Tag Archives: Italy

Pisa + Saying Goodbye to Italy

Hey everyone! I hope you are all getting to ease back into things after a great vacation (and lots of good food).  And Christmas! Lights are going up and tinsel is being hung all over the place over here.  My Instagram feed is just one ongoing stream of Christmas tree shopping and decorating.  And there is snow up in the mountains!  I love it, but it also means it’s December, and that my time in Italy is almost up.  I (finally) found a new host in England after the first few options fell through, and (happy/sad), I am flying out to London in three hours!  The plan right now is to stay with this family until the beginning of February.  I can’t wait to get to know London, and I think that it will be a really wonderful place to be for the holidays.

For one last hoorah in Italy I decided to go this past weekend for a short trip to Pisa to see the famed tower and the supposedly sweet little town.  It was a really nice little adventure, and I got a beautiful sunny day to wander the city, eat good food, settle into a sweet hostel, and take pictures of the tower at sunset.

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Get ready for way too many tower pictures…

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So entertaining to watch people take the classic holding up the tower shot (:ImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImage

After getting good and lost in the streets of Pisa, I ended up at the river right when the light was magic.  So amazing.

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Came across this hip hop showcase in a small piazza.  The rappers were actually pretty good, but the best part was watching them try to get a random assortment of passerby super pumped up.

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It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas…

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When I came across this little eatery on a small street with handwritten signs on pieces of cardboard and menus on scrap paper, I knew I had to go.  I wandered around in the freezing cold until the restaurant opened and then was lead to my seat by a sweet old woman.  Her husband was in the kitchen, and they had matching wild grey hair.  They served me a wonderfully simple and delicious meal of cured meat, cheese, roasted vegetables with sweet balsamic and the most amazing focaccia.  It was all served with Italian/English small talk and so much excitement and exuberance for the food.  It was really a wonderful evening.

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I wasn’t sure if these were family photos or just a random collection, but they were so beautiful

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The cook got really excited at one point explaining to me in the simplest Italian he could come up with that my hairdo (just a top knot) was just like that of the model in one of Renoir’s paintings, and then insisted that his son take a picture of it (:  And how sweet is his handmade chef’s hat?Image

The epic view from my cute little hostel.ImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImage

Snow in the mountains on the way home!Image

It was an awesome last weekend in Italy, and I am so glad I went on one last little adventure.  Since then I have been just soaking up my last little bit of time in Genova and packing up.  I can’t believe how fast my time here as gone, and I am so thankful for all the experiences I have had in Italy.  I want to say a better goodbye to this beautiful country in another post soon.

Until then, hope you are all having a good week!  Can’t wait to share this next part of my adventure with you!

xo, Mason

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A Weekend in Cinque Terre

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This past weekend I was able to go on a little adventure farther down the coast to Cinque Terre, or “Five Lands”.  I had heard about these villages before from travel articles and novels set in Italy, and had the general impression that they were pretty close to Genova.  I knew I wanted to see them if it worked out, and I am so glad it did.  It turned out to be about a one and a half hour train ride to get to the village where I stayed from Genova, which was a cool experience in and of itself.  I haven’t done much long distance train travel recently, and not at all in Italy, so it was fun to get that experience.  A lot of the way we were inside tunnels, so there wasn’t a ton to see, but every once and while we would pop out into the daylight between tunnels and there would be an incredible view of the Mediterranean, or a colorful seaside town. 

As is implied in the name, there are five villages in Cinque Terre, each one not easily accessible by car and most often visited either using the convenient trains, by boat, or on foot.  The five towns are each small and picturesque.  They are all different though, and it took me a lot of time and research to decide where I wanted to stay.  In the end, the real deciding factor was that only one of they villages has a real hostel, the other mainly offering private rooms (and these were generally for at least two people).  So I ended up in Manarola, four villages in when coming from the direction of Genova.  The hostel of course had some quirky aspects (taking a shower was very interesting), but overall comfortable and the owners were friendly and accommodating.  There was a little restruant in the hostel, where I ended up having delicious pasta both nights I was in Cinque Terre.  Over the weekend I saw four of the five villages, not visiting the most classically touristy and beachy one, which was ok with me.

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I arrived in Manarola on Friday in the early afternoon and ended up spending most of the day with a girl from Siberia who was also staying at the hostel.  We wandered around Manarola, then Vernazza, and then Corniglia in the dark that evening. 

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Vernazza seems to be in general a favorite of the five for many people (Rick Steves included), and I definitely can see why.  It is gorgeous and has a sort of horse shoe-shape so you can sit in the center of town and be right on the water.  It feels quaint and peaceful, but still has a little more in terms of shops and restaurants than Manarola does.  As the sun got low in the sky we climbed up through the tiny streets and ended up high on a trail that had both a beautiful view of the town and front row seats for a lovely setting sun.

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We decided that on the way back to Manarola we would stop at Corniglia, the village between the two.  Corniglia is the only of the five villages that is not directly on the sea and you either can climb some rather steep stairs to get it, or take a little bus for a couple euros.  We took the bus, not knowing how far up the village was.  It was only six or so when we got to Corniglia, but of course since it’s November already (crazy!), it was totally dark.  I think that Corniglia is the quietest of all the villages normally, but with it being dark and low season on top of that, it was dead.  It took us about 20 minutes in total to see pretty much every corner of the village, and then head back down to the train.  On the way down we met a guy from Argentina who was of course also staying at the hostel, because it was the one and only.  We all waited for about an hour for the next train (didn’t plan this part so well), but got back to the hostel in time for dinner, so it all worked out.  I had trofie (a type of pasta) with pesto, both foods very typical of the area, and we talked about traveling and laughed at the huge group of loud and happy Italian men that had just arrived and were having an elaborate and joyful meal.  It was all warm and delicious and really perfect.

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The next day it was sunny, which was unexpected and so, so great.  I ended up going to Portovenere, yet another beautiful town on the water that I had heard a lot of good things about.  It was an incredible visit, and definitely deserves it’s own post.  Stay tuned!

I decided to watch the sunset at Riomaggiore, one of the villages I hadn’t seen yet.  It was not a disappointment in all it’s pink sun-navy water-wispy clouds glory. 

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When I got back to Manarola it was dark but the sky was still warm from the incredible sunset.  I bought some warm focaccia and headed down to the rocks at the water front.  I had bought some fresh pesto in Portovenere, and had a solo picnic there on the cool rocks, the dark sea crashing gently against the stone before me. 

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Back at the hostel the evening consisted of more pasta, reading, swapping travel stories, and a late-night skype with siblings. 

Sunday I had a leisurely morning at the cafe, where I was already a regular and the barista said “cappuccino?” as soon as I walked in (:  Afterwords I did a little more walking around the edges of the village, climbing up the hillsides and sitting under grape terraces to soak up the view just a little bit more. 

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I ended up back in Genova in the late afternoon, tired, fulfilled, and smiling at how familiar this city already feels to me.  Since this week’s weather forecast is looking exceptionally pacific northwest-y, I am so glad I was able to go on this beautiful getaway when I did.

xo, mason.

 

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Morning Trips

So, I have been slacking over here.  The thing is, I have had a lot of spare time at home, sometimes while waiting for the girls to get home, or while the weather is bad and we’re all staying cozy at the house, or while I am just waiting for pasta water to boil for lunch.  Plenty of opportunities to post in between doing the things I actually want to post about.  But every time I sit down with the intention of blogging I start reading other blogs and there goes an hour, or looking up pictures of nearby towns that I want to visit one of these sunny weekends, or reading Yelp reviews of restaurants in the city, which if you are me can be a huge time waster.  So no posts.  But I’m going to get back at it.  Okay?  Okay.  It’s a plan.

Because during the week I either pick up one of the girls I am looking after or meet one at the house anywhere from 1 to 2, I don’t have full days during the week to go on excursions.  It’s totally fine, because I just do morning trips, which have been nice too.  Boccadasse (the subject of my last post) was one of these morning trips, complete with seaside coffee and epic coastal views.  It is still my favorite place I have been so far around the city, but there have been some other good ones too in the past week.  Here’s a peek at a morning trip from this week…

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I really lucked out on the location of the location of the house where I am living.  As cool as it would be to live right on the edge of the sea or high up on a hill with panoramic views, I ended up being kind of in between the two.  It makes it fairly easy to get to both on foot, and really easy using public transport.  We are also pretty much in the center of the city, which extends much farther than I realized both ways down the coast.  This means we are near the historical center, lots of museums and shops, and the main port.  The other day I decided to hike up the hill from our house (and going “up” is serious business around here).  Over the weekend I had driven with my host family around the top edge of the part of the city where we live, where the densely packed houses end and forest and rolling hills begin.  They told me there were paths to walk around in the park up there, so I went to check it out.  By the time I got to the entrance to the park I was already pretty winded, so I stood for a little while in the sun and took in the view out over the city (pictured above).

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It was awesome to get up into the park and be able to see in both directions, both out toward the colorful city and glistening sea, and towards the green hills extending as far as I could see.

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I found this little branch at the beginning of my walk and he became my photo shoot subject for the morning (:

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We had fun (:

After hiking a hillside trail for a little while I sat and took this view in, then headed back to the apartment to start boiling more pasta water.  It’s a daily thing.

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Hope you all are getting to go on some small and special adventures!

xo, mason.

 

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Rome (!!!)

Hey there guys.  I went to Rome for the weekend.  I still can’t really believe it…  The time flew, and I feel like I just saw the tip of the iceberg (in a good way).  Still so much more to discover!  Don’t worry Rome, I’ll be back.

The first day we slept in a tiny bit since we left Genova in the evening on Thursday and didn’t get settled into our apartment and to sleep until late that night.  From where we were staying we were able to walk to the colosseum in about fifteen minutes, so we went there first thing.  It was pretty phenomenal, and we ended up staying for several hours.

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So far I’ve only been to pretty touristy cities, but I feel like I have been able to find some hidden treasures.  Of course, there are always those places that you want to see, and you just have to accept that hundreds of other people want to see them too.  Pretty much everywhere we went in Rome was like this, so we saw some serious crowds.  And where there are crowds, there are people trying to sell stuff.  There were about a bagillian people trying to sell you things you didn’t need in Rome.  Some were selling packs of postcards, others everything you could imagine with the pope’s face printed on it, and others some really strange things like bubble guns, or these weird plastic blobs that made a funny noise when you threw them on the ground…  There were guys still trying desperately to sell us cheap unbrellus even as were were holding our own over our heads.  It was sometimes hilarious, but usually pretty obnoxious.

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After the colosseum we got some much-needed lunch and then took a little walk to this incredible church, called San Giovanni Laterno.  It is the oldest of the major basilicas of Rome, and of course has a lot of history.  I’m not very good at remembering all the details and dates, but I did really appreciate the art and architecture of the cathedral.

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We stopped on the way back to the apartment and stocked up on some groceries for the weekend.

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Admired some flowers (while asking for directions back to our apartment)…

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Saturday we got up bright and early and headed to Vatican City.  We spent most of the day there- so much to see!  And holy cow, so many people.  We were starting to get used to it at this point.

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It was incredible and definitely overwhelming to see all the art and displays at the Vatican.  You were not allowed to take pictures in the Sistine Chapel, but seeing that from the inside and Michelangelo’s masterpiece on the ceiling was definitely a highlight.

After some pizza for lunch we walked around the city a bit, and saw some beautiful streets and squares.   We eventually met up with the cousin of the family I am staying with.  He and his wife and daughter were very sweet and led us through bustling night-time Rome to get some gelato (absolutely delicious).

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Even with an unexpected downpour and a very wet and chilly walk/run back to the underground and then to the apartment, it was a wonderful night.

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And Sunday, we saw the Pope.  Kind of.  Honestly, I spent a lot of the time seeing the backs of people’s heads, but he was up there!

Look very closely…

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I love how terrible ALL my pictures from this day at the Vatican were.  This one really cracks me up..

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And this one (:

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We ended the weekend with more pizza and an evening walk at a beautiful park.

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Thanks for being wonderful, crowded, and delicious Rome!  I loved it.

xo, mason

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Sunshine! (+ a Weekend in Rome)

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Although it is considerably warmer and muggier in Genova than Paris or Vienna were, it has mainly been overcast and raining on and off since I arrived in Italy.  So when the sun came out on Thursday I put on a light shirt, rolled up my jeans and headed outside.  I’m a Washington girl and I really don’t mind the rain, , but I noticed what a difference in my mood it made to have the sun shining that day.

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After some good walking I went into a couple of the art museums in the historical center of the city, both located in beautiful palaces.  As I was getting ready to leave one of the museums and wandering towards the exit a women who was working asked me if I wanted to see the panorama view from the top of the museum.  I of course said, um, yes please! and followed her to the elevator that took us to the roof.

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Being up there, with the sun shining and a cool breeze blowing, was absolutely perfect.  I couldn’t thank the sweet woman enough for showing me such a special spot.

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A few shots from the walk home…

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By the way, I’m in Rome this weekend!  Here’s a little peek at some of the fun.  I’ll share more early this week!

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xo, mason

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