April 22, 2017 – April 25, 2017
We woke up late, not that we had anything specifically planned for the day. It was gray and overcast today and the clouds were teasing of rain. Early afternoon we collected enough energy to go to the grocery store and buy some essentials: pasta, pesto, bread and gelato- what I would shortly find out would by my entire diet list for the entirety of Italy.
Outside view of our little AirBnB.
With the rain moving in and the lingering exhaustion of the day before we decided to make it a day of laundry, writing, and eating. Also, occasional Tindering. I realized this was going to be a mental struggle for us throughout the trip. Balancing sightseeing and exploring with not physically exhausting your body has proven to be a little difficult. For me,m it had been 28 days since I left home and the constant movement was catching up to me. Throughout the day, we’d all vocally justify our reasons for staying in, and I could tell we all carried that tinge of guilt of not being out and exploring, while in a foreign country. We’d make it up tomorrow, I told myself.
The next morning we collected ourselves and bought boat tickets for 36 euro a piece. This option would bring us to any/all of the five island towns of Cinque Terre and we could pop on and off as we pleased.
We took it to the furthest island first and walked the town for an hour. It was really a tiny place with only tourist shops there. I bought a black and white checkered shirt from one of the shops. It had a lot of flow and I thought this would be great for me because of my increased dessert intake (which was already at two for the day, and it wasn’t even 3pm yet).
We bee-bopped to the other islands, the last being so incredibly crowded we were like standing sheep in an outside alley. I was thankful we had decided to come in spring and not summer, since I couldn’t even imagine the crowds then. We did, however, get some of the most beautiful pictures of the famous cliff side and we even saw dolphins on one of the ferry rides.
Some of the views from today.
It’s been a hard adjustment for me with the crowds, and I don’t know if this is a tourist thing or a European thing but social rules, like waiting your turn and not pushing others, hasn’t applied for buses, trains or ferries so far. I’ve found even being the first person in line for something (sometimes for an hour), gives you no advantage and I will nearly be one of the last people on because of above stated reasons. This last ferry ride was no different.
As my friends managed to snag the last two seats on the top level of the boat, I found myself standing on the outside stairs, that connects the back of the boat to the top. Surely this is a fire hazard. Well, maybe not. I guess everywhere is an exit when the boat is on fire. I should be okay.
I was about to go on a mental tangent about courtesy, people not moving their shit to make room for others (can we all promise to not have our purse or backpack take up an entire seat when there are clearly people standing just so your Fanta bottle can have its own area?), and chivalry when this sweet, Italian man in maybe his 60’s offers me his spot next to his wife. I try to say no, because while I may be female he’s much older than me, he kindly pulls me to his seat and stands on the stairs holding the railing the entire 45 minute ferry ride back. Well, I thought, I’m an asshole. I need to be better about not grouping everyone into the asshole category. There is still really nice people out here.
Along the ferry ride he points out to me things along the coast, and starts explaining them, I’m assuming. He doesn’t speak one word of English and I, short of “gelato”, speak no Italian.
It’s been a very, very humbling experience being in countries where you are 100% reliant on other people to know your language in order to communicate. Had the majority of the people I met not speak two, three or four languages, I’d be running into a LOT more issues. It also makes me admire them more. And want to be more like them in being multilingual. I put this on the mental to do list for when I get back: learn more languages. Also, buy Gelato (that’s my mental grocery list, but equally important to me).
As we pulled into Portovenere I thanked the man over and over. “Gratzi. Gratzi!!!!” I’d repeat over and over. I know I’ll be going to too many places to know the language so I’ve decided to learn please, thank you and dessert in each one… you know, the necessities.
“Mucho Gratzi”- shit, that was Spanish. He smiled anyway. His wife smiled and we hopped on land.
Portovenere is a picturesque town with housing along the cliff side pushed right against the water. It’s pretty amazing looking. I stood on a high concrete bench to take a better picture. As I’m trying to get my photo of the land, an older Italian man stops in front of me and starts saying something, in Italian, of course. He is smiling so I’m assuming he’s not yelling at me. Then another man comes up and they are both loudly saying things in my direction.
My kind old man from the boat walks by with his wife and he waves to me. The first man knows my old man, apparently. Then he realizes that he knows me. They exchange words and are pointing at me and two more guys start talking at me again loudly and I’m really confused as to what’s gong on. Eventually, one grabs my hand to assist me off the curb. He speaks to my friend who speaks Spanish, and clarifies a word. Then he kisses my hand and says “Boo-ti-feel”. Their wives decide it’s time to pull them away and we’re all laughing. My friends and I cracking up in confusion, them laughing because, well, I’m still not sure. Really need to learn Italian.
That night one of the girls ends up setting up a Tinder meet at our place so the other and I get kicked out for a bit. We go back to the delicious pizza place. She orders a big wine, after I convince her it makes sense to order the double since for just a euro more. I mean it’s obvious budgeting math- obviously!
I order a Nutella crepe, again. After sitting there a good hour, friend is working her way down her bottle and the server again asks if she’s going to order some food to eat. Im a little offended he’s not asking me, granted I am literally eating as he asks her, but I’d still like to eat again, if I was offered. I say nothing. I’m a little bummed now. I sad eat my Nutella crepe.
We assume there has to be some sort of rule about serving alcohol and not food. In our Madrid walking tour we learned that tapas were invented because of this exact reason. The King would want the workers to be able to still work, but they would go out for drinks to forget about their difficult lives as laborers or slaves (sound familiar, America?), but then they’d get too drunk and not be able to work. So he enacted a rule that food had to be served with the alcohol, and the places would serve the small portions of food on the top of the cup. Hence, tapas being small food appetizers with drinks or happy hour. There’s your fun fact for the day. Don’t remember which King it was though, I was way more fascinated with the inbreeding that was going on over there.
Anyway, she decides to order the Tiramisu because he offered it as a suggestion and honestly I think she saw my eyes light up behind my hazelnut-spread covered face. She takes one bite and offers me the rest. Not being a food-ist, I accept all shapes and sizes of desserts and work on this piece, while she works on her wine. Around 11 we pay our tab and get the okay to return to our AirBnB.
Later, we’re packing our bags and discussing how sad we were to leave La Spezia. It was such a cute place we had in city center. We all agreed the pizza we had the first night was hands-down the best we have ever had. While it rained one entire day during our stay, we were still in agreement we loved it here. Today was just amazing, we all agreed over and over. We loved it here. What all was it?
“Well, the views were incredible.”
“True, but we’ve had views elsewhere, too.”
“OMG. I think I know! We all indulged in our MOST favorite things!!”
“yeah! You got some extra wine tonight. More than any point on this trip so far. We know you got a little more tipsy because you got all mooshy and confessed your love for us.”
“And you got a good roll in the sheets, it sounds like (of course we discuss in most detail everything that happens when they leave- sorry for the spoiler alert, fellas). Italian Sausage to be specific. Like a few times. Look at you all happy and.. smiley. And me? I got desserts today! THREE!! Nutella Croissant this morning, Gelato at lunch. AND a crepe for dinner!”
“Didn’t you have that cookie espresso in Portovenere this afternoon too?”
“Oh, Yeah.. four!”
“AND.. didn’t you say you ate her Tiramisu tonight, too?”
“Oh. My. God. Five. I have FIVE desserts today. You are right. It was the perfect day.”
In unison we mumbled in agreement and said our good nights.
The next morning we’d head to another place we’d love: Florence, Italy.