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Tales from the Scrapbook! This journal is mainly to post some photos of my travels.

Florence, Cinque Terre, Torino and Nice

ITALY | Wednesday, 12 November 2008 | Views [582]

Having wrapped up work for 2008 it was time to celebrate with a trip to Italy and France. I'd had quite a busy period leading up to the trip, so I decided that the best way to go would be to wing everything so that I could keep the trip pretty flexible (this basically meant that I hadn't organised anything!!).

I'd booked my tickets through Ryanair which meant another trip out to the hallowed ground at Stansted - one of my resolutions for 2009 will be to avoid this airport at all costs! Anyway, after a pretty uneventful plane trip I landed in Pisa at around 11.30pm. With no firm plan in place regarding accommodation I decided to head to Florence because I could jump on a Terravision bus which would at least give me an hour to think about where I could stay. I rocked in to Florence at almost 1am and treated myself to a night tour of the city (read trying to find accommodation!) - it's quite a different place when the streets are deserted! A couple of places that had been recommended to me had locked their gates for the night but I managed to stumble across plus florence, an upmarket hostel which turned out to be great (it had a massive pool and sauna and a decent bar).

The next day I covered plenty of distance on foot checking out the famous Ponte Cecce?, the markets, Tivoli Gardens and charging up the Dom. I'd been to Florence once before but couldn't remember a great deal about it so it was good to explore again. The weather was really good and I got through a gelati or two during the stay. Found a couple of quality bakeries too which was ideal.

From here I got on a bus and headed up to Lucca which I really rated. The place was pretty tiny with narrow cobblestone paths criss-crossing the medieval town. Hired a bike for the afternoon and cruised around the edge of the town before finding some really good bites to eat. That's the great thing about Italy - eating the food is always good! The hostel I was staying used to be a convent or something and was deathly silent - that was until a hoarde of American backpackers rocked up - I think they were part of a Cult or something so I gave them wide berth!

From Lucca I got a train via Pisa to the Cinque Terre. This had been a highlight of my last trip to Europe and I decided that another night here wouldn't go astray. Nailed a decent accommodation spot in Riomaggiore and then jumped on a train down to Vernazza to grab some gelati from a store that I could remember really clearly from 2004. The same punters owned it (their son has set up a similar shop near the gold coast at kingscliff and they were loving it when I remembered that!). Kicked back in the sun, eating gelati on the cliffs looking out to sea for an hour or so which was great and then got on a train back to Corniglia, the third of the five towns on the Cinque Terre. Managed to find a couple of really good vantage points for the sunset and then headed back to Riomaggiore for dinner.

The next morning I found out that there was going to be a train strike throughout Italy on Monday so I realised that I needed to get a move on - after a quick look around Monterosso which I didn't rate that highly I was on my way to Torino - which was a four hour trip or so. The train was not as nice as those in other parts of Europe but at least it got there on time. It was a fair bit cooler in Torino than it had been on the Cinque Terre and I got some decent speed up walking to the hostel which was about 20 minutes from the train station. I was in a six bed dorm but was the only punter there for the night so that was good. Checked my email and then headed for a walk around the city which looked really cool because there was a festival of light on and there were all these creative-looking street lights around the place. There were quite a few punters around because it was a public holiday tomorrow - I asked at the Tourist Info shop what they thought I should do but it turns out just about everything was going to be closed because it was a Monday! This wasn't ideal because the train strike combined with the holiday meant that I'd just have to cruise the streets for the day!

Anyway, I got plenty of exercise the following day and saw most of the sights on offer - it was quite a nice city actually - although I'd expected it to have more of a snow sport feel to it given that it hosted the 2008 Olympics. The 2cent euro coin features Torino's tower on it, and it is also the home of the tic-tac!

From Torino I jumped on a train which took me to Nice in France - the trip took about five hours in total, requiring a change of train at the border of Italy and France. There was some really nice scenery during the trip (although I did nod off on a few occasions)! The area around the Nice train station wasn't that great - the first thing that struck me was the number of beggars around the streets. I found a hostel and then walked through the city and along the promenade. Nice is known as being a place for the rich punters and you could imagine in summer that it would be quite a snobbish destination. I got some good exercise and then had a look in a few of the shops around the town before grabbing some food from the supermarket to have for dinner.

The next couple of days I spent looking around the places near Nice such as Monte Carlo (mainly to see where the Grand Prix track went), Cannes (a fairly long bus ride to and fro there but good to have a look at even if I didn't rate it that highly), and Dignes les Baines (a small town in the French Alps that involved a nice scenic ride on a railway even though the end destination was a bit of a let-down because it was totally dead!).

I grabbed a flight from Nice back to London on easyjet which took off about an hour late but at least it had me back in time for the Australia v England Rugby Union match the next day. The past nine days had flown but it had been a decent getaway and I felt like I got to see quite a bit during the time.

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