Thursday, June 27, 2013

{European Travels} Florence Day 2 & 3

After getting familiar with the beautiful city of Florence, we decided we would spend our second day in Cinque Terra. Unlike Paris and London, our time in Florence wasn't jammed with things to do and see. Of course we wanted to see David, climb the Duomo, and eat our weight in pasta, but there was no timeline that we set (this is very unusual for me). We knew we wanted to visit Cinque Terra but weren't sure when; we realized the weather was suppose to get rainy on our second day, so we figured getting out of the city would be the best way use of our time.

We caught the train to La Spezia at 10 am and then the regional train to Monterrosso, the northern most town of the five hill towns. During our train ride we began talking to two other couples who were staying in Cinque Terra. Judy and Alex, the older couple celebrating their 40th anniversary, were from Canada, and the Judy and Steven were traveling spontaneously around Italy and France for a few weeks. We talked the whole train ride about families back home, places we have visited, and cities to see next. It was wonderful meeting fellow travelers so friendly and welcoming. Of course we had to snap a corny group photo.

Cinque Terra, or Five Lands, is located a little over two hours by train from Florence. It is on the western coast along the Italian Rivera and is composed of five small villages virtually untouched by tourism (however, now that the word is getting out this is becoming slightly less true).

The series of villages are connected by a beautiful trail, which locals have used for years to visit their neighbors. Like I said, we took the train to the northern most city, with plans of hiking all five towns. However, due to land slides, the three southern most trails were closed. That left us with only the option of hiking between Monterrosso and Vernazza, which is known to be a little more rugged and hilly.
 First views of Vernazza

The hike between towns were absolutely beautiful, with views of the ocean, olive and grape vineyards, and fragrant flowers lining the path. While good 'ole Rick Steves said the hike would only take 90 minutes, it took us 2.5 hours due to Josh's side adventures along the way. 

The weather had been warm and breezy along the hike, but once we arrived at Vernazza it began to sprinkle. We found cover under an umbrella at a cafe and ordered drinks and gelato. I had my first taste of pistachio gelato and fell in love. Don't knock it until you try it!

After refreshments and our daily gelato we caught the 5:30 train back to Florence. We had another late and fabulous dinner, along with a bottle of the house wine, and hit the sack by 11pm.

Our third day in Florence was a bit laid back. Besides eating gelato multiple times, having some of the best pizza ever, and an even better dinner, we didn't do much. This is one reason why I loved Florence so much - laid back and lots of eating/drinking.

Between gelato stops, we went back to the Duomo to climb the famous dome. It was a long and narrow climb, but we were awarded with unobstructed views of Florence, making me fall in love with this city even more.
 Inside the Duomo

Then, tired from walking and eating, we dropped into the Da Vinci Science Museum, where we got a lot smarter just by looking at the stuff. (Isn't that how it works?)

And that concludes day 3 in Florence. To sum it up so far: lots of eating, lots of drinking, and lots of loving Italy!

Come back tomorrow for the last {European Travels} post!

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