left off, on my train ride…

I arrived at my destination 30 minutes late, and caught the next local train to my final town for the day. They say this town Riomaggiore only has about 600 residents, clearly now since it is holiday time for everyone, there are tons of people! The directions to the hostel was right on! The lady must have been from Canada or the US, but she was nice. There were 4 of us checking in to rooms, 3 of us together. The place I’m staying is up 23 stairs, down 100 meters, then down 5 steps to a door on the stairway! Haha, its a fun walk to get there! Anyway, after we all checked in and paid (it is €20 a night, so roughly $30) the lady took us to our rooms. Me and 2 of the girls got one room, while the other girl went to a different room. I was placed in a room with a roommate who was already there but gone for the day. The other 2 girls (originally from Capetown, South Africa; who now live in London) Lisa and Emma invited me to lunch with them. We went and hiked around the town, which really is just about 2 roads, to find a place. We finally settled on a restaurant on the water and got some lunch. They headed onto the beach, and I headed back to town.

In order to take the trail from one town to the next (there are 5 towns, hence Cinque) you need to pay a fee to use the national park. I got my 2 day pass, so tomorrow I can make the 5 hour hike to the farthest town, and dip in the Med. Sea if needed! Because its soooo hot!

I looked at the shops because I’m going to need sunscreen in this weather for sure! And found a Co-op that sells fresh berries, that will be my breakfast tomorrow!

I headed back to my room, and my roomie was sleeping, that’s when I learned my roomie was a man. He’s russian, but lives in Vancoover and Florence, and is here on holiday. I think he might be uber religious, his goal was to hike to all the churchs, and the churches are at the highest point in the town, about a 45 minute hike to each of them. He’s smart, but has hair a little longer than his ears, that he straightens, puts product in, and then puts on his cool hat! Haha.

I decided to head to the beach on my own. I got my suit on and headed down, then up, then down again to find the smooth rocky beach. The water is warm, but not hot, and clear, so very clear. They offer snorkeling and diving tours here, maybe one day, if I have time I’ll hop on, otherwise, just enjoying the water is enough.

I’m going to find a place to eat soon, the sun is setting and I want to hit the hay early, I’m so tired. I think my South Africian roommates are going to party, thank goodness my Russian one doesn’t seem the type!

Sorrento and Capri

Our hotel is just amazing. The view is to die for and it is hard to leave. Yesterday (8-19) we headed out to Capri. Capri is a very small island, on 4 miles by 2 miles, but it is beautiful! There are no sandy beaches in either Sorrento or Capri, just cliffs and rocks. We drove downtown Sorrento and parked our car in a ‘garage’ which really is just a cave, and then headed to our boat. The boat ride was only about 20 minutes long, and boats, unlike trains, never are on time. They are always late. We arrived on Capri Island, and immediately got our tickets to get on another boat to go to the Blue Grotto.

The Blue Grotto is a large cave, with a very tiny enterance (about 4×4 feet) that once your inside there is no sunlight, but the bluest water. The water almost looks like there is lights underneath it lighting up the water, but its all natural.

Our boat ride was supposed to go straight to the Blue Grotto, then around the island, but there was a long line at the grotto, so we went backwards. The island of Capri is cliffy. Sophia Lorenz has a house, that maybe a moped to get to, but that’s all. Its way up high, with like a tiny bridge crossing some of the cliffs. The water is clear and beautiful greens and blues. The boat tour was nice and relaxed, and gave up-close tours of some of the larger grottos on the island. We finally got to the Blue Grotto, and it is a sight to see. Upon approach, there are about 10 boats, and 10 dingies. And the dingies look like they are trying to break through the rock, because you really can’t see the enterance to the grotto. We did some donuts in the water to pass some time, then anchored the boat and the dingies soon arrived. Only 4 people per dingie, and €10 per person for the ride and the enterance fee. Dad and I got in the 3rd dingie, and I got to cuddle with a nice Italian couple in the back, while dad got the front. We paid the rower and got in line to enter the grotto, after about 15 minutes it was our turn. Our rower had to wait for the waves to be just right, the he pulled on this chain to get the boat through the tiny hole. We all had to lay down, including the rower, to get through the hole. On the inside, the cave is huge, and the water is so beautiful and neon blue. If you took a picture with flash, it couldn’t capture the beautiful blue. We were rowed around the cave (less than 5 minutes) while our rower sang, along with all the other rowers. Then we got back in line to get out. We got hit by a big wave that through our boat into the wall, it was an experience! We finally got out on the 3rd try and arrived 98% dry! Then we headed back to the marina.

We decided to try and go to the city center, so we started the climb, up lots of stairs, and steep angles. We quit after about 15 minutes, because we hadn’t even made it half way to the top, and we still needed to eat lunch before our boat left for Sorrento. We ate at a small cafe on the pier, we had fresh fruit salad and fries. Fries just taste so wonderful here! No ketchup needed (not that I would use it anyway). Oh and ketchup, for those who like it, is just like tomato paste, its just tomatoes and viniger, no sugar like in the US.

We got on our boat, and my seat was kicked the whole 20 minute ride by a wonderful Italian kid who screamed a lot. Anyway, once we got back to Sorrento we got our car and headed to another parking garage to park for dinner. We walked around a little and took our time finding our restaurant. We followed Rick Steve’s advice and ate at a wonderful little restaurant in an alley. It had great pizza, and was cheap! Our cheapest meal yet! We headed to Davide il Gelato, anther Rick Steve’s recommendation, for some great gelato. They had 60 flavors to chose from!

We headed back to the hotel, which proved to be the most difficult part of the whole trip. We made it up the tiny road ok, but there was NO place to park. So we had to go up farther and come back down, but dad hit the wall going up because its so narrow, and then parking, hit the rocks. No real damage, just scuffs, but he was flustered. We just hung around the hotel last night, I uploaded pictures and then passed out!

Today when we returned the vehicle, no damages we noted! Yeah! We are no sitting in the train station, in the McDonalds, dad got a coffee and I got a Fanta and we are just waiting for our train to come and take us to Roma. 
Dad leaves Friday. But first, on Thursday, we must celebrate his birthday!