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28 March 2006 @ 11:01 am
overnight stays and missing trains  

Shannon had a friend coming all the way from Toulouse, France on Friday and since I wanted to visit a couple of museums in the same city that she was meeting her in, we made our way to the Santa Maria Novella train station last Friday. Her friend was due in around 7pm and our plan was to get to Genova (or Genoa, in English) around 3pm. I was planning to come back that night but oh, the trains had other plans for us.

We got to Pisa about 5 minutes AFTER our train from Pisa > Genova LEFT. So we took another train, probably a faster one anyhow, and got to the main Genova station. Genova is where Christopher Columbus was born--if you remember, he was only sponsored by the Spanish (King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella) but was Italian by birth, as in Cristoforo. The train station had a statue honoring him. We walked around the town, via de Garibaldi was full of grand palaces and such, but it didn't seem worth our money to look at museums when we thought we would only be in town for a short time. We did end up getting a room for the night because we got to Genova a little later than we had hoped. We walked to the port as well and got cappuccinos that had a star chocolate powder stenciled on it.

Shannon unfortunately forgot both her phone and the note that had her friend's boyfriend's number on it so we waited until 7pm to attempt to find her at the train station. When we saw no signs of her, she checked her email and voila! There it was. We met up and walked around some more, eating and enjoying what little nightlife Genova offered. The two apparently biked a whole lot from France, through Monaco, and I guess they only took a train at the tail end of their adventure, even camping and pitching a tent on a mountain for the last night's sleep.

The next day proved to look better than the past few days' rain, so we headed to the 5 towns of Cinque Terre. The tiny towns are built into the hillside of the Italian Riviera, overlooking the sea, and there is a walkway and train between all 5 of them. We got to the first town, Monterosso, but the road between the 2nd and 3rd town was closed so after getting a quick bite (focaccia bread with tomato and cheese---DELISH!), we took a 2-hour detour hike to Corniglia. Oh my, that was seriously fucking hard. I am still feeling the effects of that hike. We got into the quiet town of Corniglia and figuring we had as much time as we wanted, ate and hung out until our train to La Spezia, which I guess is the biggest town around there (and not part of Cinque Terre).

So we said au revoir to the ones heading back to France and Shannon and I took our train to La Spezia. We get there, look up tickets to Firenze, and surprise! There's not one leaving until 2am. It was around 10pm then. Four hours in a town that's hardly on the guidebooks (only as a stop to get to Cinque Terre). I was literally penniless, I had one eurocent and of course that's even less than one US penny. We had no choice but to wait it out. Thank god I was with someone as positive as Shannon because we really made the best of it.

We walked around town trying to find a place to sit indoors and drink coffee or any thing, so we ended up finding a cute cafe where they not only served us our drinks, they gave us some sweets and potato chips. When they closed, we walked to another bar, where a cute Asian girl talked to us in Italian while we sipped on our shared Bacardi. And when THEY closed, we had no choice but to go to another cafe/bar, where soccer (which I've actually started to call football) was being shown and we were lucky enough to be able to sit there until our train came.

We had reserved seats (I guess most trains throughout Italy needs one, except short ones like Firenze<->Pisa so we ended up in this compartment with two very stinky men. They had been sleeping before us and throughout the whole ride, they were awake and creeped me out--enough to convince me never to travel alone at night, as the other comparment we were in when we were going to Genova had been pretty pleasant, with businessmen-types and couples rather than surly-looking and tired (and smelly) men we were riding with now. We talked the whole way through so we could be awake enough to catch our train from Pisa to Florence. At the Pisa train station, we met Jackie, who had been on our regional train the entire time. Jackie was just coming back from Torino, after watching her fave Apolo Ohno finally get a gold medal for one of the short track events. She's actually made the same trip about 3 times this entire duration of the Olympics.

We got back to Florence around 5am on Sunday and I basically slept all day. This is how my day trip to Genova was extended to 3 days. We were lucky to experience Cinque Terre (literally, 5 lands, I guess) on a good weather day, as it didn't rain at all and it was cool enough to keep us from being totally exhausted by  the heat.

I've been sent 5 mail/packages so far, thanks so much! :)