Monday, September 27, 2010

More Adventures!

These are only some of the hundreds of pictures I’ve taken so far, hope you enjoy! I had a very exciting and busy last 2 weeks to tell you all about. Two Thursday’s ago, my friends and I climbed to the top of the cupola of Il Duomo and the view was absolutely incredible. I’m so glad I waited to do this until I was more familiar with Florence because I was able to pick out buildings and areas I’ve come to know at street level. Seeing everything from above was an amazing new point of view, and we sat up there taking it all in for almost an hour. Climbing the maze of stairs on the way up and back down was also quite the experience, and getting to walk right along the frescoes on the inside of the cupola was awesome. From the ground I never realized how big the frescoes in fact were and being that close to them made me realize how much work went into painting them.

The day after climbing Il Duomo, a group of us hopped on a bus and explored the town of Fiesole. The archeological site included ruins of a roman temple, roman baths, and a roman theater, as well as hundreds of artifacts found on site like pottery, coins, and intricate figurines. One of the things I absolutely love about Italy is how far back its history goes; I loved walking around those ruins and knowing what went on there hundreds of years ago and being able to see what it looked like. It was a perfect day too—it had started out rainy but by the time we got there the sun had come out and it was quiet and misty and there was hardly anyone else there. It was really easy to imagine what it must have been like back when the theater was in use and to get lost in the feeling of being somewhere so old and unaltered. After leaving the ruins, we hiked up to the top of the hill and enjoyed the view of Florence, which was of course perfect.

That Saturday’s original plan was to visit San Gimignano, but after finding out the buses only run there on weekdays, we made a quick decision to check out Pisa instead. How cool is that, just being able to check out PISA whenever I want to. Everything is so close and accessible and I love it! Traveling is so easy and affordable; you HAVE to take advantage of it while everywhere is so close! Seeing the leaning tower of Pisa wasn’t the only thing to do in Pisa like so many people say. The cathedral and baptistery were beautiful and I’m still having a hard time grasping how people were able to construct buildings that size with such perfect architecture hundreds of years ago. My friend Chris, an Art History major, is the perfect tour guide and can tell you about each and every painting you come across: who painted it and when, what’s going on in the scene, who the prominent figures are, etc. I have absolutely no knowledge of that sort and its extremely interesting and a little unreal learning about it while staring at the original. Of course, before leaving Pisa I had to get at least a few classic “holding up the tower” shots, which you can see above.

On Sunday I took a day trip to Cinque Terre and oh my goodness. That was by far the most amazing thing ever. I don’t even have the proper adjectives to describe how amazing it actually was, but I’ll try. Upon arriving in Riomaggiore, the first of the five towns, we were all stunned by the view. The sea was the perfect color blue with a handful of small white sailboats and the waves crashed white against the dark gray rocky cliffs that rose almost straight up from the water to where we were standing. The first trail from Riomaggiore to Manarola, the second town, was crowded with tourists but still had great views of the water and cliffs. The real hike started when we hit the trail again after exploring town #3, Corniglia. The towns themselves were of course incredible and the beautifully colored houses seemed to be stacked right on top of each other growing right out of the mountains but hiking between them was my favorite part. It really allowed me to experience Italy in a totally new way—much different than experiencing it in the cities. The trail from Corniglia to Vernazza and then on to Monterosso al Mare was breathtaking. Literally, I was panting. We hiked right along the sea through wild grapes, figs, lemon trees, basil, tomatoes, wild oregano, huge aloe plants, and rosemary, and the air smelled incredible. By the time we saw Monterosso in the distance were exhausted but got our second wind and were running to jump right in the water. The water was perfectly clear, dark blue and just getting to FLOAT after all that hiking was so nice. Definitely my favorite trip so far and I’m already planning on going back to do it again.

This past weekend we all went to Sicily and visited Taormina, Siracusa, and Noto. To get there we took an overnight train which I really had a lot of fun on, there were four beds to a room and the train went right onto the ferry to get to the island. I had my first Sicilian cannoli in Taormina where we had a tour of the bakery and learned that the secret to the crispy shell of the cannoli is red wine. Of course it was absolutely delicious. In Siracusa we took a boat tour around the coast and got to jump right off the boat into the water which was so clear you could see the dark shapes of the rocks way down on the floor. Swimming in the Mediterranean is awesome. The last day of our trip we spent in Noto, full of beautiful Baroque architecture, and then at the beach nearby which had crystal clear, warm water. I don’t think I can label the pictures above, but they're in reverse chronological order and hope you enjoy!

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