Italian and French Rivieras: Through the eyes of my 20-year-old self

Chapter 8

Trip Date: April 16 – 21

Age: 20

With Lindsay in Monerosso, ready to start our hike!

This past weekend was possibly the most memorable of my weekend trips this semester.  My good friend and sorority sister, Lindsay, is studying in Luxembourg this semester with the program offered by Miami University and, after many months of IMing and emailing over seemingly archaic internet, we were able to come up with a killer trip for Easter weekend!  I left Rome on Wednesday morning and met Lindsay in Pisa.  She’s been traveling around for a couple of weeks because her classes are on break, and the first thing I noticed about her was her ENORMOUS backpack!  Or, I should say backpacks since it’s really a two piece deal, one zips to the other.  When I asked her about the backpack and the need for so much luggage she informed me that most of it was full of shot glasses.  Figures.

Lindsay and her monster backpack(s)

Our hello’s at the train station in Pisa attracted everyone’s attention (if there’s one thing the combination of Jenn and Lindsay is not, it’s quiet) we jumped on a bus to see the Leaning Tower of Pisa.  Turns out it was the wrong one.  This was only realized after riding it in a loop and ending up back at the train station where a kind man asked us if we were looking for the tower.  What gave us away, I wonder?  He pointed us in the right direction and we set out on foot.  Like when I was looking for the Charles Bridge in Prague, I find the best way to find a famous landmark is to simply follow the crowd.  Eventually we found the tower.  It leans.  It really does!  But other than that, there’s not much to it.  I remembered back to 7th grade science and the story about Galileo dropping two balls of different masses from the top of the tower to demonstrate that they fell at the same rate.  I shared this story with Lindsay while we looked at the tower.  “Thanks for the science lesson, nerd!”  I’m not a nerd, I’m a sponge.

Yep. It leans.

After a small lunch in Pisa we boarded an extremely outdated Trenitalia trail to Cinque Terre.  I don’t like to be told what to do and I don’t like to tell others what to do, but I’m going to ignore that for a moment: GO TO CINQUE TERRE!  It’s so beautiful and first seeing it from a grimy train window sitting next to one of my best friends made it so special!  At first spotting the villages that make up Cinque Terre (literal translation: five lands) we stopped our gabbing and stared in awe.  The water was a million different shades of amazing blues, aquas and green and the little homes and buildings that seemed built into the hillside were reds and pinks and yellows making the whole area seem like a psychedelic rainbow.  After dumping our thing at our somewhat sketchy hostel in Riomaggiore, we changed into our hiking shoes and caught a train to Monterosso, where we started our hike.  We later found out that this is, in fact the difficult route.

Cinque Terre

And it was.  Even for this tripping Clearwater Daughter this trail, with hundreds of steps and steep uphill portions was a challenge but the constantly beautiful scenery made it well worth it!  There are lemon groves all through the region and citric scents of the lemons mixed with the salty ocean to create a lovely, natural perfume that I wanted to bottle and bring home with me.  Each corner offered more beautiful views than the last and we couldn’t have chosen a more perfect day to hike.  Although we didn’t expect it to be as hot or difficult as it was so we hadn’t bothered to change out of our jeans.  Yeah, really smart.  But it got better when I suggested we roll up the bottoms of our jeans to create capris and Lindsay revealed her navy blue knee socks.  Seriously.  I don’t think I’ve ever laughed so hard.

Lindsay in Cinque Terre, before revealing her knee socks

After finally making it back to Riomaggiore we found a little pizzeria near our hostel and indulged in a well deserved meal.  This resulted in a food coma, making it much easier to fall asleep in our sketchy hostel.

Cinque Terre was so wonderful that we had to make a few adjustments to our plans.  Instead of leaving early in the morning for Genoa, we opted to spend part of the day at the beach we’d spotted during our hike in Monterosso.  We were joined by our new friends, Emma and Marie, and had a wonderful time sipping “fun” Arnold Palmer, using limoncello (a lemon liquor made in the area – have to do something with all those lemons) in place of lemonade.  Turns out we were enjoying our morning limoncello a bit too much and weren’t aware of our volume until a red faced Italian man in an even redder speedo looked our way and gave us a hearty “SHHHHH!”  It was on that beach that morning that we learned an important lesson about limoncello: it may be sweet and seem innocent enough, but it’s still 80 proof and, when consumed in the sun on empty stomachs may do some damage.  We were having so much fun that we completely lost track of time and ended up leaving ourselves only 5 minutes to get to the train station and board the right train.  The site of Lindsay trying to put on that heavy backpack in the sand after consuming half a bottle of limoncello made me laugh so hard that I tripped and fell back onto the sand, the sight of which made Lindsay laugh so hard that she nearly fell back to the sand, too.  We were a mess, but we were hilarious!  Once we finally made it on the train we may or may not have called a few friends back at school…

Ciao, ciao Cinque Terre!

Two bananas and a large bottle of water later we arrived in Genoa and couldn’t wait to jump in the shower of our three star hotel!  After getting dolled up we headed out in search of food and found a fantastic Greet restaurant – pita!  We strolled the city for a little while before reaching our destination – the opera!  And not just any opera, La Boheme.  And we didn’t get just any seats, we got first row balcony seats!  And not just that, we got them for half price!  Thank you, student ID cards!  I’ve seen a couple of operas in Rome but this was Lindsay’s first ever and I think it’s safe to say that she LOVED it.

I loved this site, two brothers waiting for a train in Genoa

Friday morning brought us yet another train, this one heading to Nice, France.  Upon arriving, we couldn’t get to the beach fast enough and soon fell asleep under the rays of the French Riviera.  It’s a good thing we did, too, because the next two days brought lots of rain!)  That afternoon we did a little shopping and felt very European with our makeshift dinner of cheese, crackers, turkey, yogurt and red wine.  Now, I don’t know if it’s possible to be a wine snob at my age, but it’s pretty easy to find a good but inexpensive wine in Italy.  I guess that this hasn’t been part of Lindsay’s education in Luxembourg.  Against my better judgement, I gave in and consented to… wine in a box.  It was truly horrid.  We also purchased sparking juice by accident (we thought it was a pre made cocktail) and Lindsay had the bright idea to combine the two.  It actually worked!

This next bit a little pathetic, please don’t judge us.  We were all excited to go out and hit up the nightlife in Nice but were forced to stay in.  A German film dubbed in French came on the only station that had reception and it forced us to stay in.  Lying in bed, all dolled up, watching a movie that we only partly understood.  Yes, we were asleep by 11PM.

…And, we slept until almost 11AM the next morning!  Actually, we woke up at 8 and were so depressed to see that it was cold and rainy outside that we went back to sleep.  The rain let up for a little while and we walked around Nice and did a little bit of shoe shopping.  When it started to rain again we found ourselves outside of a movie theater so thought, why not?  Only a couple of movies were in English and we decided to see Denzel in Antowne Fisher.  Not bad.

After the movie we stumbled upon a little restaurant called Havana that had live music and, since it looked pretty empty, thought we’d have no problem getting a table.  Nope.  It must have been full of imaginary people because we were denied a table.  Oh well.  We stepped back out into the rain and just as Lindsay said that Chinese food would really hit the spot we looked up and realized we were across the street from a Chinese restaurant!  It was delicious – having Chinese food in France, we would.  After dinner we took the advice of our waiter and headed to a bar called Amazone for a few drinks and then back to the hotel for bed… before midnight!

Enjoying a drink at Amazone

Easter morning brought even more rain so, after packing and checking out of our hotel, we headed to a little cafe for Easter brunch.  It became clear pretty quickly that since all of the shops were closed and the weather was not conducive for the beach there was only one thing to do: another movie!  Frida it was, and we were the only ones in the theater.  Afterward the rain had let up so we made our way to the beach where we talked with a very nice Frenchman for a little while and skipped a couple of stones.  Before catching our respective trains, we decided to have an early dinner at a Mexican restaurant (apparently Frida put us in the mood for tacos.)  It was sad saying goodbye to Lindsay as I boarded my train for Rome.

The beach in Nice

It was a rough ride home and I’m glad that it’s my last overnight train for the time being.  It’s Easter Monday in Rome and it’s also Rome’s birthday!  Legend is Rome was founded on April 21, 753 BC, making it the city’s 2,756th birthday.  That’s insane!


  1. What a beautiful place – thanks for sharing! I do not know how your friend lugged that backpack around with here – my shoulders ache just looking at the picture – ha!

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