Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Lucca, our last stop in Italy

It's been a while since I've written, and that's because the last few days have whirled by at a rapid and exciting speed.  I've left Italy behind with a Ciao, and arrived in France with a much frowned upon and possibly quite butchered Bienvenido. I rejoined Nick in Rome on Friday after a really long travel day. Apparently, as it comes as no suprise to the Romans or any of the people who have traveled to Rome, transportation strikes are common, and after protesting to usually no avail, end fairly quickly.  

The Roman transportation workers decided Friday was worthy of a day long siesta, and after waiting on a sedentary train for an hour at the Naples train station, we (my lovely fellow train travelers and I) were ushered off with an animated chaos of hand motions and louder than usual Itailian shouting.  I asked if someone had a gun. Fortunately, no.  And after about 15 minutes of standing there all hunchback-like with my large pack, I finally understood what was going on (through, again, more hand motions and shouting) and that the next train wasn't going to Rome for two and a half hours.  After already spending an hour on a train to Naples, two more hours back in Naples specifically close to the train station didn't feel so fortuitous.  Faced with a sprawling two and a half hours of the anxiety of being in a sketchy train station in a sketchy area, the only solution quickly presented itself- it was time for wine.  

Well 6 hours later (10 hours total of trains and train stations) I did finally arrive in Rome and was incredibly grateful and appreciative when Nick said I had my own room booked, free of charge, at the hotel the McKay group was spending their last night in.  I don't even know the metaphor for what I felt (other than tipsy).  It was a lovely, lovely night. 

The next morning, bright and early, we headed back into the train station (ugh), and set off on the leg of the journey we're on now- adventures of Ashley, Nick and Ericka.  Lucca, Italy was our first stop.  

Carmen, Erickas lovely best friend (and Nick and I's friend as well, she's awesome!) from high school, moved to Italy two months ago and is living with her Italian family in the beautiful small town of Lucca, located in Tuscany.  While we had already spent about a week in Tuscany, seeing the area with locals (that's Carmen's Italian cousin, Andrea, there in the back with the curly hair) was such a different experience.  His family, being locals for a long historical time, knew local families with wineries and set up a private tasting and lunch at a beautiful vineyard with a sprawling view of Tuscany.  It sounds fake, I know. It was a dream.  We drank wine, toured the winery, and had a beautiful lunch on the patio with more wine, salad, cheese, meats and the best homemade (okay, only homemade) olive oil I've ever had.  I could have drank it.  It was perfect, and I couldn't have dreamt up a better way to kick off our time together.

After wine tasting, Andrea took us up to an absolutely breathtaking panoramic view of the valley.  We even watched as a hot air balloon rose in the air. Unfortunately, you can't see it in this photo, but I swear it's there :).

We ended the night with aperitifs (cocktails and free appetizers- I love Europe) and bar hopped around the surprisingly crowded and thumping streets of Lucca.  Nothing like touring with a local, just don't try the spritz (it's an awful concoction of aperol, champagne and club soda, and is puckeringly bitter.  But is the national aperitif drink of choice). 

The next day, we all drug our feet out of Lucca, both because we were sad and reluctant to leave and for other less quaint reasons (ahem, damn spritz), and hopped on a train (actually three) back to the coast.  We decided to put off France one more day, and relaxed for the night in beautiful Camogli, the town where I first fell in love with the Riviera region.  We relaxed, walked around, and went to bed early.  

The next day, I FINALLY got out on a boat! I can't tell you how badly I've wanted on a boat this whole time.  I've eyed them in every port, on every beach and ramp, and have considered everything from smoozing to pirating.  But finally, finally, we bought tickets on a ferry type of ship and headed out to a beautiful spot along the southern coast of Camogli that Nick and I had both been told about.  We hadnt the time on our previous trip to Camogli, but I am so thankful we were able to make it when we did.  The San Fruttoso Abbey is tucked into a tiny, emerald colored cove with jungle like foliage and ancient, beautiful history. 

The weather was perfect, and the biggest mistake we made was not wearing bathing suits.  I still regret it while looking at these photos. 

It was such a perfect morning.  And now I leave you with love and a Merci.  Today was spent in Monaco and Monte Carlo, so there's more to tell than there is time and energy to write it here :) Bonjour!

Friday, October 24, 2014

Sorrento and the Amalfi Coast

I have definitely overused the word refreshing, but that is precisely how to describe my last few days.  Although I can appreciate the beauty and antiquity of Italy's cities, and thoroughly loved my time in each, being back on the coast with open space and a stretching horizon not congested with cruise ships is oh so sweet.  Sorrento was described to me by one of my new Napoli friends as the "resort town where Americans and Australians go to get drunk." Sign me up!  Just kidding, despite the not so charming description, I still had heard from other people that it's a beautiful town, and a great jumping off point to explore the Amalfi Coast.  And they have a hostel with a pool- sold!   I am thrilled I followed the pro-Sorrento advice. Not only did I have the 5 bed room and bathroom to myself, but I had a chance to enjoy and reflect on traveling solo with a cocktail and a good nights rest. Priceless commodities when traveling via hostels. 

Alas, Sorrento was as described on both fronts.  I saw more Americans here in higher concentration than I have elsewhere, and it's a sweet not-so-small town with pedestrian only historical streets, gelato and vino on every block, and lemon-themed shops around every corner.  This region is famous for its citrus, and is the heart and birthplace of the much-to-sweet for my taste lemoncello.  I also may have had more than my fill of lemoncello in Florence, but that's a story I'd rather not relive. 

I took a bus to Positano yesterday, and it made me wish I could spend another week or three exploring Southern Italy's coastline.  Positano is a small, seaside bay town with tourist shops, restaurants and bars, much like we've seen farther up the coast.  While the basic coastal scenery descriptions sound the same, Positano yet again feels very different from the towns farther north.  Cinque Terre, although filled city end to city end with tourists, still retained an air of a small fishing village that just so happened to have tons of restaurants and trinket shops.  Positano felt like a deliberate resort town with much more character than Laguna Beach or Capitola, and much cheaper wine.  With the cathedral (always, it seems) in the middle of the town square area, you look out from its veranda at turquoise water and custom, freshly varnished boats bobbing in the gentle waves (as opposed to the violent, boulder throwing waves of Camogli).  All of the water colors and oil paintings you've ever seen of the Italian coast are probably from Amalfi, and it really does look just like that. 

The weather was clear and warm, and the topless sunbathers were out in force.  I had a lovely time hiking up and down the towns steep streets and never ending staircases.

The best part of my day was towards the end when I ordered a glass of white wine at a beach side bar, and was handed a bowl of potato chips, Greek olives, and animal crackers.  Delicious combination.  Okay, so the snacks weren't the best part, although they ranked pretty high up there.  Sitting out there watching wind surfers careen by unsuspecting swimmers, I felt for the first time relaxed and just happy to consciously be experiencing the scene in front of me.  See it sounds strange, but traveling with a massive backpack and a map, always trying not to look like a tourist and stumbling over the coveted local language, can all be incredibly adventurous and personally expansive, but is also incredibly exhausting.  

 (Said backpack)

Don't get me wrong. The journey from city to city by train, plane and bus has been as interesting and fun as arriving in each place, but is also physically and mentally demanding in ways that family travel or travel with rollie luggage just isn't.  I'm not whining, I'm just being honest.  Yesterday I simply got to sit, wearing my breezy dress and carrying a purse with only my wallet and my camera, and I so thoroughly enjoyed the destination.  I drank the wine and ate the olives (okay, and all the potato chips and animal crackers), and I let myself just be there.  I'd didn't try and tie the moment to something bigger or some larger idea (like I'm doing now), I didn't try to "soak it all in," or explore the streets I had yet to see.  I just tuned out mentally and tuned in physically to the waves and the heat and the wine.  I watched the wind surfers almost take out the swimmers, and I laughed and was okay to be sitting and eating and drinking alone when everyone around me had someone else.  And it was the best day I've had in a really, really long time.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014


Just so you know, I had a complete Naploi post and then all of a sudden, POOF, it disappeared.  So I'm trying my damnedest not to be frustrated, and just start over :).  Easy enough...because I am writing to you pool side from my new location in Sorrento.  Nothing should ruffle my feathers!

Anyways, onwards and upwards.  I took the metro and an hour long train today out of the bustling city of Naples (Napoli, as it's properly referred to) to Sorrento and scaled back a few notches on the speedometer.  Just my speed, obviously (enter the photo above).  Can you believe that's my view from my hostel?  More like a hotel...because it is!  With basement rooms where they added bunks, knocked down the price a few dozen euros, and called it a hostel.  Simply lovely.  I'm happy as a clam.

But I don't want to get ahead of myself here, because I have so much to tell you about Naploi (yay, Wes! I know you love to read!).  I had so many expectations about Napoli, but really I don't think anyone can describe it as it is (at least in my outsiders perspective).  How could you, I think the place is simply beyond description because it's a city of contradictions.  Here is what it knew about Naploi before I went:  it's considered one of the most dangerous places in Italy.  It has a storied Mafia history (look up the movie Gomorrah. Or don't, as it's incredibly disturbing), and the warnings of thievery and pick pocketing are a constant chorus.  "You should probably leave your purse locked in your room," "you probably don't want to take your wallet with you," "you should probably not have more Euros on you than you can afford to loose," as the signs across the websites on Naples went (mom, aren't you glad I'm telling you this after the fact?)   

I also knew that Naples is, historically, the most important port city in Italy due to its proximity to Rome, and it's supposed to be charismatic, vivacious, and the heart of modern day Sothern Itailian culture.  Don't quote me on that, because I don't remember where I heard it, but I'm sure I did.  And it's were pizza was invented, so the story goes. And let's be honest, that was the main reason I hopped on a bus and headed into the Bay of Naples.  The most famous pizzerias in Italy lie in the Spanish Quarter, which is also the historic district of the city, and the streets most known for crime. 

Lucky for me, the wonderful hostel I was calling home organizes a regular walking tour of the Spanish Quarter with a local body-building Naploi.  I can't say this casting was intentional, I'm just describing the scene. So we walked, and we explore, and Naples serenaded me into a deep appreciation for stepping outside of my comfort zone and following my own sense of direction.  I loved it.  It was busy, chaotic, fast paced (I almost got hit by a bus, but that story is for another time), and incredibly loveable and entertaining. Kids were perched on their parents laps and babies were tied to people backs as they jetted through the streets on scooters.  I wish I got a photo.  It was crazy, and so fun.  All you can hear is people shouting Italian, accordion music, and boughts of laughter. If I thought Rome was alive, Naples is truly living. 

And the pizza.   Worth all the hassle to get to Naples, for sure.  So incredibly worth it.  I also didn't get a photo of that both because I was too chicken to take my camera waking and risk it being jacked, and because I was too distracted experiencing everything that I even forgot about the camera on my phone.  You'll have to trust me- it was delectable.  After experiencing the streets at night in relative safety (except the bus incident), I tucked in early and got to know my hostel roommates.

The next day I ventured to Pompei, and I was joined by a 19 year old recent high school grad from Canada, who woke up spiritedly and motivated, exclaiming "if anyone is going to Pompeii, I'm coming!"  How could I get out of that one?  So he came along like a super happy little puppy. Only he was probably a foot taller than me and 100 pounds heavier, so not so puppy like in stature.  Anyways, my new friend Adrian and I spent four hours exploring the ancient city streets.

That, heartbreakingly, is a dog.

 I couldn't bring myself to take a photo of a human cast, as it felt incredibly intrusive.  Seeing these people frozen in their final moments felt voyeristic, as it's something you were never, are never, really intended to see.  When I was walking around the Coliseum, I had tried to imagine the emotional stages a gladiator maybe went through-the terror, courage and imemse pride it took to step on the battle stage.  It was simply unfathomable, though.  The lack of life experience to relate to emotions like that was also something I encountered in Pompei.  We walked along these ancient cobblestones, and I tried to envision the scene back in AD 79, as people went about their daily business.  Sure, some we're prepared and got out of the city before the ash because too sufficatingly thick. Plenty of people didn't. And now, we walk those same paths and try to comprehend the ancient emotions that, once again, I couldn't imagine.  Not for lack of trying.  But the scene is so human, and the similarities to modern life are fascinating, and haunting.  

One thing I couldn't get out of my head as I walked out of Pompei and boarded the hour long train back to Naples was man's romance with fatalism.  Pompei stands on a hill, almost intentionally symbolic of the dangers of encroaching on natures power, and is surrounded by a city.  Houses, vineyards, and other structures adorn the sides of Vesuvias, still considered an active volcano.  Mt. Vesuvias had another major eruption in 1944, during WWII, and while it didn't have nearly the cataclysmic affect of AD 79, it was still destructive. But people rebuild and continue to creep up on the volcano's slopes.  I overheard a girl on the train talking to a friend, telling her it was due time for the volcano to erupt again, according to seismic reports and monitorings.  Who knows if that's true, but our willingness and enthusiasm, maybe resilience, to keep building lives in places we readily know can easily be destroyed is just fascinating. I could go on and on, but this doesn't seem the space and I don't have the energy. 

Over on this side of the Bay of Naples, one has a beautiful view of Vesuvius. 

Sorrento is a lovely town, and is refreshing after the chaotic energy in Naples.  

I walked around for the afternoon after I arrived, and could see spending quite a bit more time here.  There is never enough time, eh? 

Tomorrow I'm headed to Amalfi and Positano, so the journey continues.  With so much love... Ciao!

Monday, October 20, 2014


After navigating the Italian train system, the metro system, and finally the busy streets of Naples, I have arrived safe and sound at the hostel I will be staying in the next two nights- Hostel of the Sun. It's pretty awesome, and not because of the €1 beer.

I'm excited to be here, but let me tell you about Rome.  Wow, what an awesome city.  I have always loved and been so partial to San Francisco for so many reasons, beginning with the sheer beauty of the landscape.  But Rome, it feels almost like cheapening it to try and explain my experience there.  Walking around the city at night feels charged.  It one of the most alive places I have been.  Bars, restaurants and people pour out onto the streets at all hours, and it was always easy to find cheap pizza, focaccia, paninis, and vino.

We hit all the major attractions, beginning when we first arrived with Vatican City.

It's lit up at night, and simply spellbinding.  This got me extremely excited for the tour the next day

It was pretty wild to actually be there.  I kept having to remind myself that this was the Vatican, this was the Vatican. It sounds silly, but it was so overwhelming it was easy to get mentally lost in each feature, from the Sistine Chapel and Michaelangelo, to the Pope and his Prada slippers, to the preserved bodies of the past-on Popes in St Peters Basilica.  

I have to admit though, while seeing the Vatican was mind boggling and humbling in its absolute uniqueness and antiquity, I also couldn't help but think how much money went into these Catholic relics.  The Vatican is in possession of the largest private art collection in the world, and most of its assets are absolutely priceless. I appreciate the restorations and preservations they're doing, as it has to be a Herculean task.  But forget about the Sistine Chapel and even the Basilica, the rest of its holdings are unfathomable on their own.  As one of the greatest seats of power in the world, I couldn't help but think of the hypocrisy of it all.  How much of the world could they feed with their wealth.  How much clean water or antibiotics could have been spread throughout the world instead of gold plating every visible surface?  The Vatican also has a long history of pillaging ancient roman sites for building materials.   Where do you think all of that marble came from?  The Coliseum had two outer shells that are no longer there, mainly due to destruction and "recycling of materials" by the Vatican for its building projects.  Sure, the Coliseum has an incredibly storied history, and there is much more to that one.  And Im sure if it wasn't the church, it would have been someone or something else.  But the church is still the symbol of peace, justice, love, and compassion, but is also one of the wealthiest powers in the world.  Just an interesting thought, I guess.  Impressive, to be sure.

After our visit to Vatican City, Nick And I took the underground into the heart of Rome to check out some of the other sites.

That would be the Pantheon.

Built in 126 AD (crazy) it was a house of worship for the Roman gods.  Amazing that these places are still standing.  The Catholic Church, though, turned it into a Catholic place of worship, not standing for that pagan -ish.  Seems to be a trend in Rome.

I bet you know what that is!  And if you don't, you should probably buy a computer or a TV, since you obviously don't have one.  That was my first experience of the Coliseum.  And then the next day (yesterday) we got to go inside. 

This was my favorite tour so far.  The coliseum was fascinating, but I think what I found so interesting was its history after being a place of combat.  The coliseum was abandoned after Rome fell from power, mainly because the emperor no longer was able to sponsor the games.  So sections were sold as private residences, the center tunnels (shown above) were filled in with dirt, and it became a community garden.  The coliseum, before the Papacy set their eyes on it for building material, had some of the most exotic and rare plant species in the world. Seems strange, right?  Not really when you think about it.  When the games were still a regular city event, animals were in imported from all over the Eastern Hemisphere- Africa, Asia, the rest of Europe- to execute prisoners and combat gladiators.  Yeah, they tied prisoners to a pole and set the lions on them, as over 60,000 people watched.  Well, these animals left behind skat, and in their skat were seeds from all these exotic places.  Once the environment was turned fertile with the community garden, the plants began to grow.  I like that story much better than the lion story, although I guess we can't pick and chose our histories. 

Next was the Roman Forum, the center of the government and daily life for Romans.  It's extremely impressive how much of this is still intact, even with city wide pillaging that took place and two world wars.  

After three days in Rome, I can't wait to get back.  It's a city more alive and vivacious than most.  I must admit, though, that I am relived to be back on the coast with the Mediterranean stretching out in front of the hostel.  Tomorrow I think I'm going to catch a train to Sorrento, and tonight I'm going on a *free* walking tour, lead by the hostel staff.  I'm happy as a clam.


Reflections on the 5 hour trip to Rome

 It's Friday and we're on our way to Rome on a bus filled with 36 people. Watching the landscapes roll by surprisingly reminds me of home in the Spring.  It's green, and expansive. There are agricultural fields, vineyards, and olive groves perched on the hillsides.  Impressive "villas" abound, which is something I would typically associate with wine tasting at home, but I'm pretty sure are mostly private residences and have been for years.  One thing in particular keeps smacking me in the face on this trip though and it's something I never want to forget- I won't be young, agile, and healthy forever. Having not only the fitness and youth to explore and experience the world, but the ability to do so at 24 feels like a cosmic collision of unwarranted luck. 

 I have a deep respect and appreciation for those on this trip that aren't in my position.  And there are many.  There are women along well past middle age that have packed bags of bricks. But they trudge up and down the staircases, hop on the trains, and climb the endless hills to our hotels.  Yes, there is complaining, but they're here and they're doing it. They've raised families, had careers, and now are retired or using their vacation time to explore and expand their love of photography.  I respect the pursuit of learning in all of them.  But they're experience here is drastically different than mine.  I hiked up, alone, to an incredible vantage point yesterday that I was only able to reach because of my health and fitness level (which, for 24 years old, isn't remarkable by any means).  I climbed the church stairs in Florence and walked back from the city overlook through the narrow streets to our hotel, experiencing a different city at night. I explored all of Volterra on foot that I could, and saw a different city than those who were restricted by the lack of taxis or transportstion options in an ancient, walled, fortrace-like city.
All of this is owing to my ability to do this trip in my healthful and youthful state.  So thank you, family and friends, for supporting me along the way and making this trip possible. I feel incredibly blessed.

Jump forward three days ( it's Monday morning) and I am now sitting in our hotel room in Rome.  I should probably call it my hotel room, seeing as my roommate of two weeks is now on her way, along with the rest of the McKay group, to Sorrento. Waking up this morning has a different feel, for sure.  It is the start of my solo trip, and as cliche and probably trite as it sounds, I am filled with a mix of excitement, anxiety, and a little bit of what I think is a healthy fear.  I've heard so much about Naples in the last two weeks.  As soon as someone finds out that's where I'm headed, I get responses of either "Oh, you'll love it," or "Hold tight to your purse."  I've booked the best and safest hostel, Mom, so I feel good about the trip.  I'll be heading down to the train in a few hours, and then into Naples for at least two nights.  I hope to visit Pompeii, Sorrento and Capri in my 5 day solo sojourn.  I'll be sure to write about my time in Rome very soon!

Here's me writing from bed this morning! :)

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Camogli and Cinque Terre

The last two days have been simply amazing.  I have heard about the Cinque Terre region for years, as it's one of Wes's favorite places. Not only did it live up to the hype, but yesterday and today have been my two of my favorite days on this grand adventure.  I guess that doesn't mean much in perspective though, as every day was been pretty mind blowing. Each city offers something completely different.  Venice was about the canals, Galelio, gelato, and overcoming jet lag (fun fact- when Audrey Hepburn filmed a scene from one of her movies in Venice, she insisted on doing her own stunts.  In one scene, she falls into the canal.  Well, the canals are absolutely filthy with gas and debris and probably dead bodies. She suffered from eye infections ever since).  Florence was the cradle of the renaissance, so thoroughly infused with its history it's hard to separate out in my mind any other era, and was home to the most impressive architecture I've ever seen. Volterra was ancient, a fortress, and quirky?  I'm not even kidding when I say it was also haunted.  It was like stepping back into a time when vampires and warewolvs could have easily been real.  I don't know why I've mentally tied Volterra to those haunted images. It was gorgeous, but to each his own interpretation, and that was mine.  Maybe because it rained while we were there and I drank lots of red wine? 

Camogli is, again, totally different.  Stepping off our bus and down exactly 90 stairs to our hotel, I felt rejuvenated.  Maybe it's the ocean and the fact that our windows swing out over surf, maybe it's the tropical-like hills that surround us, or maybe it's the Art Deco style buildings (that we're obviously built way before Art Deco was a thing) but I LOVE it here. 

(Yep, a shameless selfie.  Had to rock my OARS hat for a photo op)

Yesterday we caught the train from Camogli to Cinque Terre.  Cinque Terre is a collection of five tiny costal towns all linked by a paved-though-precarious, cliff-clinging walkway (like the alliteration there, Dad?)  

This is the train station in Camogli- prettier than BART? I think so...

I got most of the Cinque Terre shots on my camera, so you'll have to wait for those (they're worth it. And I'm not even that good at photography).  But this is one of my favorites from my phone:

Photos don't do this place justice, not even minutely.  My one and only disappointment was we didn't see any cliff divers, which apparently this area is known for, according to my wonderful boyfriend, Jordan Baxter, and my imagination that it could totally be possible.

Colorful boats abound!

This morning I woke up super early and hiked up along the ridge line outside of Camogli.  I have been staring up there since we arrive, wondering if it was possible. It has to be a killer view from up there, right?! So I got up just after the sun (because I couldn't sleep, not because I was miraculously motivated), took a right outside our hotel, and mimed hiking uphill while pointing at the ridge to a poor chap just up and out getting a cappuccino. 

When I got to the top, there's a plaque that says it's over 900 stairs. I was surprised to find a bakery, bar, and church (heaven? Maybe so) at the top.  Oh, and then a road.  I could have driven up here? Well damn. Then I ate gelato. 


That little cove down there is Camogli.  It looks farther than I think it is- the hike took me about 2 hours to reach the top.  But with 900 vertical steps, it felt like I had climbed 20 miles.  So worth it, though- as are most things that difficult (I'm pretty sure my mom taught me that?) 

About 30 minutes after I got to the top, it started to rain and the skies progressively darkened. As tempting as it was to watch the rain fall and eat some more gelato, I quickly decided to make my way back down.  As chance plays it's usual game, the skies cleared as I reached the bottom and it turned into a beautiful day.  But you couldn't pay me to climb back up, unless maybe on the back of a donkey or the sculpted back of David that all the vendors in this country sell in their shops. But, as no donkey or David materialized, I headed back into town to seek out an espresso. It is now looking like it's going to start raining again, and I'm relaxing in our gloriously white and coastal themed room.  Okay, I'm resting because the hike wore me out. 


Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Week one has come it a close!

Hello my beloved family and friends!  I can't believe week one is already over and I'm into week two of my adventure across the pond. I promised I'd keep a blog and let you know what I'm up to, and I've seriously slacked!  

So, there's no time like the present to begin :) lets just get the elephant kicked out of the room right off the bat- I don't expect you to actually read this, and will not be offended if you do not.  I'm going to try and keep a steady record of all the fascinating little details of my trip, but I do realize you're all busy  and what may be riveting to me (Tuscan medieval history, anyone?) is likely not so spellbinding to you.  So if you're interested, here you can find me. And if not, I'll be shoving photos in your face when I'm back, anyways.  Kidding...kind of.  Okay, formalities out of the way... I am currently writing you from Camogli, which is in the Genoa region of the Italian Riviera.

It's so refreshing here after the hustle of Florence and Venice, and even the quieter but more isolated streets of Volterra. The air is light and the water is warm, despite what the clouds may be devising (yep, first thing I did was put on my suit and get dominated by the waves of the Mediterranean!  They're ruthless, no joke)  Camogli is a slow paced, sleepy fishing town an hour north (by an even slower and sleepier train) of Cinque Terre.  I'm in love. Speaking of love, the food! Oh my, do I look forward to meals...although I've kind of always been that way, but now it's vino and pasta instead of chicken strips and ketchubbq (my childhood dipping sauce of choice).  Camogli is perfect.(I've shared my iPhone photos below, but y'all will have to wait for the camera goods till I'm back!)

And yes, I've definitely thought of being a pirate and stealing one of these charming little boats. It'd only take it for a spin!

The previous two nights we spent in Volterra, which is located in Tuscany.  Volterra was interesting and beautiful.  It's a walled city with architecture and human history dating back 3,000 years (that's before Jesus turned water into wine, for those who do math like me). The antiquity here is just mind blowing.  Everywhere you go in Volterra, you're treading on ancient cobblestone and gazing at fortress-like walls that have seen more of the world unfold than I can possibly fathom. It's a trip.  It's also haunted, I'm sure. No way it can't be, looking how it does and with that long of a history.  Yep, there were defiantly ghosts there.

Oh, and some pretty neat Roman ruins.

Speaking of haunted and creepy (although absolutely beautiful and amazing), Florence and Volterra are ancient enemy states and have hated one another since way before the Montagues and Capultes were little brain waves floating around in Shakespeare's head.  And Florence obviously had the muscle to dominate Volterra, despite the mammoth wall surrounding the entirety of the city. (That was my awkward segway into Florence, if you're wondering).  Check out the Duomo.

Or perhaps the Midci's castle in the middle of town (personally, I think they're vampires.  Look up their family history if you want to know why. They've been around FOREVER. And their house looks like a lair, for sure. It's the dark castle topping tower to the left)

AND they're have these terrifying (okay, or incredibly impressive and beautiful) statues guarding their door)

Or maybe the statue of David suites you better (lookin at you, Grandma ;)

Either way, we're now talking Florence.  The renaissance began in Florence, and was the birth place for all important art ever created- or so the Florentines will tell you.  But really, to be walking in the steps of Michealangelo, Voltaire, Da Vinci, Boticelli, to name drop a few, makes one truly wonder about their own potential- Michelangelo sculpted David when he was my age. No lie.

It's mind boggling all the greats that are from Italy (cough surname Sozzi cough). Really though, even in Venice we got to gaze up at the tower where Galileo studied the heavens. Pretty spectacular to say the least. (This is next to the tower, but my phone photo of he tower didn't turn out, so this is what you get :)

Venice was rad. I had my own apartment the first night, and we explored the islands around Venice

The Rialto bridge

And St Marks Square (Galileo's hood)

It was awesome.  Okay, this has gotten ridiculously long.  But I will leave you with one story.  I've only had one incident happen, and it was pretty surreal.  Nick and I, along with David and Allie McKay (married couple and owners of the photography academy Nick works for), and two more employees, Adam and Zachary, were walking along the Arno water front in Venice and we're looking at then Ponte Veccio (spell check?? I'm too tired) bridge when out of nowhere, I hear David yell Nick's name and then hurl himself, fist in the air, at a guy.  Well, David had watched as this guy walked up to Nick and I, casually acted like he was looking at the bridge, and went to stick his hand in my purse.  Luckily, I like to consider myself fairly intelligent, and I had everything zipped up with my hand on the zipper and he didn't get anything. Well, from me anyways. I was his second target, but fortunately he failed with his first as well, an older gal in our group.  Anyways David made contact, but the guy took off running regardless. David, thinking he had gotten into my purse, took off after him, and hot on this trail where then Nick, Adam, and Zachary. They didn't find the guy, but it was incredibly entertaining to watch.  Alls we'll that ends well, but we all learned a lot and are keeping our wits about us, and our spider sense on alert at all times.

Love you all!

About Me

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I grew up in the foothills of the Sierra Nevadas, ventured south along the California coast for a while, sailed through San Francisco Bay, and have landed back on the Central Coast.  This time I'm a little closer to our rivers and our summits, and a little farther from where I started.