Italy! Italie! – Cinque Terre, Almost

This trip was just what I needed after I came back from Iraq and had a challenging winter.

While I was deployed to Iraq as a news broadcaster I had a book for Adobe Lightroom 2 that sat on my desk with a remarkable cover image. I used this book frequently for reference and often gazed at the cover image always thinking “I want to see this stunning place!”

This “place” was Cinque Terre, Italy, a seaside village with captivating, colorful buildings, with lots of scenic hiking trails – just what I needed!

In the spring of 2010 I booked the trip through STA Travel  and embarked on a journey through Italy with 20 people I never met before, but ended up becoming my lifelong friends.

We all met in RItaly2010-015_kateome at a hotel and were assigned roommates, mine was Pip, a fun gal from Australia who is currently on an adventure in England with her boyfriend Paul. The group was comprised of young adults from Australia, Singapore, U.S., and Canada. Our lead tour guide Kate started off by show
ing us all the exciting monuments and historical places in Rome (Spanish steps, Vatican, Colosseum, etc.).

Italy2010-196_pompeii

Pompeii

Once we were done sightseeing in Rome we ventured down to Pompeii to tour the ancient ruins, then stopped in Sorrento for a few nights to tour the Almafi Coast and Capri.
The trip was super laid back and we were afforded time to break off into sub groups to see parts of the area that interested us the most. Some went to the beach, some went to Capri, we did whatever interested us.

I went to Capri with a group of ladies to see this beautiful island and visit the Blue Grotto. Capri was exquisite; the people watching was fun, and the food was amazing! The bus trip up to Ana Capri was scary and funny at the same time because the buses drive on narrow roads which seems as if they are about to drive off but they don’t, many people gasp on the bus ride. The Blue Grotto was a fun thing to do and it is only open when the tides are just right, making it capable for the tiny 3-person boats to maneuver in and out of the cave.

Italy2010-252_Capri

Capri, Italy

Our time spent in Sorrento was lovely and we dined like kings and queens every night at the place we stayed which was family run. Each night we had a full traditional Italian meal complete with wine and dessert.We left Sorento and ventured into Assisi, home of St. Francis, Saint of the poor. We spent a full day walking around Assisi with our tor guide visiting catacombs and basilicas. I am not a very religious person but Assisi was a quiet and humble village with lots of photo opportunities.
From Assisi we went to Sienna for a full day of tours and local shopping then drove to a vineyard in Tuscany. The vineyard was lovely and we received a tour followed by a relaxing meal with wine tasting before setting off to Florence.

We spent a few days in Florence and had a tour guide along with open time to visit the markets, shop and sight see how we pleased. Florence is well known for shopping – so be prepared to do lots of it! We took a tour of a leather shop and got to learn the difference in the types of leather that is sold in stores (purses, shoes, belts, jackets, etc.). Everything was priced about average, not too high, and I only purchased a belt. 🙂

While in Florence we had a group dinner at a local restaurant and my friend insisted I try his pasta dish – I hadn’t yet tried different sauces outside ragu and bolognese… This plate was AMAZING – it was L’Ameritricana. It is a sauce with bacon and onions – quite simply, it’s AMAZING!

On the morning that we were to depart to Pisa and Cinque Terre I woke up at 5 a.m. with an urge to read my itinerary only to find out that I was departing from Rome the following morning – yikes! I read and reread my itinerary only to confirm that I indeed did not reserve enough time to finish the trip and make it to Cinque Terre. I didn’t have time to rebook my trip so I quickly paid for wifi usage to book a hotel ‘near’ the airport in Rome and pack my things as we were checking out early.

Everyone was getting ready to board the bus and I as scrambling to get a hotel to make my flight out of Rome the following day. I stood outside as the bus drove off and waved goodbye to my fellow travelers – we were not prepared to say goodbye so it was a particularly sad moment. We had such great times up until then and I am forever grateful to have embarked on such an adventure with all of them!

The trip to Rome via train from Florence to my hotel ‘near’ Rome was another adventure, one I will never forget or figure out how it all came to be – but it did – and the hotel I stayed at made sure I was well fed and had a driver to the airport in the morning to make my flight back to the U.S.

In the end, I never made it to that “place” – Cinque Terre – but I had quite the holiday and met so many amazing people that I still keep in touch with today. Though I have been to Italy several times since then, I have yet to see Cinque Terre, until then – may the adventure you plan, and the adventure you find, bring you happy memories! XO Sandra

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