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World Trip 2011

Florence, Rome & Cinque Terre, Italy.

ITALY | Wednesday, 2 May 2012 | Views [693]

We started our south bound journey to Italy from Moutiers train station where the TGV fast train picked us up at a much slower pace than its 300km an hour capacity. Our first stop was Milan before whizzing through the rolling Tuscan countryside and Apennine Mountains before arriving in the beautiful city of Florence. The hostel that we chose was fairly close to the train station so although we needed eyes in the back of our heads to lookout for pick pockets, we didn’t get lost and we found it easily. Steeped in history, Florence’s religious buildings are both vast and spectacular, and although not being the religious types, it is easy to be in awe by its architectural, engineering and artistic masterpieces. The Duomo is spectacular but the crowds swarm like busy bees around it. It’s ironic that I’m complaining about the same crowds that I am part of, but it does get a little intense. Some of the line ups for the museums are just crazy, and it was only April! However, there is lots to see without going into the museums. We checked out the beautiful church of Santa Maria Novella, Palazzo Vecchio as well as the Archaeological museum and a stroll through the bling corridor of Ponte Vecchio, where the bridge is lined with jewellery shops  There are loads of piazzas, palaces and statues designed by Michelangelo and his posse of renaissance gangsters that cost nothing. The Piazzale Michelangelo is one such place and sits above the city and provides great views of the Tuscan landscape.

Next stop was Rome. Another train and we were in Rome in about an hour and a half. Checked into another dorm room and set off to see the Colosseum. Pretty cool. The line up didn’t take long and it was a great experience to wander the ruins of a place that saw so much death, drama and excitement.  I couldn’t help but imagine Russell Crowe slaying his enemies as Maximus in Gladiator! It was good that we saw the Colosseum and the Roman Forum that afternoon because there is much to see and we needed all the time we could get. The next day we got a hop on/ hop off tour so that we didn’t have to walk as far. Our first stop was Basilica Di San Giovanni which was amazing. It’s a spectacular church with frescos adorning the ceiling and massive statues of religious figures. Then we made our way to St Peter’s Basilica and the Vatican. We thought the previous church was amazing. This was unbelievable. So opulent, so extravagant. People must really believe in their religion to construct places like this. As mentioned before, the crowds were off the Richter scale, but we braved the lines of the Vatican museum and the Sistine Chapel, checking out renaissance art by all the big names. The experience was like being a sheep following the flock down an unbelievably artistic corridor! So many people, and so much to see, too much really. We then jumped back on the bus to see the Pantheon, the Trevi Fountain, and a few others that I can’t remember.  That night we drank beers and talked about gladiators with some crew from Colorado, Italy and the Caribbean.

On our last day in Rome we took the Metro and local trains out to some ruins called Ostia Antica. It was a nice day out of the hustle and bustle of Rome but that’s not to say we had solitude as the usual stream of tourists were still present. The ruins gave me a good sense of the technology of ancient Rome and how modern they really were.

After a frantic departure from Rome due to a last minute station change, we were on our way to Cinque Terre. The train followed the coast all the way and it was a beautiful trip. A friend in the French Alps told us about this place and it was exactly what we wanted. We didn’t really want to go to another city, because they all start to look the same in Europe after a while. Cinque Terre is a group of 5 towns built into the cliffs and steep hillside on the Mediterranean coast. The weather was fine and sunny and we spent the first afternoon just wandering the coastal path from Riomaggiore to Manarola.  That night we dined on pasta, pizza and cheap wine (we’re backpackers!).  The next day we hiked the coastal trail all the way to the last town of Monterrosso. Due to recent landslides, it is impossible to walk all the way so we had to get the train past one section.  We got to  Monterrosso in about 5 hours and jumped in the chilly Mediterranean waters to cool off. We were in Cinque Terre for 3 nights and a total of 9 nights in Italy. Every single night we had someone in our dorm snoring their heads off. I think now when we travel we will be getting private rooms!

Now back to pick up our snowboards from the Alps, and then back London. Heading home.


Tags: churches, cinque terre, colosseum, duomo, florence, michelangelo, museums, piazza, rome, vatican

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