Milan + Cinque Terre + Pisa

We left Switzerland a bit reluctantly to continue our trip south to Italy.  The drive was stunning. Mom and I entertained Daniel by pointing out a waterfall approximately every three seconds.

We stopped in Milan to see this massive cathedral. The largest in Italy and 5th largest in the world, it took six centuries to complete.

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We walked around a bit, took a lunch break at a sidewalk cafe for pizza, and then hit the road again, pressing on to Cinque Terre. Covering six miles of beautifully rugged coast along the Italian Riviera, the Cinque Terre were possibly the top of my list of places to visit in Italy–maybe even in Europe. Colorful little villages nestled into the rugged cliffs above the Mediterranean, surrounded by lush forests and vineyards and connected by scenic hiking trails? Yes, please!

I found an airbnb about a half an hour away, nestled in the hills of quaint, quiet Tivegna. This tiny medieval village (200 residents) is a walled, car-free  maze of walkways and tunnels and interconnected houses. The home we stayed in was over 700 years old and just so charmingly Italian!  Our hostess prepared a delicious dinner for us as we settled in and explained a bit about the history of the house and the area. John’s dad commented on a copy of Lord of the Rings found on her shelf and learned that she’s read it five times- three in Italian and twice in English!

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Unfortunately, the weather for our one day in Cinque Terre was less than ideal. Coming from the most gorgeous weather we could have asked for in Switzerland, it was hard to complain. After realizing that the drizzle probably wasn’t going to let up, we bundled up, packed our umbrellas and made our way to the train station, determined to enjoy the day even in the rain.

It was, as we’d heard, absolutely beautiful. However it was also surprisingly full of tourists who seemed to have the same resolve as we did, and I found myself wishing we’d been hiking first thing in the morning instead (difficult to accomplish with a tired baby). We bought some fresh focaccia and wandered the trails for a little while, eventually making our way down to a little dock area just as the rain let up.

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It just wasn’t meant to be. This was the last photo I took before a rogue wave crashed over us from behind, breaking the umbrella and drenching us completely, head to foot. We’d been watching the waves for some time before deciding to walk down to the docks, but this one took us completely by surprise. Our plan was to enjoy an Italian dinner out in one of the villages that evening, but we returned instead to return to Tivegna for hot showers and dry clothes. Disappointing as the situation was, we had to laugh about it. Our time in Cinque Terre certainly wasn’t what I’d hoped for, but we have a story to tell. I’ll never forget the look of complete shock and betrayal on Daniel’s face, dripping with sea water.

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Leaving Tivegna the next morning, there wasn’t a cloud in the sky. We took a little walk through the maze of old houses, admiring flowers and old doors and fountains before getting back in the car to head to Pisa.

We intended to be in Pisa for an hour or so- just long enough to see the leaning tower, snap a few photos, eat some gelato and then press on to Florence. When our bus returned an hour later than scheduled (Lunch break? Siesta? Typical Italy?), we had to cut Florence for the sake of time, but Daniel didn’t mind the extra time to pick flowers and enjoy freedom from his car seat.

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On to Rome!

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