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!