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Friday, March 28, 2008

To Hike or Not to Hike....That is the Question

Well, the next day after our big hike we had a bid decision to make. We had hiked the paths between 4 of the 5 towns but there was one town to the north of us that we had missed since the previous day we went south. Everyone had told us that the hike North was the hardest of them all. So after a delicous breakfast of pastries, fruit and diet coke we decided we would rather take the train to Monterossa and give our wearly limbs a rest. There's always next time:)

Here is a pic of Joe by a pill box in Monterossa. It was used during WWII to fight off Nazi attacks.Joe waxing pensive...As we were walking back up the hill from the pill box we saw a group of young adults. We exchanged greetings and noticed they were especially friendly. Then we noticed that one of the guys had a BYU t-shirt on. I told him I went to college there and he told us they were missionaries!!!!!! What a small world. We had such a great time talking to them! Joe shared mission stories with the guys and I chatted with the girls about life as a sister missionary across the ocean from home. They were all Americans serving in the Rome, Italy mission. From Left to Right, Sister Ross from Canton Ohio, Sister Kenney from Sacramento, California, Elder from Montana, Elder from Hawaii, Elder from Tooele, Utah and Elder from American Fork, Utah.

These girls were so sweet. They wanted hugs from me when we said goodbye. They didn't want to let go as hugs are few and far between as a missionary.

The Walk of Love

Monday we said Ciao to Venice and took a train to the opposite coast to a group of towns on the Italian Riviera called the Cinque Terre or the 5 Terraces. We arrived at night and it was so quiet. All the shops were closed and only a handful of people roamed the main street. We felt like we had just walked on to a movie set. It was so peaceful and quaint. We found a payphone and called the room owner to let them know we had arrived. They met us at the phone then walked us up to our room. When I say up I mean we climbed stairs and stairs to get there:)Here is a snipit of the stairway that we had to take. Just imagine this about 5 times.This picture was taken from the window of our room. You can see how the town is built up on the hill and walk through winding stairways to get to the different apartments. Everyone hangs their laundry out to dry! We even gave it a try when we washed our socks and underwear in the sink:)

The town we stayed in was Vernazza and just minutes from our room we could walk down to the town square and be at the ocean. We didn't get a good picture of the waves but our first morning a gigantic swell hit and people were walking across the wall. We were sure they were going down but somehow they managed to stay upright. I had no desire to get soaked so I stayed far away.
The Cinque Terre is comprised of Monterosso, Vernazza, Corniglia, Manarole and Riomagiorre. Each town is very similar and the big attraction is the hiking. Now I can honestly say I have not been hiking since I was in college. But no problemo, how bad can a little Italian hike be? There are trails that connect the 5 towns and you can ride the train or a bus back to whatever destinatinon you choose. So we started our hike from Vernazza and headed to Corniglia. If you can, I want you to imagine stairs and more stairs and then some more. Basically we huffed it up a very small portion of what seemed like a HUGE hike to take this beautiful picture of our town.
Notice all the layers I am wearing in the above pic. Well as we progress on our hike we start to warm up and I start to shed them!!!!
Here I am a little further on the trail minus the coat and scarf. I was grateful for this part of the hike because it wasn't on an incline and there were no steps.
Here is a pic that shows a portion of the 4 kilometer trail. If you look really hard you can see our starting point WAY off in the distance. Somehow I am still smiling...minus one more layer (don't worry that is the last one to go:) )
So we are walking and walking and climbing and climbing and finally we see our next destination in the distance.And then....we made it!!! Victory!After a little nourishment we decided we wanted to finish our hike and go to the next 2 towns. We didn't want to be wimps and we couldn't quit with so much sunshine left in the day. Luckily the next 2 hikes were only 1 kilometer each. If we could last through 4 surely we could do 2 more. And hike on we did!! The last leg was called Via dell Amore and there are manifestations of love everywhere you look. We didn't add any grafitti but we couldn't pass up the chance for a photo-op:)

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Mama Mia!

Monday we spent the day exploring Venice which is actually a group of islands shaped like a fish. It was a cloudy day but it added to the charm I think. Here is a pic we took from our water boat heading into town.Here we are with the canal behind us...notice the pink glass on the streetlights. Very beautiful at night I am sure!Me in St. Mark's Square...notice the pigeons?Yes that is a pigeon on my hand? How you ask? I don't know maybe the birds are just really friendly in Venice??? Or it could have been the fact that I bought a pack of corn to feed them.

St. Mark's Basilica Frescoes on the entry way to the Basilica Lunch Time...Diavolo(pepperoni) Pizza licorice. It looked better than it tasted. Way too strong for us! So we tossed it after a few bites.
Me with gelato in hand by a gondola. We didn't actually pay for a ride. It just wasn't worth 100 euros for 30 minutes. Plus it was FREEZING!

Self-Timed picture of us in front of the Rialto Bridge

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Donatello, Michelangelo, Raphael, & Leondardo (Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles or Artists of the Renaissance??)

Buon Pasque (Happy Easter). We are currently in Venice and it is rainy and cold. The weather has not dampened our spirits though. Every day brings a new experience and every day we love Italy even more. From Siena we traveled by train to Florence which is the home of the Renaissance. Oh to have lots of money and be able to shop in Florence. There was amazing shopping to be done but with the state of the dollar we didn’t even consider it. We did consider buying gelato though! Here is a pic of me outside one of many gelateria's. So beautiful, almost like art:)I was in dire need of some powder though as I had lost mine on the train. Luckily we found a great department store called Coin and inside was a MAC counter!!!! That made my day. Here I am with a look of relief! (note my stomach is NOT sticking out from all the gelato, but merely because of all my layers I am wearing underneath:) )We didn’t take many pictures in Florence I guess for a couple reasons. 1. It was raining the majority of the time and 2. we spent our time in museums where pictures were not allowed. The first museum we went to was the Accademia home to Michelangelo’s David. It truly was a magnificent sight. I never realized or at least I don’t remember learning that this David is the one from the Bible who fought and killed Goliath. It was amazing to see such a beautiful creation by Michelangelo. His craftsmanship was flawless. Next we went to the Uffizi Gallery which holds the greatest collection of Italian paintings anywhere, including the works of Giotto, Leonardo, Raphael, Caravaggio, Rubens, Michelangelo, and Botticelli. One painting that stuck out for us was the Birth of Venus by Botticelli.

Here is a picture of Joe by the Gates of Paradise on the Florence Baptistry. These are actually copies as the original ones are inside the museum. They were so beautiful and depict the life of John the Baptist.
Here is a pic of me in front of the Ponte Vecchio bridge which is lined with gold and silver shops. Notice my fashionable hat I bought at Coin. It was so cold I couldn't go without something on my head any longer!
Our original plan included staying in Florence for 2 nights but we realized we could save a great deal of money by staying in a suburb outside of Florence for our 2nd night. So we headed to Prato where we slept comfortably and ate well. Today we left Prato for Venice via train and were delighted to arrive in this watery town. Once again we determined we could save a lot of money by staying on the outskirts so we are staying at a beautiful hotel on the island of Lido. As a side note...I miss my little doggies!!! There are dogs everywhere in Italy! All the hotels are pet friendly and the layout of the cities is very condusive to taking your pets with you. I hope my pups haven't forgotten about us and think my brother is their new owner. I love you Maddox and Fiona!

I miss my friends and family too of course:) We are having a wonderful time abroad but it will be fun to be back home and tell all of our stories!!!!

Thursday, March 20, 2008

What Makes Gelato, Gelato??

Last night we left Rome for our next destination...Siena. We took the train which was a little confusing at first but I think we have the system figured out now.

Here is Joe excitedly waiting for our train to depart
What is he reading???? :)

Siena is a sleepy town that is very peaceful. The hustle and bustle of Rome was exciting but Siena has a special charm about it. It was dark when we arrived but we went in search for some food and found some restaurants still open on the famous square of Il Campo.
Il Campo

Joe had lasagna and I had banana gelato:)
Today we decided to go to a local market for our lunch. We had heard that the best way to enjoy the Italian cuisine is to find a market and sample the goods. The map our hotel gave us included some travel tips, including food we should try. We bought pane(bread), pecorino cheese, cinta pork salami, and panforte a fruity, nutty, chewy, fruit-cakish treat. We took our groceries to a little hillside spot and enjoyed a tasty meal. We were in heaven!
Here was our view.

After lunch we explored some of the beautiful historical sights. The Duomo (Cathedral) of Siena is one of the worlds renowned. Under the cathedral we got to tour the crypt in which paintings of the life of Christ cover the walls. This was only discovered in 1999. After we toured the cathedral and the crypt we went to the museum. The museum gives you access to the Facciatone (big Facade). I'm not sure how many steps we climbed but let's just way I'm still feeling it!!! You could see the entire city and its surroundings so the hike was definitely worth it!Here was our view:

Me in the narrow passage way on top

Tomorrow we are off to Florence!

E tu Brute?

Yesterday was our third day in Rome. We spent our time in the ancient world which was magnificent. The ruins dot the landscape and for miles you see remnants of a such a powerful place in history. Joe has such a great memory and knew so many facts. I remember studying Roman History in high school and college but if it weren't for my little guide book I would be missing out!

Here is the Arch of Constantine which honors the emperor who legalized Christianity. It was gorgeous!

Joe at the bottom of Palantine Hill

Next we headed over to the Colosseum. Wow, double wow. It is enormous and has stood for 2000 years. When it was used it held 50,000 spectators. Because of the use of the Roman Arch they were able to build on such a large scale. It made me want to see the Gladiator again!!!!!

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Vatican City Continued

Buon Giorno!! The sun is shining and we are up early today! We had a hard time falling asleep but we have a 3 hour train ride to Siena today so we can catch some shut eye then! We have a lot to see before we leave Rome!!

But back to the Vatican City. Here is a picture of Joe with the Swiss Guards behind him.
Next here we are at Dusk by the fountain in St. Peter's Square
The Basilica in all its glory
Well we are off to see the ancient city today, the Roman Forum and the Colloseum. Our goal is to get more pics together today!