June 21, 2013
EUROPEAN TOUR CENTRAL
LUCCA, Italy -- Northwestern played its final match of the trip on Wednesday so on Thursday it was time to really experience the sights and sounds of Italy firsthand. The Wildcats left Milan and spent the whole day in Cinque Terre before experiencing the unique city of Lucca at night.
Junior Savannah Paffen breaks down the first full day without volleyball in today's blog entry:
This morning after breakfast, we left the Italian Olympic training center behind and ventured to the breathtaking cities of Cinque Terre. This directly translates into English as "five lands" because it's composed of five small towns separated by mountains along the coast. There are no cars or bikes allowed in any of the cities, and the only way to get between them is by train, boat, or hiking. Needless to say, all of us were thrilled to be able to see the natural beauty of this place.
It took about three hours in the vans to get there, and we arrived around twelve; the ride was filled with twists as we rounded the mountains lining the sea--this kept all of us awake and we were able to watch the colorful city come into view. We got let off the vans right outside a farmers market and small shops. All the girls stopped to look at leather bracelets and earrings. We continued to walk through a tunnel and came out on the other side approaching a view of the most beautiful ocean I've ever seen. This was the first land of Monterosso. It almost felt surreal because the scenery was so picturesque--green mountains contrasted perfectly with the turquoise water. The whole clan stopped at a small café on the beach to grab some lunch and then we broke off into small groups for the day.
Crippen and Carks stayed on the first beach for the whole day (12-5 pm) because they didn't feel up to walking around the cities. Holthus, Yewande, Dutchman, and Maggie all took the train after lunch to each of the cities and shopped around. Kraus, Monica, and I decided that we wanted to hike from the first to the second city, so we headed to the trail. We had no idea what to expect, but immediately came upon stairs... lots and lots of stairs. After finally reaching the ticket booth, we quickly realized that most of the hike would consist of walking up weathered stairs carved into rocks on the path. We were out of breath after a while, but the view was incredible and we were having so much fun we didn't notice how tired we were. The path curved along the edge of the mountain by the ocean; we were so high up from the stairs that we could see the entire city that we just left next to the deep blue water. We came across waterfalls pouring into pools of fresh water and all kinds of beautiful foliage. Kraus and I also took a quick break to pet a cat that lived up there. After about an hour and a half of hiking, we descended into the second city of Vernazza that was somehow even more beautiful than the first. As we walked down the steps, a saxophone player was soulfully performing. It was the experience of a lifetime--we could see the entire second land, with orange colored old buildings and small cobblestone alleyways, surrounded by the ocean and mountains. We decided that we were having so much fun that we wanted to hike again to the third city. So after a quick dip in the ocean we got back on the trail and hiked for another hour (with many more rock steps) to the third city. After a quick walk through the cobblestone alleys, it was time to head to the train to meet up with the whole group. We skipped the last two lands and rode straight through to our meeting place of La Spezia where we quickly grabbed gelato and met up with the team.
Next, we hopped in the vans and were off to the walled city of Lucca, about an hour east of the coast. This city is surrounded by thick walls and contains many churches, cobblestone streets, and small shops. We drove through the walls and took a quick (but highly anticipated) shower at an adorable inn where we'd later stay for the night. Dinner was at a beautiful, authentic Italian restaurant where we ate salami and prosciutto that were made locally in Lucca. The main course was delicious pasta in a sauce of spinach and meat, which is unique to Lucca. Since dinner was incredible, it of course had to be followed by more gelato. As we walked back to the hotel for the night after dessert, we stumbled upon a small carousel, and the whole team had to take a ride around; we all had a blast as it brought out the kid in each of us. We soon settled in back at the hotel to prepare for the next big day ahead of us where we'd bike around Lucca and then head to Rome.
We're all having the time of our lives and I can't say we're excited to come back home (but we do miss our families of course). See you all when we get back and don't miss us too much in the meantime.
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