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So, I forgot to tell you guys something yesterday. I almost punched this ratchet woman in the throat. In the Church of Santa Margherita de’ Cerchi (Dante’s church) there is a shrine/monument/memorial to Beatrice, of course. Well, apparently people bring letters here and leave them for her. Well, I was in the church, just sitting and admiring and this group of Americans came in and were talking all loud. There was a lady in the group and you could tell she was trying to be the tour guide of her group. So, she starts telling them about Beatrice and Dante and walks over to her monument and there is a basket there full of letters, and what does this bia start doing? PICKING UP THE LETTERS AND READING THEM TO HER FRIENDS. No. Full stop. Tap the brakes lady. Who does that?! Don’t get me wrong, I am always intrigued to read the notes people leave for saints and whatnot, but I would NEVER, ever pick up someone’s intimate letter about their love life and read it like a magazine. I gave her the stink-eye from HELL and walked out.

Anyway, today was AMAZING! I didn’t know what I was going to do when I woke up this morning. I had planned to go to Pisa, but last night two of my friends on Facebook said I should go to Cinque Terre instead; I took their suggestion. I woke up at about 9 and left my place about 10. My hostel is literally 200 yards from the train station, so it is REALLY convenient. I went to the station and got my ticket to Cinque Terre and I bought the return ticket too because I was scared that I wouldn’t be able to get a return ticket later on. I had to go from Firenze S.M.N. to Pisa Centrale to La Spezia to Riomaggiore. Now, mind you, I have only seen Cinque Terre in magazines and books and recently saw a classmate give a presentation about it-that’s it.

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So I successfully navigated my way through the train stations, but I realized why I have had such trouble. I have never had to read a train ticket or schedule and I just had to learn it on the fly. So, here’s a tip for any other naive travelers like me: when you look at your ticket and it says your destination, that may or may not be the destination of the train your supposed to get on. Like, you may be going to stop 23 of 35, so the train your supposed to get on will be called/listed as the final destination on that line, not the destination on your ticket. So, when you get off your train at a connecting station, don’t look for a train going to your destination, look for the train going to the final stop on the line you need to be on. Also, they have paper schedules printed at all stations in Italy, but make sure you pay attention because the holiday, weekend, and weekday schedules are all jumbled together on one page, with a very confusing key at the bottom.

I arrived in Riomaggiore and bought a Cinque Terre Card for 12 Euro. You get unlimited access to the trains in the area and the national park and walking trails, so it’s definitely worth it (if you get caught w/o a metro ticket the charge is 50 Euros)-you can also purchase WiFi access if you want it. After purchasing that I decided to go to the most northern village. I went to Monterosso al Mare and walked down to the beach.

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I found a few pieces of sea glass and put my feet in the ocean, but this village was realllllly tourist-y. There were a bunch of women on the beach charging for massages and I thought that was such a smart idea! I hadn’t eaten and it was like 2, so I got a gelato and an espresso, before heading back down the coast.

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I didn’t stop at Vernazza or Corniglia, but I went onto Manarola since it was closer to Riomaggiore and I was paranoid about missing my train to Florence. I wish I would have spent the entire day in Manarola. On the train to Manarola I met a Korean woman that had gone to Georgetown. I knew she was Korean because I saw her guidebook, but she asked me where I was from and after I told her, I asked her the same and she said she was Korean so I said, “Anyonghasaeyo” and she was all happy.

Manarola is PHENOMENAL.

Everything you think about Cinque Terre is Manarola. When I got to Manarola I walked to the center of the town and started up this trail near a cemetery (I want to be buried there-seriously), but broke away from the group and just started walking up random steps. I got to an area with all these private vineyards and gardens and kept walking on any trail I could find.

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I finally joined back up to the actual trail and went into the Church of San Lorenzo. There was a list of men on the bell tower, whom I assume were killed at sea.

On the trail to the church there was a crucifix on the mountain and all of these old people were hanging out around it and leaving flowers and chatting.

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Little did I know, that was just the start of the Jesus! There were all of these stations of the cross on the mountain and apparently at certain times of the year they light up at night! It was so interesting. You may think you love Jesus, but Manarola loves Jesus more than you, haha!

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After the church I walked back down towards the sea and decided to get some food. I just put it all in my bag and caught the train to Riomaggiore. Once I arrived at Riomaggiore I ate part of my dinner and then hopped the train back to Florence.

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On the train I met this Argentine guy that was visiting Italy with 7 of his family members (wife, kids, brother, dad). His dad had immigrated to Argentina after the war and they were all back to visit for the first time. I spoke to him in Spanish for 40 minutes and even used the ‘vosotros’ form! First he asked me what the next stop on the train was and I accurately told him. He thought I was Italian, but I told him I was from Texas and he said that I didn’t look Texan, but that I looked Italian…my response: QUE BUENO! His accent was really difficult to understand, but I was able to respond pretty accurately, and say “…y vosotros?” a lot, hahaha! I couldn’t remember past tense very well, but I was super proud of myself for remembering vosotros form.

I didn’t get back to Florence until 9:30. I left the station and stopped at this pastry shop and go two mini Nutella Cannolis and went back to my room. I had an awesome day and feel so confident now, since I was able to successfully navigate and talk to people! So happy I went  to Cinque Terre. Today was EPIC!

(here’s the sunset from the train…this picture is horrible doesn’t do it justice, but it was the prettiest sunset I’ve ever seen)

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