|Sorry we've been out of touch for a while! Since our last report, we've had quite a few adventures in Italy. We spent 3 nights at the Cinque Terre at a really nice campground (Thanks Susan R.!). We stayed in a 'housetent' which pretty much felt like a little Playskool house! We set out to hike the trail between the 5 towns on the water there. It was incredibly beautiful. The cliffs drop right into a very clear blue ocean. The first few legs of the hike were great, tough at points but really gorgeous. We stopped in the 4th town, Vernazza, for some pizza before we headed on. We had some trouble finding the trail towards the last town (Italians, we've found, are not particularly good at things like maps and directions!) but eventually we started a climb up a big mountain. We'd heard that the last leg is the hardest so we weren't too worried. Well, 3 and a half hours later we had completed what was supposed to be a 1 hour hike! Instead of hiking from town to town along the water, we ended up climbing to the highest point possible, along the ridge, and then straight down! We ran into some other kids who had made the same mistake so at least we had some company. We also met an older Italian man along the way who brought us to his house and gave us water from his hose! He was incredibly nice and not at all phased by the fact that we understood about 10% of what he was telling us. The next day we hung out at a swanky beach under an umbrella (that we think we were supposed to pay for, but we couldn't figure out where to do this, so whatever!) and floated in the beautiful Ligurian Sea.
Then it was off to Roma. Of course, this took longer than was expected since schedules and the like are not of high priority here! We stayed at another campground, which left a lot to be desired after the first. But there were hot showers, laundry, and a movie in English so we were ok! We then had 2 days of being super tourists in Rome. We saw the Vatican Museum and the Sistine Chapel, St Peter's Square and Basilica (where only Raime was allowed in since Kate's shorts were apparently too scandlous!) Piazza Navona, the Colosseum, the Pantheon, the Roman Forum & Palatine Hill, Trevi Fountain and quite a bit of gelato. Whew! Don't worry, we rotated site seeing with quite a bit of eating pizza. On Tuesday night we met up with our friend from Middlebury, Char, and her Italian fiance, Angelo. They took us out to the town where they live, Fiuggi, about an hour from Rome. It is set in the mountains and is much cooler and more scenic than Rome. We had a wonderful time visiting them, again it was so nice to feel at home in someone's house, especially after the dreadful Roman tent! They took us on Wednesday for a nice drive up into the mountians where we visited the first Benedictine monastery and a tiny town where we were stared at by all the locals (definitely off the tourist track!). We also saw the old town of Fiuggi which was built around the year 1000. It's famous now for it's spring water which helps people with kidney problems.
Yesterday we ventured from Rome to Florence, but not before we met up with Kate's mom who's going to be traveling with us for almost 2 weeks. It was great to see her and we're excited to have someone else along for a bit! (Someone who'll make sure we eat a little better and stay in nicer places as well!) We arrived in Florence midday and spent the afternoon walking around, dodging the tourists, and trying to get a feel for the city. We walked across the Ponte Vecchio and tried to see some gardens without paying €6. We weren't successful! We had dinner at a restaurant on a square with a slew of other tourists. The waiters had quite a routine down, anywhere we heard people say they were from the waiters knew 1 thing about it-ie Boston 'Oh, the Red Sox!' Alabama 'Oh, the Deep South!' Florida 'Oh, Disney World' The food was good but we've vowed to try somewhere less touristy tonight. Today we saw Ghilberti's doors of the Baptistry, Casa Buonarroti (Michealangelo's birthplace and family house-lots of cool sketches of his and info about his family-Thanks Char!), and a really neat exhibit about Leonardo da Vinci where they had built a bunch of models from his sketches of machines and you could play with them and check out how they worked. Very cool. We made reservations for some of the more touristy museums for the next couple of days, but it was nice to see some small exhibits today.
Ok, sorry for the lengthy update. We'll write again soon. Hope all is well!