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.
“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.”
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 🙂
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…
So we finally made it. After leaving rochester at 5am on the steady yet volatile Amtrak , we were able to say that traveling had officially concluded roughly 24 hours after the fact (including the initial ride to LaGuardia, flights to Philly and Dublin, trains to Howth, and Killiney, and one long walk, uphill, to Dalkey).
I apologize in advance for the general craptitude of the included photos (and photos to come) as they will all be products of my iPhone cam.
Photos tonight include views from Killiney Hill, and a wonderful invention of the Irish!
Truth be told, I haven’t really decided yet how I want to record this experience over the next 20 days. Some updates might be directed more for family and friends and some simply for myself and my awful memory. I guess I just hope to mark my journey so that I remember the best of it for years to come.
Leaving Dublin tomorrow (Friday) at 6pm for arrival in Milan at 10pm.
Today’s takeaway: Don’t forget that kindness and patience are two of the greater gifts you can give to a stranger. We were so blessed today to be treated to the kind character of the Irish. On 3 separate ocassions someone went out of their way to make our day. Thank you to the man at the shoe repair shop in Pearse train station for ignoring customers while explaining to us detail by detail how to get to Howth and Killiney (and why we should make it a priority). Thank you to the young lady on Dame St. that went out of her way to walk us to the nearest smoothie shop (maybe because she could see that we weren’t following her directions). Lastly, thanks to the kid cashiering in the corner store that cover 10 cents of my bottled water so I didn’t have to break a 10 euro.
Not because I asked, but just because.