I feel like amazing is the only way to describe my past weekend in Cinqueterre. It is definitely a must see when you come to Italy! All the buildings are different colors, it’s right on the water, and it’s very quaint…what’s not to like? Luckily, all the transportation was set-up for us too. When you get here, get to know Alberto who works at the front gate. He runs his own little independent business as a hobby and sets up trips for all the students. He sets up a bus for us to get to places we request, both ways, which is easy and convenient. We are very grateful of his services.
Anyway, we left on that bus he arranged for us at 3:00 AM. This was at our request so we didn’t have to pay to stay two nights in a hostel. It was also pretty convenient because you could just sleep on the bus and wake in Cinqueterre. The ride was about 6ish hours I believe. And, when arriving, we saw our first Mcdonalds! Lots of people were pumped for this, I was mainly pumped for the big coffee. Upon getting there we got a train ticket to go to Riomaggiore where our hostel was. Word to the wise, get a two day train/trail pass, it will save you some dough. This pass gets you on every train and hiking trail you will need for your stay. When we arrived at Riomaggiore we found our hostel. I was kind of nervous as this was my first hostel experience. We paid the nice lady and then she said the words that would soon be dreaded, “Follow me.” After about 5 minutes of walking straight up-hill, we realized our hostel was a little further than described. Definitely look into that beforehand, haha. Although, the exercise was good and we got there within about 12 minutes of walking. This hostel was very apartment-like, which was awesome. We shared it with some students who we became friends with from a Milan study abroad program. That was one of the coolest things for me, I didn’t realize we would be meeting other students on this trip.
After getting settled we immediately went to explore. Cinqueterre is comprised of 5 towns connected by hiking trails and trains. Unfortunately it was overcast and had rained earlier, so many of the trails were closed on our first day. We were able to take the first trail from Riomaggiore to Manarola however. We then explored in Manarola and took a train later to Monterosso. Monterosso was my favorite of the first day as they had a beach. We laid out on the beach as it got nicer, and took a day to embrace the beauty and relax. We are all convinced we went swimming in the Mediterranean, but no one here has confirmed that is the sea we went in. I will say this, it was salty. In Monterosso, there were tons of places to get pizza and a pizza bread type thing called focaccia. People who had it loved it. The fact that I didn’t have it wouldn’t surprise many that know me, which is why there is something you should probably know about me…I’m a health freak. So eating all of this great food, is really not what I’m accustomed to. I do have to say, though, I was convinced to have my first authentic gelato here. It was two scoops of tiramisu and mint chocolate chip. Holy cow. It was amazing! And the best part, gelato is so cheap (about 1 euro per scoop). We also went to a little bar where I tried my first mojito. It was also very good. The preparation was crazy and took about seven minutes.
For dinner we headed back to Riomaggiore and ate at a great seafood place. After all, with all of the water surrounding, you have to get seafood. I had the baked sea bass, an excellent choice. We stayed in Rio for the night too and went to a local bar. We met people from Australia and from study abroad programs in Milan, Rome, and Florence. It was so much fun! Like I said, this made the experience that much better.
The next day was very sunny and much better weather. They opened the trails back up too, which we were surprised about because of a midnight down pour. Well let’s just say we understand why they close those trails. After getting to Corniglia in the morning, a town with the largest set of never-ending stairs I have seen, we decided it would be a good idea to hike to Vernazza. This was the last of the towns we had to see. Little did we know the hike was an hour and a half, with our book bags, and very demanding. I also made the mistake of only bringing jeans. Let’s just say I sweated a lot. I know what you are thinking…unnecessary information. But let it be a lesson to bring shorts! And for why they close down the trails…they were pretty slippery without much width. The hike was a great experience and an essential part of being there.
Vernazza was the best place of them all! Seriously, go there first and last. There are tons of food options there. You can also sit out at the beach or jump off some cliffs. Additionally, you could go out on these rocks and just lay out in the sun. One of my friends told me before I went, “Vernazza is heaven.” Little did I know that this was quite possibly a true statement.
Even with that pretty detailed explanation I left a lot out. I could go on and on about this trip. In the great words of Nike, “Just do it!”
Coming back to school wasn’t what I would call very exciting after the great weekend. Everyone just had so much fun and loved seeing all the sights that it really made us excited to go home and plan other places to travel. We quickly got in the swing of things though, and hit the books. Classes were in full swing this week and more demanding. I had my first papers, quizzes, etc. I must say that I am enjoying my professors a lot. That is one of the great things about this program, you are getting a great education while getting lots of designated time to travel.
During the week, we also had some more seminars like I described in my last post. We had our second session of Survival Italian early on in the week. This went over more key phrases to use when you are traveling and interacting in local environments. I really enjoy the local professoresa who teaches these. She also teaches Italian for Travelers here, a great class to take while you are abroad.
Another seminar we attended was the History of Venice. This was a two hour presentation given by one of the professors who teaches Management here. He is from London and is doing lots of research with Venice, its history, preservation, and environment. In fact, he will be releasing a book in the States next year about it. This made it an extremely interesting presentation to witness. He integrated many videos and documentaries to keep the listeners engaged.
The last seminar we had this week was LEAP orientation. LEAP is all about career and personal development/exploration. It will look great on a resume and really help you to understand what your true beliefs and desires are. Although I am just starting the program I highly recommend it. It will make you think in ways about your future you haven’t before. And next week I will have my first personal coaching session, which I am excited for.
Intramurals are another thing to take advantage of in this program. One of the Resident Assistants is in charge of setting up Intramurals for each Monday. Richard, who was actually offered a professional contract for handball in his home country of Slovenia, set this up. It was no surprise that he picked handball as the first intramural. I didn’t get a chance to go, but I did here it was a lot of fun. Next week, we are doing Ultimate Frisbee, which everyone is pretty stoked to do.
In terms of this weekend, there are trips to Interlaken and Florence set up. All the extreme sports enthusiasts who want to cliff jump, sky dive, white water raft, etc. are going there. Heights are really not my thing, so no thanks! A lot of others are going to see Florence and its rich history. Also, they are doing a wine tasting in a place known for its wine. A couple other friends went to Milan for the weekend. You get the picture, you can go wherever your heart desires. Some of my friends and I are going to go to a local town entitled Bassano del Grappa. We hear they have a great Chinese food place, which we are going to have to hit up!
Otherwise all is well. As usual stay tuned for more on the exciting adventures of Jeff! (Corny I know).