Ah, how to describe the loveliness of today! I am the first to admit that I do not have a lot of experience traveling despite my seemingly ingrained love of it. There are a lot of things that I’ve never had the chance to do, but this trip seems hell bent on changing all of that. Before this trip I’d never been to Europe, been on a proper mountain side or ridden a cross country train. I’ve checked many a triumph off of my bucket list in the last 6 days. Today was no exception.
We were fortunate enough to have an AMAZING guide named Luca that I really just cannot rave enough about. It’s so great to meet people that are so excited to share the wealth and knowledge of their country as it is such a rare treat. He was great and extremely passionate about educating us on all of the great things that Tuscany has to offer. We basically chatted with him the entire time while he told us about Cinque Terre or “Five Earths”, which are five small islands known for their terraces on which they grown grapes, lemons and olives, as well as their brightly colored houses and delicious native wines.
It genuinely looked like something out of a picture book and if I could have had my say in where we stayed during our trip it would have been here. There were tourists but the town itself was sleepy and relaxed. They weren’t too bothered by the droves of people and they didn’t cater to them in the same ways that you see the bigger cities do. It was among the first places that we’ve visited that really “felt” like Italy. When you think of easygoing relaxed and colorful Italians yelling at each other off balconies you don’t find that in Rome but you do find it here.
We sampled the local food, which was amazing and of course specialized in seafood as they were right on the coast. Afterwards we took a quick walk along the coast before piling into the car and visiting all of the other road accessible islands, as many were not. Luca told us about how many of the terraces had actually gone to nature as many of the younger people didn’t want to stay and do the hard work required to maintain them and so there had been an increase in landslides because there was less of the structure that farmers normally provide. Occasionally they will have enough rocks that fall down onto the roads that a city can be totally cut off from the outside world for as long as a week, if not longer.
On our way back to Florence we stopped in a town called Lucca, which I’m beginning to realize is an incredibly common name here in Italy, like John. It, much like Cinque Terra, is on my new list of favorite places and you really get a feel for the wine country there. It’s also a place that I would love to stay as an alternative to the bigger cities but there is a lot less to do and see there. It does, however, also possess that “Italia” feel that you see in books and movies and seems almost untouched by conglomerate influence. All the while having just the right amount of shopping and food.
Now I know that should I ever be lucky enough to come back to Italy I will stay in Lucca, with its quiet atmosphere and ancient walls, and make several day trips to Cinque Terre whenever I’m feeling like a plate of fish and a swim. Maybe next time I’m in the wine country of Italy I will actually have time to visit a winery, as that does not seem to be in the cards for this trip. That being said I don’t feel like I’ve missed a thing after all of the incredible things I got to see today.
Lots of Love,