Cinque Terre & A Small Piece of Pisa

After spending the day in Monaco, I got myself over to the city of Genoa to stay for that night.  This hostel too gave off a very hospital-like vibe but at least the people in it were a bit more interesting.  I met a couple of Swedish who were really cool.  We got on well enough and one extended an invite to visit him at his home.  We shall see.  One of the other conversations that I really enjoyed came about when I questioned why a guy had so much change.  Turns out he was a street performer and had been on the road for four years all over Europe, with no plans to stop.  Talk about differing walks of life…

I started just a night in Genoa and did nothing, I had places to go and things to see.  I took a detour to go to the beach with the Swedish guys.  I didn’t want to swim so I just chatted a bit, but the place was a zoo on account of the religious holiday.  People in Italy are very Catholic, if you can believe that.

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I soon parted ways with my cohorts and took off on the train further east towards Pisa.  Along the way, one of the stops I wanted to make was at The Cinque Terra national park.  This area contains five small towns all located on the Mediterranean cliffs, each with pastel houses piled on top of each other.  I had seen pictures but needed to check it out for myself.  I arrived at Riomaggiore, one of the five towns and then set off on a walk.  There was the very touristy Via Colombo, but once I ascended past the shops to where the locality actually lived, it was much more fulfilling.

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Along the way I stumbled across some blackberry bushes, compliments of nature.  I spent some time foraging to supplement my meager rations and came away with about two sweet, delicious handfuls.

I continued along the Tuscan roads, up and down along the grade and past terraced gardens.  With a perfect view out over the Mediterranean, it was a great stroll.  I worked my way in a large loop back towards the station and continued on to that night’s destination, Pisa.

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I checked into my hostel and set out for some groceries.  Most of my eating comes from the supermarket to keep costs down and on this finest of evenings I thought that I would get creative for dinner.  I walked out with some tortilla shells, a blob of authentic Italian cheese, and bologna.  The plan was to melt the cheese over the meat and roll it all up for consumption.  The resulting mixture of flavors was so repulsive that I had abandon my creation completely and accept the ravioli charity of the other bachelors.  That evening we got some cheap yet delicious wine and had a great time taking with some of the other hostel folks.  There were a couple from Colombia that spoke almost no English, so I used the chance to prep for my time in South America.  This is what proper mozzarella looks like by the way, it come in a liquid filled pouch.

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The next morning I had dedicated about four hours to sightseeing in this city.  While the tourism website insists that there are all sorts of things to do, the reality is that that is a farce.  I did walk around a bit the first night, but I didn’t do any of the tourism.  This time however, I walked over towards the main plaza where everything is located.  I crossed a bridge with a decent view of some Italian architecture.

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After tracing the ancient walls of the city, I arrived at the Piazza del Miracoli and there before me was the Leaning Tower of Pisa.  Somehow seeing this tilted structure, one that I had seen so many times before in pictures, evoked laughter from me.  Just, there it was!  Everyone was posing such that they appeared to be either pushing it over or holding it in their hands.  I had to laugh at how everyone felt this shot necessary.  I wasn’t about to bring myself down to that level of tourist, so I just took a selfie and moved on.

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The tower is actually only a bell tower for the adjacent cathedral, so I ponied up 7 euro to investigate the area further.  The first stop was the baptistry, a separate building used to – you guessed it – baptise people.  Inside was a large dome that echoed every sound made.  These acoustics were quite incredible.  We could climb up to the second floor of it as well, which offered a nice perspective of the pool.

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The next stop was the large cathedral.  The height of the ceilings and black & white marble decor was impressive, so for a while I just enjoyed standing in there.  Given that this thing had been built nearly 1000 years prior, I was very impressed. I expect that my interest in these churches will plummet throughout my trip and especially after seeing St. Peter’s, but for now interest and awe remains high.

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My third and final stop in Pisa was the camposanto located nearby.  This long building was a graveyard where the bodies of important people were placed in stone sarcophaguses under the floor.  I had never seen something like this before, and it was pretty cool.

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This was however the end of my time in Pisa, so I collected my things from the hostel and moved on to Florence.

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