Staggering out of our beds early Sunday morning, we made our way onto the bus headed for the Italian coast. Three hours later, including a stop at the rest area for some spremuta (fresh squeezed orange juice) and croissants, we arrived at the train station. Waiting for the train, we had a quick McDonald’s run (only restaurant in sight) where they serve Italian fast food. Isn’t that interesting? So I bought what I thought was pear yogurt with granola but it ended up being what I decided to call pear sauce! It’s the same thing as applesauce but made with pears! Quite exotic for McDonald’s! Oh, and I got another spremuta! I’m really not sure why these fast food places sell fresh squeezed orange juice (they make it right there in front of you!), but it’s delicious, so I might need to inform American McDonald’s and rest stops to update themselves to their Italian brothers’ menus!
After the food excursions, we experienced an Italian train ride. A good way to describe it is like an over-packed New York City subway, but above ground. The double-decker train was so packed that it was a struggle breathing, not to mention the fact that my train seat was a standing spot on a stair along with about five other people on the same step. I sure don’t think it would have passed fire code in the States! It’s so cool experiencing those little differences. Oh, and by the way, the public toilets aren’t really toilets but more like holes without toilet paper, so I really don’t recommend them! But from now on, I will never complain about American public toilets. They’re sparkling clean by comparison!
The hike at Cinque Terre was wonderful! It was a nice, long one (three hours) with good, solid inclines and declines up and down the rolling cliffs, which really test whether you’re in shape or not. Thankfully, without a sore muscle in my body, I know all the walking and tower climbing has kept my soccer muscles intact! Whew!
The whole Mediterranean atmosphere made me feel like I was in a movie… The path trailed around terraced vineyards and then opened up to breathtaking views of the aquamarine sea below. As we hiked, old Italians would sit in their villas and play Mediterranean tunes, which would waft their way into the mountains. We would take breaks at little huts to drink tangy lemonade made fresh with lemons picked that morning. On our way to Monterosso, one of the five villages of Cinque Terre, we’d dip down into the valleys where the houses were painted pink, orange, and yellow, and the aroma of fried fish carried through the allies. When we finally made it to the beach, I ripped off the clothes over my bathing suit and dove into the refreshing sea. My eyes stung with the salt of the Mediterranean Sea mixed with my sweat.
After a sun-warmed nap on the beach and a snack of fresh coconut, we had dinner in the town where pesto originated. Of course, I had to try it on gnocchi! It was perfect pesto – not too salty like most, but just right! I ended the day with yogurt gelato topped with lampone (raspberry) y ciocolatte sauce. It was truly paradise.
Learn more about our summer programs in Italy here