Milan, Cinque Terra, Florence…
All in the space of 72 hours. Milan was actually pretty nice and the Snook and I had a great time climbing up on the roof of their huge cathedral. We had been worried about our hotel, which was disturbingly cheap for the area and season. We solved the mystery in the morning when a jackhammer woke us up at 8 am. No worries though; we needed to get up early anyway.

Our bad hotel karma was not over yet. We headed to La Spezia which is on the northwestern coast of Italy, just down from Genoa. The Snook had never been to the Cinque Terra and this seemed like a good base for exploration. The Cinque Terra (“five lands”) are five tiny villages perched high up on cliffs overlooking the sea. They were gorgeous and lovely and fun. Our hotel, however, was not. No air conditioning, no ceiling fan, and it was about eighty degrees in there all night. Finally the Snook decided to accept the inevitable mosquito bites and throw open the window, only to discover that the noise from the street below was so loud we couldn’t sleep. That was definitely the low point of the trip. Everybody needs at least one bad backpacking trip though, right? So we shrugged it off and headed on to Florence, city of my Room With a View fantasies…

Well, the fantasy didn’t last long. I stepped out of the train station ready for my first sight of the ultimate Renaissance city only to see an old dirty homeless man having a wank on a nearby bench. (I’m still shuddering.) We seem to have passed through hell though and our luck has only gotten better. Our room here in Florence is actually supposed to be for four so it’s huge! We’ve got AC too, which is a blessing. We spent our first day today wandering through the Uffizi (big art gallery) looking at Botticellis and Michelangelos. Then we had a tour through the Duomo and walked across the Arno on the Ponte Vecchio. It was so beautiful. Old scary homeless men aside, this could be my favorite place yet. It’s got all the modern conveniences of Milan combined with the cobbled streets and oldy-worldy charm of Venice. I like it very much indeed.

So that’s us so far. I’ve got the worst farmer’s tan of my life and my feet are killing me, but I’m having a great time. The Snook and I have settled into the backpacking routine and are making more of an effort not to irritate each other. (To paraphrase my mother, “nobody can spend five weeks together 24-7 and not want to kill each other”.) Only ten days left!


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  1. here’s a question—do either of you guys speak italian or are you getting by on english? my dad’s a language teacher so i’ve been brought up with the idea that one should make an effort to learn the language out of respect for the people and culture.

    the problem is that i don’t have the gift for language that my dad does, so i just get super paranoid when i go to a non-english speaking country, feeling that everyone hates me because i’m (1) speaking english and (b) american.

    good thing the two places highest on my must see with The Mister list are the UK and Australia. third on the list? Iceland. yeah, i think i’m going to have to get over my language issues for that trip. 🙂

    long story short, i’m glad to hear that you guys are having a good time, jackhammers, mosquitos and all! 🙂

  2. The Snook speaks a bit, since he studied it in college. Not a lot, but enough to get by. I know hardly any, but it’s really not that hard. Most folks in the touristy places speak English, and any reasonably intelligent person will recognize a lot of words based on their latin roots. Also, a lot of Italian seems to resemble Spanish a lot – related Romance languages, I guess – so if you know any Spanish you’ll be even better off than us.

    I agree that it’s important to make an effort to learn the language/culture. I’ve seen a lot of asshole Americans on this trip that just seem to think that everybody secretly speaks English and that yelling at them helps them understand. Hence, I’ve been giving my nationality as Australian whenever asked, since most Italians can’t tell the accents apart anyway. 🙂

  3. Hey I have a quick question for you. Myself and four others are planning to go the Cinque Terra in July. We are coming from Paris and we are going to land in Milan. My question is how often to the trains run from Milan to la cinque terra?

  4. Oh, good grief, Tom! We were there almost a year ago. I don’t remember. You can search the timetables online. I think pretty frequently though. The Snook thinks that we took a direct train from Milan to La Spezia via Genoa. If you want to go straight to the Cinque Terra, I think you have to change to a local train at Genoa. But look it up, it’ll tell you all the details.

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