Thursday, July 26, 2007

Italy and Spain

I went to Italy and Spain!!!

I think that my dreams to go to Italy started sometime around the age of 14, which means it only took 10 years for them to become reality! Then, the idea of traveling to Spain emerged this spring, and, well...whaddya know I went there too! With a track record like that, I think I should start focusing my dreams on even bigger targets, say, the return of Tab soda, Gore '08 or self-charging iPods (imagine!!)... Or wait! What if the Spice Girls got back togOH! yeah. sorry about that one guys...

I’m going to try and do this blog in a style unlike that of one I’ve done before. I religiously kept a travel journal in Italy (though in Spain I was a bit more like a Christmas-and-Easter-Catholic), and I intend to use this to describe most of my experiences in these countries. Before I start that however, I’ll throw in a few more details;
*I’ve now seen the Mediterranean from both sides! (Swam in one, tanned on both!)
*I bought tickets to Rome on a whim (even more so for Spain) and had less than 2 weeks to plan both trips
*I took my first ever solo vacation
*Gelato in Italy should not only be enjoyed daily, it should be EXPERIENCED
*Couch Surfing is the 2nd most important website in the world (following
*Hiking and biking should be included in absolutely every vacation between Mar-Oct
*I pledged to drink only wine in Italy when given a choice- good thing too, because a coke was 4-5 euro!
*These entries sometimes begin and trail off unexpectedly…it usually means food was coming!

2:06pm- finally, lunch! After seeing Michelangelo’s Basilica in honor of Mary and the angels, Trevi Fountain, and various things whose names I’ll never know, I’m ready to taste my first “Italian” meal! Cannelloni, caprese and red wine sound about right! So far, no one would really notice that I’m faring this trip alone; the city is over-run with tourists, many of them American (damn Americans…)! Typical of any major tourist-attracting city, the streets are lined with fake Gucci, Louis Vuintton, Prada, etc – and typical of myself, I want them all! Aahhh… my first sip of real Italian wine in perhaps two years – yet somehow, I still feel we can re-kindle this friendship. I’m willing to turn the other cheek and start afresh…
Being Sunday, the Vatican was closed. Through dumb luck however, I stumbled across Michelangelo’s Basilica, which was actually his last major work. He completed it when he was 86! Mass had just begun in Italian….

July 2nd - St. Peter’s Basilica
My amazement with houses of worship continues- to think that someone was so supremely moved by their love and devotion to a religion that they built such a marvelous structure. Perhaps this is why I continue to be enthralled; I’m hoping that one day upon entering that I too can become so passionately penitent.

More stumbling-upons. Another church discovered by accident. By no means are they unknown to the public, but as an ill-prepared traveler I am in a constant state of surprise and astonishment. I guess the saying that bliss is enjoyed only by the dimwitted and the ignorant is true in yet one more instance.
A tablecloth, all by its little self, may have enough power to determine your dining decision. No table-cloth? Affordability, no-fuss, simple fare. But the opposite could indicate class, attract foodies from afar, or cause you to turn away in disappointment; your last few euros jingling faintly in your pocket.
Rome is lacking cats. I do hope other Italian cities can compensate for this great travesty. Life is more authentic with cats in it.
2nd class, non-smoking. Maybe in Bulgaria this is my social status. It Italy, its my travel preference. 5 hours on a train, here we go!
Long train rides are not enjoyable unless you are expected at the end.

Lying on cascading tiers of rock at first seemed unthinkable, but I soon remembered that I was staying in a village and all-in-all, rock sun-bathing was an especially exotic prospect. Before other newly arrived tourists came to my point of mind, however, from afar they heralded me as a native, snapping photos of my assimilated self.
A little too much cliff tanning, I find, can lead not only to extreme thirst but also sunburn. The former is more easily remedied, especially by knowing shop-keepers who take it upon themselves to replace your selection of sparkling water with still. How did they know I grabbed the wrong bottle on accident? So maybe after all there is a label I live up to- Mineral Water Drinker. It could be worse.
Riomaggiore- July 3rd, excerpts from Daemon, Riomaggiore local
“Remember…you are the hero of yourself.”
“no body wins unless everybody wins”
“A cat has 7 lives”
“Every cloud has a silver lining, every dog has its day”
“Code of the Trail”
Between the 5 sea-side villages of Cinque Terre are a set of trails which wrap around each cove and connects each village to its nearest adjoining neighbor. To end in Riomaggiore, my village, I took a train to Monterosso and hiked back. The entire journey was an uninterrupted expression by nature- such beauty to exist in one small place is nothing short of marvelous. Each view was increasingly more beautiful and awe-inspiring than the last. I started out early so as to avoid most of the crowd. I was rewarded with unrestricted use of the first length of my trip which lasted nearly 2 hours. Early on, the people I passed shared a greeting with me- good morning or “Buongiorno” and it held parallel with something I learned in Bulgaria; there is some hiker’s code- apparently international- that says “Thou shall acknowledge fellow lovers of nature and make the neighbor feel as a friend.” This is a lesson the tourist-hiker must learn- the lack of it is telling.
Is it actually possible that each glass of wine I order becomes progressively more accomplished in its flavor? Is it dumb luck, or do things just happen this way in Italy- increase and increase? Of course anything like a Sangiovese blend, like the glass I enjoyed midway through the hike, will be excellent- it’s the following, refrigerated red table wine that truly illustrates my curiosity. And dare I say that said Sangiovese blend was dramatically enhanced by a pairing with anchovies on local bread- I do, I dare!
Today alone was quite a positive experience. Tackling the hike, wine-bar hopping, order-in pesto pasta, watching waves crash into the marina… Although its scary to admit, more than several times today I found myself thinking or carrying out imaginary conversations in Bulgarian. I also spoke to a shop-keeper in Bulgarian. Maybe it’s been too much time alone!
Okay so traditional traveling, or at least my interpretation of it, is not something I’m interested in. Or maybe its just not for me as an “alone” thing. I can handle about 80% of the silence, but sometimes you crave a companion. Maybe it’s that I don’t have a true appreciation for the things I’m seeing and experiencing. They should be the point and the driving force behind the travels. Instead I find myself wanting more. Today is day 5 of 7… maybe there is a barrier to entry, maybe I’m just on a plateau. Then again, maybe it’s not so hard to just put yourself out there and meet people… its getting colder and I’m tired, while the Irish pub across the street is hiring…
I have found a wonderful spot in Florence – Piazza Spirito. It’s a huge, plain church with a wide open square and cafes that encircle a fountain. I like it immensely.
Other things I enjoy- a glass of house wine is less than a coke…then again, the glass costs more than an entire bottle of Bulgarian wine…
The Uffizi in and of itself was quite a work of art. Al Frescos adorning the passageways. This is the oldest art gallery in the world and it houses some pretty spectacular paintings. I was unfamiliar with the most famous one, “The Birth of Venus,” but it was lovely and I bought a postcard to prove it! I waited 2 ½ hours to get in and spent about 1 ½ hours in the exhibit. My only regret is having not studied art before coming, as such greatness was a bit wasted on me.

this is the end of Italy! I couchsurfed, took a bike tour of Tuscany, and met wondeful people and will go back to Italy any chance I get! I'll update Spain some other time...I'm too tired now!

more photos-


At 4:00 PM, Anonymous Matt S. said...

you suck, i want to go to Spain

At 3:57 PM, Blogger Luca said...

What?!?! Rome is lacking cats?!?! Maybe your sunglasses were too dark when you were walking around! :-p
The cats communities at the Colosseum, Torre Argentina, Pyramid are among the largest communities in Europe! "No cats in Rome", that's laughable!


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