Monday, November 12, 2012

Midterm Break Part One: The Five Lands

Colorful Manarola
I was certainly hesitant to leave this amazing city to travel for midterm break, and I would have never felt that way if I knew what I had in store for me in Italy and Switzerland. I decided to do things a bit differently with this series of posts by adding in my favorite meal from each city because in all seriousness, that’s the most important part of Italy (and Switzerland, believe it or not)! We flew into Pisa, and took trains throughout both countries, landing at Zurich airport to return to London. Traveling was not difficult, and we booked trains as we went along so we could move at our own pace without being either rushed or forced to wait around. Although I love to plan ahead, it was a relief to not have to adhere to any time constraints so we could spend as much or as little time in each location as we wished. 

Monterosso Coastline
The week began in Cinque Terre, a series of small coastal towns in the Italian Riviera. I really had no expectations, as I had actually never heard of the area until I arrived in London, so I was open to whatever it had to offer. We arrived late at night, and were greeted with not only a storm, but with a long trek in search of our small hostel through the narrow streets of the sleeping town of Manarola. We finally finding a place to lay our heads, and the next morning we saw that the coast of Manarola was absolutely stunning. A storm came through, stirring the water up onto the rocks and creating a movie-like scene. 

St. Frances of Assissi-I love the colors in this picture!
Unfortunately, the storm came close to the anniversary of the landslide that caused an extraordinary amount of damage to the area last year, and many of the hiking trails meant for tourists were shut down as a result. However, we made our way to another town in Cinque Terre, Monterosso, which provided us with an abbreviated trail up a mountain. We landed at a hilltop cemetery, which might have creeped others out, but it had a quiet serenity that gave it peace and beauty. The sights were magnificent, as it was quite easy to see each of the towns in Cinque Terre looking over the coast and out to the horizon of the Mediterranean Sea. The view was indescribable, and watching the waves crash onto shore (and even over our train!) was breathtaking. 

Vernazza Sunset-so breathtaking
We also went to a third town of Cinque Terre, Vernazza, which hosted less than 1,000 residents and seemed to only contain one street. That street, however, was flooded from the storm, as there was only a slight barrier between the waterline and the shops and walkways that made up the small village. I loved being in Cinque Terre despite the rain, and I truly believe it is an underrated gem of Italy. 

Favorite Meal: Perfectly cooked gnocchi that would’ve made Grandma proud with a light coating of the most amazing basil pesto I have ever tasted, and a light, fresh mixed seafood salad of calamari, shrimp, clams and mussels with just a bit of oil and lemon. 

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