Italy Part III :: Cinque Terre, Pisa and Florence

This is what you’ll see when you step out of the train station in Monterosso al Mare. Monterosso is one of the five villages of Cinque Terre, all of them a part of Cinque Terre National Park, a UNESCO World Heritage site. The Mediterranean Sea is the most beautiful body of water I’ve ever seen. I didn’t saturate the photos below — they’re pretty much straight out of the camera.

The village itself is a quick walk past all of the above and then through this tunnel.

Monica Pesoli — Italian travel planner extraordinaire — recommended we stay at Manuel’s Guesthouse B&B and it was spectacular. We were instructed to call when we arrived so Lorenzo could carry our bags up. I thought, “No big deal. We can carry our own bags.” But then I saw the climb — five or six flights of stairs straight up. This guy was a machine. He threw our bags on his shoulders and we had a hard time keeping up with him on the way up. We definitely got our exercise coming and going, but what a gorgeous seascape. Rooms were great; this was the view from our patio. They served wine and snacks on the terrace and the owner served us breakfast each day. His specialty was smoothies with fresh fruit.

I’ve said this in the other two Italy posts, but we covered a LOT of ground in eight days. We only stayed here for two days and it wasn’t near enough time to explore. Still we took the train between towns and enjoyed the sights as we buzzed by them. We were here in October and it was still very warm and filled with tourists. Can’t even imagine how crowded it is in the summer.

Of course I had to try and grab one of the iconic shots of the villages. It wasn’t the right time of day but it was what it was.

Happy was frustrated that we never got to swim — not enough time there. But we’ll be back. At least he got his feet in the sea.

After Cinque Terre we were headed to Florence to visit the Accademia and the Uffizi. (Pro tip: don’t fly into Florence on a Sunday — both museums are closed on Monday so we decided to head up to Collalto, over to Venice and Verona, down to Cinque Terre and then back to Florence for the gallery visits.) The last BIG question when planning this trip was, “To Pisa, or not to Pisa.” We decided why the heck not. Our train was going through Pisa so we may as well get off, breeze through and have lunch there.

I love the worn dips in the steps. And yes, you can tell it leans as you climb to the top!

We ducked into the Pisa Cathedral (Duomo) for a few minutes and like most churches in Europe, it did not disappoint.

Yes. Scores and scores of people were trying to get this shot.

Unfortunately, Florence got the short end of the stick on my Europe trip. We breezed through when we landed (spent one night) and then spent two more nights after Pisa. This was the end of a three week trip through four countries and I was extremely tired. I absolutely loved Florence and will definitely go back. The Accademia was amazing and it was so surreal to stand in front of the David. But equally as mesmerizing for me were the unfinished sculptures of Michelangelo. It appears that the figures are fighting their way out of the stone. This is such a profound concept for anyone who does creative work: making something out of nothing. There is a mind-boggling surplus of gorgeous sculpture at the Accademia Gallery. It felt a little to me like when I visited Acadia National Park during peak foliage season. So. Much. Beauty. You can hardly take it all in.

These last few photos require that I admit something I’m not very proud of. By the time we got to the Uffizi, I was over it. I literally could not take in any more beauty. My feet felt as though they’d been shredded by razors and I was hungry and profoundly tired. I walked through several of the galleries but after awhile I told Happy I’d meet him back at our flat.

Left: Statues. Right: street performer. When I dropped a Euro in his box he came alive and beckoned me over. it was a very intimate—and a little bit uncomfortable. He stared me in the eye and beckoned for my hand. When I extended it he held it and offered a profound thank you with his eyes.

And finally, here is the famous Duomo in Florence. I was panicked at the thought of visiting Florence and not going inside. Like, who does that, especially when they’re a photographer?!?

That would be me. We just couldn’t make it happen because there wasn’t enough time.

This trip — our first to Italy — we decided to do a whirlwind tour of some of our bucket list places and we enjoyed every minute of it. But next time we go we’ll be spending at least two weeks in the country and won’t try and see as much. Places I’ll definitely go back to: Collalto. Verona. Cinque Terre. Florence. And then of course there’s Rome.