Day 8 & 9: Paradise… Positano

Since yesterday and the day before were both spent in paradise… Positano rather, I’m combining both days into one post (and so I can catch up). We traveled into Salerno from Rome via trenitalia and found ourselves in a beautiful seaside village at the base of the Amalfi Coast. We were able to locate a small ferry that was traveling in our direction and hopped on at around 2PM. 70 minutes later… Positano… and we felt like our vacation was just beginning. Rather than blah-blah, I’ll just let the pictures do the talking.

Included are photos of the ferry ride into Positano, the village itself, and the port at Salerno. Just fantastic.20130615-051817.jpg20130615-051823.jpg20130615-051829.jpg

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Day 7: The Great Rome

Enter Thousand Sunny. Of all the places you could imagine going in Rome, Italy, ”Thousand Sunny” probably wouldn’t be the first place you’d book. We, however, are budget conscious travelers so Thousand Sunny it was for two nights… AKA a bunkbed in the home of Maurizio, Marina and Zoro.

When we got to Rome, we knew right away that we were out of place. Sarah and I had enjoyed the sprawling small-town feel of Florence way too much to have any type of high expectations after exiting Roma Termini and seeing what could have been Rochester, Buffalo, or Syracuse with Italian street signs. What we saw of Rome, which although was only a day, felt way too modern to possibly be the land of Julius Caesar, or the mighty Empire. In fact, Rome looked like a caged animal… A lion behind bars opening and closing his lifeless eyes between naps. Surrounding ”old Rome” was, first, a 10-foot-tall pointed fence, followed by modern architecture, TV screens and outrageous street performers/vendors. Without buying any type of ticket you were allowed to enter the gates to inspect that rubble that used to be. The once-mighty Coliseum especially tore my heart out. Since I was a kid and first learned of what the Coliseum stood for I had wanted to visit Rome. Dried blood in the sand, the bodies of fallen gladiators buried beneath the grounds, and the dark cages where wardens kept there tigers before they were released to the excitement of thousands of Roman citizens… just an outstanding concept for my little boy mind. I guess I was just expecting grandeur, something more raw, something not bastardized by the chatter of coin machines, jumbotron screens, and other modern (in)conveniences.

Ultimately though, it was the Coliseum and it was awesome to be there.

Back to Maurizio and Zoro. I could be pretty lengthy here, but I’ll keep it brief. Thousand Sunny is a room in Maurizio’s flat in Rome. He and his fiancé Marina (and pitbull pup Zoro) live in a 3 bedroom flat right outside of the Battistini metro stop in Rome. They rent out two of the rooms to visitors and share pretty much the whole apartment. It’s a braver life-style than I’m willing to live, constantly having people in my home, rummaging through my kitchen. No thanks. But Maurizio, a Sicilian-born comedian/performer living in Rome, was the perfect host. He would try his hardest to converse with us, though most of our conversation turned into jokes and laughing at each other for random cultural differences… and the fact the his English was the worst of any hosts we had stayed with thus far. Maurizio had named his hostel Thousand Sunny after an anime magazine that he reads… that might give you a better idea of the type of guy we were dealing with. Two noisy Chinese roommates later (and one really cool housemate from Quebec City) and here we sit… On an open terrace, overlooking the Tyrrhenian Sea in Positano. Oh yeah, we left Rome around 9:30 this morning and arrived in Positano at 4. Ahh, but that’s a post for a different day… tomorrow

Photos include a crazy cool street act (one monk holding up another one with one hand), the coliseum, and us with zoro (sorry coast)!!!!!

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Day 5: Firenze… Quietly and Slowly

“Work is a blessing. God has so arranged the world that work is necessary, and He gives us hands and strength to do it. The enjoyment of leisure would be nothing if we had only leisure. It is the joy of work well done that enables us to enjoy rest, just as it is the experiences of hunger and thirst that make food and drink such pleasures.”

-Elisabeth Elliot

Couldn’t have said it better myself Lizzy. It’s easy to be thankful for gelato, fresh formaggio, or good wine. When was the last time we thought to ourselves however, “I’m so thankful to wake up in the morning to go to work”. I thought about this a bit yesterday as Sarah and I finally enjoyed a down day; one of those where you sleep without setting an alarm, meander without checking a map, and make plans without already having plans… get it? Of course we’d rather be here, on vacation in Europe, but I value the opportunity I have to work, be productive, enjoy my job, and take time away. Elisabeth mentions rest and leisure above, but if she needed one word to outline the point she’s trying to make, I’d bet it starts with “B” and ends with “alance”. Wanna bet…? Liz and I talked, I know, she told me.

Sarah and I were able to enjoy the Florentine market yesterday which consists of 7-8 streets, maybe 100 meters in length, lined with carts and stands dedicated to local goods. We were hoping to run into more of a fruit and veggie scene at some point, but the vendors seemed content to dabble in, mainly, soft leather purses and coats, gorgeous hand-painted ceramics, and fashonista shoes of course. Something I certainly did not expect seeing in Italy though was the huge population of  Moroccan, Indian and Pakistani people. They spend most of their time walking around with cheaper knock-off goods: umbrellas, sunglasses, etc. Many restaurants here even allow them to walk around the outdoor seating areas trying to sell customers roses and chocolates… Okay I guess for now, but very glad I won’t have to put up with that back in The States. In my experience they’ve been pushy, borderline rude, and impersonal. If you’re really going to try to sell me something, at least be able to talk to me… The two men we ran into the other night at dinner (one who sold us a perfectly acceptable umbrella for 2.5 euro and the other, who nearly stole 1 euro and gave me a dilapidated rose in return) could say hardly anything outside of “hey baby” and “nice price, nice price”.

 

Anyways… the quantity is limited regarding pictures from our quiet Monday in Florence, quality is excellent. I thought il duomo in Milan was astounding. Il duomo in Firenze is simply captivating. You actually stop walking when you see it for the first time, not wanting to move and risk missing a detail that your brain hasn’t absorbed yet. Architecturally not even on the same page as the goth-influenced duomo in Milano, but beautiful in its own regard.

…also a quick shot of two Italian men singing to Sarah at dinner last night 🙂

 

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Day 4: Liguria (Cinque Terre)

Well we missed breakfast, so that was a bummer. As promised, however, a more complete recap of yesterday’s events…

Cinque Terre (Five Lands) is not to be missed, period. The coastal villages in the Liguria region of Italy are some of the most beautiful places I’ve ever seen. We’re talking about towns of as few as 250 inhabitants, making Arkport, NY seem like a booming metropolis. These are the types of small, Mediterranean towns you see represented in the movies and TV shows: Milk carts making deliveries in the morning and bread makers running (literally) across town with hot bread and pastries wrapped in towels. It’s a simpler way of life, something I think… I know, that we take for granted living in such a “now, now, now” country back at home.

We started our day as Sarah and I usually do, perfectly on-time until we actually got to the site where the bus was supposed to pick us up for the tour/trek. We were lucky enough to book a hostel less than 1Km from the Stazione Garibaldi in Firenze, so our walk to catch any of the main buses, taxis, trains in or out of Florence is literally 5 minutes, 10 if we stop at any one of the million gelaterie in the surrounding piazze. Though we got to the station 20 minutes early, it took us about 19 1/2 minutes to actually find the tour company that would be showing us the region throughout the day (and by find I actually mean running laps around the station and stumbling across our guide and his bus by dumb luck). We ended up being, in prime Fiannaca fashion, the last couple on the bus, and, in prime Peter-specific fashion, I was pissed that we almost missed the tour that we spent 200 bucks on.

It took me a few minutes to catch my breath, but eventually turned to my unnaturally positive life-partner and said, “this had better be the trip of a lifetime”. Let’s just say that what we were able to experience in the Cinque Terre was nothing short of Sarah waving her magic wand to make my wish come true.

Then, immediately, Freddie happened. For the purposes of this memoir let’s just say that Freddie is a descriptor for what happens to somebody when they want to get off the grid. Freddie was our guide for the day, a French-born American citizen who grew up in Philly and had been living in Italy for the past decade: A guy who did the finance thing, the successful American Dream thing, the 9-5, suits and ties thing. He was “that” guy, who had everything except freedom; a freedom that he found (making much less money and giving up the traditional American comforts) in Liguria showing people the Cinque Terre 4 days every week and watching as facial expressions morph in unison at each new view of the sea, the coast, and the mountain-side villages. If he ever stumbles across this blog I would want to him to know that he has touched my life in a positive way. Sometimes that’s the best gift we can offer each other; positivity, perspective even. His freshness was in perfect harmony with the steaming bread I had seen earlier in the day and the milk that had obviously been gathered earlier in the morning. The theme of the day would present itself in new, exciting, ways over and over again.

The trail was wet. It rained all day, thank God. Had it been a traditional coastal day, 85 and sunny, the trek would’ve been exponentially more difficult. The bus leaving Florence took about two hours to arrive in La Spezia. Then, via a combination of trains, boats and 30-60 minute hikes along the steep grade of the hills, we would find Riomaggiore, Manarola, Monterosso, Vernazza, and Corniglia (3 of which are illustrated in the included pictures). Lunch was perfectly timed in more than one way. Not only did the octopus, sardine, crab, and potato antipasti and il piatto primo (fresh spaghetti con pesto) perfectly quench our need for fuel, but Sarah and I were blessed enough to find some pretty awesome company during our meal. We were introduced to Bernard and Ela, a young couple from Jersey and I was (happily) reminded after spending the rest of the day as a foursome instead of a twosome that nothing happens by accident. Friends find their way into your life via routes that you sometimes expect the least. It’s refreshing… go figure.

Pictures below include 3 of the 5 terre that we visited, train tracks cutting through the mountain side, Sarah and I at the port in Vernazza, and the only pair of shoes I brought on our 3-week journey waiting patiently, peacefully, in the train tunnel of Monterosso.

Florence again today (6/10) and leaving for Rome tomorrow night.

Much love to everyone keeping in touch with us while we’re here. Especially Mom and Dad Thompson for watching Coast. Miss that stupid dog…

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Can’t Wait!

Well it’s official. Rather, it’s been official for a few months now, but we are off to Europe in exactly 3 weeks. Hostels are booked, trains are scheduled, and activities have been planned! Now begins the awful 21 day countdown until we leave; the slow, seemingly never-ending countdown.

Because I’ve seen “127 Hours” and “Taken” (not Taken 2… I have standards), I’ve decided to leave a rough itinerary below. In the event that one, or both, of us is captured into a human trafficking ring, or falls down a cliff in the hills of Positano, you’ll at least know where we’ve been and where we’re going.

…Geneva, NY 6/4

…NYC 6/5

…Dublin 6/6

…Milan and Bergamo 6/7

…Florence and Tuscany 6/8, 6/9, 6/10

…Rome 6/11, 6/12

…Pescara 6/13

…Positano 6/14, 6/15

…Realmonte 6/16 – 6/23

…Dublin 6/24

…NYC 6/25

…Geneva, NY 6/26

CANTWAIT