Within seconds, the eight of us with our backpacks in tow and little energy to spare, sprinted down the stairs across the train station and back up to platform two.
The first thing that crossed my mind when my feet landed on the train was: "yes we made it". Then I realized that the door had closed right behind me. I turned around expecting to see half of the group on the train and the other half standing on the platform as the train pulled away. But no, thankfully that was not the case. The last person jumped on the train seconds after me and we were moving before I could truly gather my balance. This "adventure" from platform 2 to platform 11 did not go unscathed. In classic Cambria nature, my feet were racing ahead of the speed my brain could read the steps and I flew down the stairs where I tripped and the hand rail supported me from falling. It was absolutely hilarious and yes, this absolutely happens all the time.
Let me rewind as this moment in time occurred at the end of long day.
The day began when we went to sleep. Needless to say, we were all up way to late (I went to sleep at 1:30 and I was the first to head to bed) and woke up promptly at 5:45. No sleep…my favorite! By 6:15, the eight of us were out the door with our towels, bathing suits, hiking gear, and lack of sleep strapped to our backs. This being one our first train ride in Italy, I nearly had a panic attack when five minutes till the train left we couldn't find half the group.
Now, normally this wouldn't be a huge deal in America. But in Italy, and Europe, when a train says it leaves at 7:00, it leaves exactly at 7:00.
Once we found them and ran across the station to the platform, we discovered that the train had been delayed by 5 minutes. I should have known that the first running would have alluded to so much more throughout the day. There were a total of two train changes before we reached our destination. At the second train change, we learned that our planned train was delayed an hour but a train heading to the same location was leaving in three minutes. Again, we looked like crazy Americans sprinting to the other platform and making it just on time to the next train. On that train there were so many people that we all had to stand for 40 minutes. By 10:00 we finally made it to Monterosso, Cinque Terre, Italy.
Monterosso is the largest town in the Cinque Terre and it known as the main tourist attraction. The first thing to come to our minds we our feet in the payment of this quant Italian Riviera town was food. (You'll notice food mainly drives us college students). We went to what was one of the only places open and had pizza for breakfast (Italy am I right?).
Italians eat breakfast very early, have lunch very late, and dinner is eaten even later. After breakfast, we ventured down to the clear crystal beach and made camp by the water.
By 11:30, the desolate town of Monterosso that we had arrived in was bustling with tourists snapping pictures, being loud, walking slowly, and clogging up the beaches. Around 1, the group collectively decided to get lunch and we nestled at a resturant by the water. We mainly went here because it was close, cheap, and the waiters were cute Italian men.
What more can you ask for while on vacation?
After lunch, we explored Monterosso and decided to hike from Monterosso to Vernazza around 4. While heading there, many difficulties came up: it was 7.10 to enter the park (nobody had that extra money with them), no open toed shoes (two people where wearing sandels), and finally, it was a two hour hike. We hiked as far as we could with out having to pay and were stunned by the view over the sea.
Thankfully it was fate that there was so much stopping us from hiking because right after we left the trail, we all realized how exhausted we were and went directly to the train station to catch the nearest three hour train back to Florence. That was when the "adventure" really happened. The exhaustion of no sleep, being in the sun all day, and walking at least 10 miles hit us as we sprinted across the station.
We finally returned to Florence by 8:30 and of course we were starving. On our way back to the villa we went to a Chinese restaurant. Yes, while in Florence, Italy we ate Chinese food. To our surprise, it was actually really really good.
Saturday began with a wonderful Facetime with my parents and a long nap after that. Around lunch, six of us headed out to a small Panini place on Market Street near the Duomo that had 3.50 Paninis. Oh my goodness. It was possibly the best panini I have ever had. The salt was the perfect amount, the bread was soft and fresh, the cheese was melted to perfection, and the ham was warm but not too hot. It was wonderful. After lunch, we explored Ponte Vecchio.
After taking candid and obligatory photos at Ponte Vecchio, we explored Ortro Arno (the other side of the Arno River). We unknowingly found the place where Kim Kardasian (or however you spell it) and Kayne West are getting married in May if you're in to that stuff. When it was time for Siesta (the time between 1 - 3 when Italians take a break to nap and relax), we headed back to the Villa for some rest after our 4 hour walking excursion around Florence.
Around dinner time, we decided to go to an Italian resturant near the Duomo that we had been to for pizza that previous Thursday. We knew the food was cheap and delicious and had the variety of food each of us were looking for. I ordered possibly the best Lasagna I have ever had (sorry Dad!!). At the end of our meal, the waiter who had been our waiter on Thursday recognized us and found out that we were students. As a gift, he brought us free white wine. All I can remember when he handed us the wine was saying "Grazie, Grazie, Grazie" and being so stunned by the hospitality and friendliness the waiter expressed to us even though we did not understand him. After dinner and wine, we headed to Gelatoria di Medici (aka the other side of the city, but closer to the villa) to get ourselves some Gelato. They didn't have Nutella Gelato (sad face), so I tried a flavor called "Goloso". It surpassed all the Nutella Gelato I have ever tasted. So far, my absolute favorite flavor of Gelato. By the time we got back it was around 9:30pm and the rest of the night contained movies and recovering from the day before.
Sunday started late as well, and you guessed it, the adventure of the day was to get food. We were going to head to the Panini place from the day before, yes it was that good, but we heard there was an even better and even cheaper one closer to our Villa. In our attempts to find it we got lost. Like really lost. We ended up walking on the completely other side of the Duomo that our Villa is on. The perk of this was being able to explore parts of Florence that we would have seen if we hadn't searched for this mysterious Panini place. En route to the Saturday Panini place (I can't remember the name, but I'll let you know next time I go there, it seriously was amazing!), we found a small Italian bistro. None of the waiters spoke English and the entire menu was in Italian. Not understanding a single word of it, I ordered a random item off of the menu, which could have gone severely bad as I'm lactose in tolerant and don't eat fish. Thankfully, it wasn't either of the two. In fact, I have absoluetly no idea what I ate to be honest. They were flavors I had never had before and it was stunning. We think one of them was artichoke with olive oil on walnut bread, the other green tomatoes on walnut bread, and the third was my favorite and I have no idea what it was at all. I am thinking some kind of cheese. It was fabulous. At first it was awkward because we thought the bistro served Paninis, but it did not and was not the food we are looking for. For around twenty minutes we contemplated if it was rude or not to leave (in American culture it's not completely accepted, but in Italian it is unheard of). After lunch, we returned to the Villa and watched I Love You Man and dinner was served at the Villa leaving us in a food coma.
This past weekend was so much fun, which I know is a vague word to use, but it was. Even though we probably walked unknown number of miles and my feet ached after every day it was a wonderful, relaxing weekend. From the laughter to racing to catch the next train to walking for miles to get food, the weekend was spectacular and I couldn't have asked for a better first weekend traveling on our own in Italy.