Italy April 2-10, 2008

From SFO to MXP (unofficially DAY 1)
From SFO–> 24 hours of no sleep, bouts of worry of "did I grab everything?" and I'm most worried about missing my connection and running out of money. Though, seeing Yoda would be awesome.
I can't believe I'm actually going. I've shown my passport, flipped casually through guidebooks and still, I'm not ready. And still it feels like I'm going on any other trip. I can't believe I'm going to Italy. I can't believe I'm going to spend over a week hanging out with family I'e never met and seeing sights I never (honestly) thought twice about seeing. I need sleep and a glimpse at how the trip will end up.
From PHL –> Gate A26. "Life without limitations" – a SkyMall product. So early. 30 minutes of glorious early arrival. It hit me today as I was just about to land into philly. In the 4.5 hours it took me to fly to philly from SF, I couldn't have even made it to LA (by car). For some reason that blew me away. I blame it on the choppy 1.5 hours of sleep I got on the plane. I'm sitting near my gate to Milan (both literally and figuratively). I sit at the food court. McDonald's vs. Le Bistro. In the international terminal, as an American I refuse to perpetuate the stereotype so I go w/a quiche from Le Bistro (with an orange for added emphasis).

My flight was delayed almost 2 hours due to plane issues, but we managed to be less than an hour late into MXP. Then of course, my luggage was one of the last pieces to arrive at the carousel but what are you going to do? I was exhausted, in dire need of a shower, and petrified that NO ONE was speaking English ( I don't know why I thought it would be different , I think it was the lack of sleep and not fully comprehending that I had in fact, arrived in Italy).

Officially DAY 1
I have officially arrived and I love it. My second cousins, great aunts, and relatives I don't even know how I'm related to are all amazing. This town where I am for Day 1 – Trecate- is amazing. I love this. Though it is difficult to break out of the gogogo way of living, to really slow down, I'm sure I could adjust given time. I am exhausted. 11 hours of sleep over the past 3 days (in total) is hurting more than helping (plus the whole jet lag business). My family here is SO SO sweet, I just want to take them back to the US to visit with the rest of the bunch. Milan was pushed back, but that's OK as I can hold off on buying souveniers until then. God Italy is amazing and all I've seen so far is Milpensa airport and Trecate. I'm so glad I did this. You know what is also amazing? Laying down. Because seriously, being stuffed like pork fat in a sausage skin in an airplane, exhausted and having to sleep sitting up is highly, highly overrated. Day 1, yay! Oh and check this. I've never had risotto, so they (my cousins) made a "special" reservation and requested risotto, just so I could try it. Seriously, this side of the family, FTW!!!

Still Day 1. I have to be up at 5:30 tomorrow morning to take the train with Aurora to Milan, then from there we take a 3 hour train ride to Florence. Risotto was awesome at dinner. Had the best foccacia in my life w/dinner. We went to this place in Novara called Pizzaria Trattorire. It looked like it was on a vineyard. They put french fries on top of the foccacia, which by the way – the fries were the best I've ever had. So far everything is better here, the sun, the cappuchinos, the foccacia, the people, the fries. Tutto! I grossly overestimated my comprehension of the Italian language, oh by about 65%. Evidently I'm more beginner than intermediate. Further proof that italy has a hold on me – in Italy I even found myself liking the new madonna single, which when I heard it with Jamie in the car, initially made me question her talent. Tomorrow is Firenze! I have a sneaking suspicion that if I were to ever find proof that God exists it would be in Florence. Ciao!

Trecate!

DAY 2
So I write this on the morning of day 3, as I was so completely exhausted by 9:30 last night I couldn't remember to write before passing out in the clothes I wore that day (I woke up around 10:30pm to change). Regardless, so onto the day! We woke up at 5:30 to catch the train in Novara y 7am. A super nice guy who looked about our age helped us with the luggage as we put it on the rack above us. The train ride was beautiful. It seemed like you could see the Swiss Alps forever. We got to Milan a little before or after 8am and the platform our Express train was boarding at was not posted yet, so we went and got cappuchinos. We walked outside of the station for a moment, and it looked like it was going to be a beautiful day. We walked around inside the station for a few moments before the platform was finally posted. We boarded the train, with another man assisting us with our luggage and we sat down ready to depart. The train left about 15-20 minutes late.

The ride was beautiful. The weather changed from sunny to overcast and back again. We had (or rather the train) one stop before Florence, Bologna. It was dreary as we stopped in Bologna but quickly went back to sunny a few stations later. We flew by the station of the town where my grandmother is from (Reggio Emilia) and by a little after noon we arrived in Florence. The hotel we are staying at is literally across the street from the train station. It looks like of sketch from the outside but the inside is very cute. We vegged out for about an hour before venturing out. I found out the euro had jumped to nearly $1.70USD. Anyway, so since Aurora and I are about to run off and start our day, I'll make this quick. We had lunch (spinach gnocci and beans) took pics of the outside of Santa Maria Novella, wandered around, got tickets for the Academia, climbed all 465 steps up to the top of il duomo's dome, took pics, I made conversation with a stranger – a british guy who was visiting on business, took more pics, walked down, got water and gelato, people watched as we sat on il duomo's steps, went inside the church, went into the baptisry next to il duomo, walked around, saw status near palacio vecchio, saw a random -free- art show. Then we walked to the Arno river. Now, I don't easily cry. Maybe once a year if that, and it to be something big to cause the tears. But here, overlooking the arno, watching a group place soccer beside the river on astroturf, looking out onto the hills of Tuscany, I wanted to cry at the aw of it all (my eyes teared up, but you'll be glad to know I wasn't a complete sucker & I didn't actually cry). Then we walked to the Ponte Vecchio bridge and past that to Oltrarno. Ack! gotta go- will finish up later!


View from the top of il Duomo (#1)

(#2)

Hotel in Florence

Palacio Vecchio


Santa Maria Novella

Ponte Vecchio

DAY 2 part 2
After we crossed the bridge back into the center of Florence, we went to dinner where we had tortellini with procuitto and light cream. My cousin had seafood with spaghetti and we had dessert (creme brule). Then we walked around a bit before calling it a night.

Day 3
Today we walked and walked.. and walked. We had a lazy br eakfast that was amazing on the 5th floor of the hotel. Then we wandered to the Academia, stopping to window shop here and there along the way. Then! We went to the Academia where we saw the famous David sculpture along with a bunch of other statues. Then we went to another church and the church's courtyard.. then we went over to the Medici Chapels. OH MY GOD! There were actually 2 chapels in the one building. The first, there are no words. My breath was literally knocked out of my at the beauty. Ridiculously big, floor to ceiling dark marble everywhere. And where there wasn't marble there was gold or stained glass. I can't express the effect this room had on me. I found God in this room. The other chapel was full of Michaelangelo statues. After we left the chapels we got lunch – pizza! Then we wandered around shopping. From there we walked down to another church and saw Galileo's grave, along with the inspiration behind the Statue of Liberty (the first was designed to represent the freedom of poetry). Then we roamed around until it closed at 5:30. Somehow we were able to walk even more and got back up to il duomo and people watched for a bit. Then got lots of chocolates and dinner (pasta w/pesto and spinach). Today I fell in lust with 3 men: a canvasser named Jacopo trying to sell a book discount plan, then a waiter where we had lunch that convinced us to dine at his restaurant, and finally a guy sitting next to me on the bench where we were sitting at while people watching near il duomo. He was reading a political magazine in Italian about the upcoming US Election.

The original Lady Liberty


Details of the Lady

Day 4
Pisa, the little town that could, but didn't. So where do I begin? My love affair with Italy was put on hold with this trip. Pisa only has about 1 thing going for it, and that's the fact that one really only needs an afternoon to see it. The food sucked, apparently there ARE italians that don't know how to make pizza and they are chefs in Pisa. Also lacking are the non-sketchy streets. We got off the train and my cousin saw a real life pervert (haha!) complete with lewd gestures and wandering eyes. Our hotel is spitting distance from the train station which itself is creepy in its own way. The town is just generally… ugly. Dinner took forever and sucked. Oh! and my bank decided to be retarded and put a hold on my card because I was in a foreign country despite the fact that I called to let them know I was going to Italy for a week. Regardless, we leave at 10:30am tomorrow morning for Cinque Terre so all will be well. Hopefully my love affair will reignite and not be blow out forever. Yay melodrama!


If it's not obvious what this is, you need to de-friend me.

From inside the cemetery that is a tourist hole near the leaning tower 🙂


View from the worst pizza place ever… well in Italy at least

Day 5
So today we were up early and had breakfast at the hotel for free. Then we ran for the train for Torino that would allow us to stop in Monterosso (one of the 5 towns that makes up Cinque Terre) without having to change trains. The beach is right outside the station and the Mediterranean waved us a big hello. We walked up to our hotel, which is by far the best of the 3 we've stayed at this trip, and soaked up the sun for a couple minutes on the terrace just off our room(!) Then we walked around the small town and soaked up the sun along the beach. Then we walked around some more, got more postcards and went to the bank. We got ice cream, went ot the beach again then relaxed on the roof of our hotel where there is a garden. We stayed there until dinner then we ate at the hotel. Btw, for lunch we had an amazing seafood risotto.

Monterosso train station


View from the train station. Seriously right across the street…


God isn't the Mediterranean beautiful?


More of the little town that could 🙂


The hotel in Monterosso


View from the hotel roof garden

Day 6
The coast in rain or sun, but mostly rain. Today was a lazy morning. We ate breakfast then took an early siesta and napped from 10am-noon. Then we took the train to Rio Maggiore, had lunch (pizza and an odd potato fritata thing) and walked the hilly streets in the rain. We stopped at a Cinque Terre historical museum that was only .50 euro. Then we walked to Via dell'Amore and walked teh coastal train over the Mediterranean from Rio Maggiore to Manarola, town #2 of 5 that make up the Cinque Terre. Then we planned our return, decided against going to Milan in favor of cheaper train tickets and more time for family before I return. After that we vegged at the hotel, had a walk to a cute store near the hotel. Bought MORE crap (I swear I've spent more money on gifts then on my plane ticket out here) and went back to the hotel to rest before more food (hahaha!) Tomorrow the plan is to hang out in Monterosso until our train leaves at 12:40, then 3 hours to Alexandria where we'll transfer to a train for Novara. God I can't believe it's been a week already! I haven't even left yet and I'm ready to come back. Maybe in a few months? Aurora and I are already planning our next adventure, haha. Maybe more of Italy or Europe.. or India!


Rio Maggiore


Via dell'Amore – I loved the graffiti art almost as much as the view


The view.. *sigh*

Day 7
Today included rain, 4+ hours on the train, napping intermittently, meeting (or rather re-meeting) Zia Bruna and cousin Angelo and a lovely dinner with Aurora, her parents and her brother. The best tiramisu of my life and pizza that I never tire of. Tomorrow I eave but I know a part of me will stay in Italy. It is a place I will always remember. The cappuchinos, Aurora saying "rest in peace" stonefaced after I told her my phone died (it was hilarious). I will never forget the family I have met, the 24 hour crushes I have had and the seafood risotto in Cinque Terre. Friday I will be back to the grind in the USA, but Italy will be in my life and heart forever.


The cafe where my grandmother met my grandfather in the early '50s

From MXP to SFO (day 8)
It's 3:47am in California and 12:47pm in Italy. Wide, wide awake. I *should* be trying to reset my body clock so tomorrow isn't hell, but I can't. Wide awake. I am surprised that this flight is so long – 3.5 hours longer than the flight here. In 17 hours I will hopefully be landing in SF. Last night I had a dream about Sean. It was odd. Very odd. I've been more outgoing here in Italy. I initiate conversations with total strangers. Today I even initiated a convo with one of those people that are so attractive they're unapproachable. A few horus after I started making small talk, the man struck up a conversation with me, ha! I'm hoping to be back to my old self sooner rather than later since I have to work tomorrow morning. God, work. I love it, but this past week made me realize that I work to travel. I'm thinking I should try to sleep. We'll see how that goes. I am wide awake and have no sleeping pills.

This song played on the Italian radio stations every time we were in the car in Trecate – so sorry in advance if it pisses you off. 

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