Tag Archives: Weekend Adventures

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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