Monday, August 11, 2014

Cinque Terre

On Monday, I headed off from Florence, intending to take a long train ride to Nice, France. I met some friends on the train who were planning a trip to Cinque Terre, Italy, and they asked me to join. Since I had no specific plans to do anything or meet anyone in Nice, I decided to go along! I am so glad I did. Cinque Terre was seriously one of the most beautiful places I have ever seen in my life - if not the most! I have relatively few pictures from my two days there because I was so busy soaking it all in!

The other cities I traveled to are all pretty well known. Cinque Terre isn't, though, so let me convince you to go there. If I didn't mention it already, IT IS BEAUTIFUL. There are five "lands" (cinque terre!) along the coast, and you can hike between them. I didn't get to do the hike, but I would love to go back to do it! I stayed in the southernmost town, La Spezia, and the northernmost town, Monterosso. In La Spezia, we went to a gorgeous church on a cliff on the ocean at sunset... just wow. 

We even got to climb down on the cliffs a bit.

I had never seen anything like it! The weather was perfect, as well. I was in awe the whole time! We only wished the sun wouldn't go down so we could keep looking at all the beautiful scenery. Instead, we went to eat some fresh seafood once it got late. Also, everyone we met in La Spezia was so generous - it was a nice change from the street hagglers in Florence! 

The next day we took the train to Monterosso, which is just a 25 minute train ride north along the coast. Monterosso is a beach town with a small shopping street and lots of relaxed tourists. We lay on the beach, swam out to the rocks, ate gelato, and explored the town by foot. At night there was live music and people playing bocce at their sports club. Overall, very adorable!

Here is the live music from across the water.

Here are a few more pictures of the town and beach on my way to a 6:00 am train.

After a wonderful, spontaneous trip through Italy, I was finally on my way to France!


After only one full day in Rome, it was already time to leave. I knew as soon as I got to Rome that I'll have to go back sometime, as I only got to see a fraction of the sites! But the next morning, we were off to the train station to catch our train to Florence. As soon as we got to our hostel, we went to walk to the Central Market, to the Duomo, and to the Ponte Vecchio (old bridge). These pictures of the Duomo show that it is seriously too big to take a picture of... hence so many photos of half the church! Also, a word of wisdom to anyone who goes to Florence: don't stand in line to go inside the Duomo! It is way more impressive from the outside. Luckily we jumped in a short line and only had to wait about five minutes, but we saw lines wrapping around the building to go inside. It is free for a reason!

We continued walking towards the bridge, stopping in squares to take pictures of all the beautiful buildings and scenery! I think I was too exhausted to take too many pictures...

In Florence there were lots of street vendors, especially selling leather purses and paintings. Some of the street vendors were very forceful, so Nicole was happy to find this beautiful painting from an adorable, gentle old man.

We kept walking down to the river, which had an absolutely gorgeous view!

I stole that last photo from Nicole. We all agreed that the view was so beautiful that we wanted to "hug all of it!" Instead, we walked toward the Ponte Vecchio.

This is the Ponte Vecchio (old bridge). It's so adorable! The outside shows all the little jewelry shops that line it. The jewelry was way too expensive for us, but we had fun walking by the shops!

The view from the bridge was beautiful, too!

That evening my friend Ashlyn, who was living and working in southern France this summer, met us in Florence! We caught a bus up to Piazza Michelangelo, and sat looking down over the city. Here you can really see why I couldn't fit all of the Duomo in one picture!

The next day I walked around with Ashlyn and Lauren. We saw a lot of the same stuff we had seen the day before, but we also went to the palace. Our tickets only let us in to see a few things, so we saw the Boboli Gardens and the costume gallery. The gardens were so beautiful, and they had quite a view of Florence. It was also VERY hot, so we tried to stay in the shade as much as possible!

The costume gallery was also really cool, although I don't have so many pictures. It featured designers from about the last century, all of whom had very unique styles.

That night, Ashlyn and I did a wine tasting at a small wine store in the center of Florence. No one else showed up, so we had a personal wine tasting! The store owner paired his wines with meats and cheeses. 

On Sunday, Ashlyn and I felt like we had already seen most of Florence, and we weren't really sure what to do! We woke up and walked across the river in search of a cafe for breakfast, and stumbled upon this adorable farmer's market. It made us so happy! 

We finished off the day at Piazza Michelangelo again, but in the daytime. Here are a few more beautiful pictures of Florence!


Wednesday, August 6, 2014

When in Rome...

On my last day in Prague, I said goodbye to my friends I had been traveling with and took a bus to the airport to fly to Rome! Even though the flight was only an hour or two, it was a long day of buses, planes, and trains, but I finally made it to my hostel in Rome, where two of my UNC friends from FUBiS were waiting. We quickly adopted the motto "When in Rome...!" and decided to go out for a nice dinner. I was amazed that our hostel was right around the corner from these beautiful places:

I was seriously amazed just by the walk to dinner. I had no idea Rome was so beautiful! The next day, Thursday, we got up early to go to the Colosseum. I only had one full day in Rome, so we decided to hit two major attractions. Luckily, the Colosseum was very close to our hostel! We waited in line to get inside, and by the time we left, the line was around the block. Good thing we woke up early!

The Colosseum was just so amazing. It is HUGE, and seriously cannot be captured in photos, but here are a few anyway!

Also, as you can probably tell, the day was beautiful! It was also probably 95 degrees, so we were hot! We were determined to see a lot, though, so we walked on past the Palatino towards the Tiber River and the Vatican!

By the time we got to the Vatican we were pooped. I went to find some different shoes, and then we bought some gelato and cold drinks to rejuvenate ourselves. Then, we walked right up to the Vatican! In these pictures it's just amazing to see how huge the Vatican buildings are - look how small the people are!

We first went to the Vatican museums and then came back to see St. Peter's Basilica.

I mentioned we were exhausted when we arrived at the Vatican. Well, after walking through art museums for hours, we were even more exhausted/in pain/sweaty/tired/cranky. But, we were at the Vatican! We had to see St. Peter's Basilica, so we took a quick break and then got back on our feet to walk back to the Basilica. When we got outside though, the skies looked like they were about to open up. We bought some ponchos and walked through the crazy wind as it started to rain. Luckily, we made it under some shelter before the downpour began, and honestly it was pretty nice to have an excuse to sit down for half an hour. Also, the rain cooled the weather down significantly, and we were so much happier afterwards! We finally went inside to visit St. Peter's Basilica, which was so impressive. Unfortunately, photos are not allowed inside, so I don't have any!

After the Vatican, we walked back in the direction of our hostel and chose a restaurant for dinner. We sat and chatted for several hours before deciding to walk around a bit. We stumbled upon this festival all along the Tiber River, where people were eating, drinking, and shopping. We walked through the festival for the rest of the night. It was a perfect, relaxing end to a long day!

Ok, I think that's enough for now! I'll be back with more about Italy later on!