Outside the mall with the designers stores.. which was closed for the most part
I am going to start out by saying that all in all my trip to Italy was a whirlwind, and that I know I will hardly do it justice in this blog. I did and saw so much, and had so many incredible/ridiculous experiences that I scarcely know where to begin. I suppose the beginning is a good place to start though, so here goes. The night before me and Sarah left for Italy neither of us got any sleep, for no apparent reason. We had to get up at 5:30am to catch our S-bahn to the airport and it was one of the more painful 5:30's ever. Nevertheless we made it safe and sound, only sleep deprived, to Milan
. As we were trying to figure out which bus to take to the city some girl came up to us and was like "excuse me, but did you come from the Lankwitz station in Berlin?" It turns out she had ridden the s-bahn with us and the bus and the plane the entire journey there.
Duomo, also one of the only places you'll find people in Milan in August
She was American but staying in Berlin for the summer. Also, she is from New York about 20 minutes away from where I live! I'll never get over what a small world it is, when you can be across an ocean and find someone from your own neighborhood pretty much. She was traveling alone so we all decided to hang out in Milan. We got into the city and decided to get lunch, which sounds like an easy task, but was actually fairly difficult. We found out later that day that we had come on a big holiday and EVERYTHING in Milan was closed, even most places to eat. But we finally found a nice restaurant and had our first Italian meal of the trip. As we were having lunch I kept trying to call the guy we were supposed to couchsurf with. Let me back up quickly by saying that this was going to be our first experience with couchsurfing and that having heard such good things about both the website and our couchsurfing host for Milan I was pretty excited.
At the festival in Milan, eating our cheap and tasty pizza!
Anyway, I finally got ahold of him, and I'm like "Hi it's Stephanie, from couchsurfers, I was just wondering when would be a good time to drop off our stuff and meet you?" His response was "uh I'm in Hamburg right now and I'm not getting back for a few days." Great. Because we hadn't made it totally clear when we were coming through multiple emails, so I can totally see how you would just leave that day and not let your couchsurfers know, or even apologize for standing them up (oh and that's sarcasm, in case I'm not being clear). So anyway we were pretty much stranded without a bed at this point. I had written down the directions to a hostel in the city, just in case, so we set off trying to find beds for the night. That was an adventure in itself. The metro we needed to take was down so we had to take a bus, which dropped us off not even close to where we were trying to go.
The view from the breakfast room in the Hostel
So there we were, wandering around the city trying to figure out if we could potentially walk the rest of the way, and all the while, just wanting to change out of our pants and into something cooler because it was like 100 degrees. All of a sudden this old lady comes up and asks us where we were going. When we told her she tried to explain how to get there in Italian, but when it became apparent that we didn't understand, she went out of her way to walk us to the nearest metro station a few blocks away, and totally in the opposite direction of where she was going. I was so grateful I could have hugged her. She was so sweet, she didn't want anything she just wanted to help us out. Anyway we finally find the hostel and go up and ask if they have any rooms available.
Manorola.. we got to swim in the harbor and it was wonderful
The lady at the front desk says yes, and sends us with a guy who works at the hostel. We figured he was just taking us to our rooms, so we follow him down the elevator and out the front door of the hostel, where a car is waiting. We're like "uh where are we going?" and he's like "to the hostel." So he loads all our stuff up and starts zipping through Milan. After about 5 minutes we were still driving and didn't show any signs of stopping. Nobody said anything in the car and I'm starting to be convinced that this man is going to either sell us into slavery or cut our bodies up into little pieces. So I finally ask "where in the city are we going?" To our extreme relief he starts explaining that the hostel we had tried to go to was booked for the night so he's bringing us to another hostel across town, and shows us on a map where we were going.
However it was very odd because he kept referring to us as his "guests." As in, "you will be my guests," and we're thinking "what kind of hostel is this?" So we pull up in front a building and he leads us up to this place that looks like someone converted their apartment into a makeshift hostel. He leads us to our rooms and then leaves. We sat on the bed whispering to each other "do we get a key? do we pay? how much is it? is this ACTUALLY a hostel or are we his guests in a brothel sort of way?" He finally comes back a few minutes later with a key and explained that we could pay when we left, which made us a feel a lot better. We found out later that this actually was a legit hostel, and that people had booked it through reputable sources, which was also a relief.
But still, nobody ever took our passport information and we never saw that guy again. We could have honestly left without paying and nobody would have been able to stop us. It wasn't the greatest hostel, but it stopped us from sleeping on a park bench, which is really all that matters.
I suppose I have to write a little about Milan, but in all honesty there is not a whole lot to write about. Everything was closed both days we were there and there was not a soul in most of the city. We walked around for twenty minutes in the city and didn't run across anyone. There were some tourists at places like the Duomo, and other big tourist attractions, but other than that the city was dead. The only place we found Italians was behind the Castello, where they were having kind of a "Milan goes on vacation" festival.
There was music and old Italians dancing, and really cheap really good food. That was hands down my favorite part of Milan. Not only was it the only place to eat, and the only place with people, but everyone was so interesting. It was funny to wait for your food and watch people yelling at each other in rapid Italian that "I have been waiting and this person got their food before I did, and how long does it take to make a pizza!" It was just so vibrant and real, and made me so satisfied to experience. We went back both nights just to watch the people (and of course, eat yummy pizza).
I cannot honestly say, though, that I was sorry to leave Milan. I was, however so incredibly excited to visit Cinque Terre
, and with good reason.
I staircase in Corniglia, I just thought it was pretty
I've been looking forward to this place for ages and I'm so glad I went. It was the most beautiful place I think I've ever seen. We stayed in this hostel about 20 minutes (by bus) away from the actual Cinque Terre, but it was also gorgeous. It was nestled in a tiny town the mountains overlooking La Spezia, a larger city. I would never want to live in such a small town, but it was so charming and perfect for what we wanted. I also met some of the nicest people there, including two girls from Berlin. We actually ended up speaking a lot of German in Italy, to my surprise. Other than that, we hiked a lot, swam at a bunch of the beaches, and jumped off rocks into the water, which may be one of the most exhilarating experiences of my life. Granted it wasn't extreme, like some of the people there.
The water was so blue and you could see straight to the bottom
There were no cliffs, but still we climbed up these huge rocks to jump in the ocean. I scraped my leg a little climbing, but it was absolutely worth it. One of my favorite times in Cinque Terre (and there are many, so I can't mention them all) was after we had gotten dinner with the girls from Berlin and another American boy we met on a train, and decided to run and jump in the water before our bus came in like 20 minutes. Once we got in, though, we decided it was just too beautiful to leave and instead caught the last bust 3 hours later. We spent the time exploring in the water and jumping from the rocks, and then getting gelato and wine. In my book that's a pretty perfect evening. I know there is so much more to be said about this vacation, especially Cinque Terre, but I think I'll upload some photos and let them speak for themselves.
View of Corniglia
All in all, I was sad to leave Cinque Terre, but I know I'll be back again someday. This may be the most incredible trip I've ever taken, and even though I had some bad luck on it, things always seemed to work out extremely well in the end. Although I don't think I'd ever really live there there is always going to be a special place in my heart for Italian life and culture. It's unorganized and loud and sometimes frustrating but the culture, people, and places are so vibrant and real. Mi piace Italia!