Sunday, October 17, 2010

It's About Time!

I saw my first car crash today while riding my bike--dont worry, it was a fender bender and no one was hurt. Why is this a note worthy event you ask? For those who have never ridden a bike/driven a car in Italy, let me be the first to tell you that Italian drivers are HORRIBLE! Only in Italy have I ever felt scared to go through an intersection while I had the right of way and only in Italy have I ever been scared to have cars drive behind me. For starters, they tend to sit no more than five feet behind my back wheel and when they do finally pass, they cut back into the lane no more than five feet ahead of my front wheel. Unbelievable.

I can go on and on about Italian drivers...but I wont. Obviously, not ALL drivers here are would be over dramatic to say they are. However, a good number definitely need to go back to driving school. Either that or stop watching Formula 1.
I was told via my parents that my grandmother was angry with me due to my lack of updates. Not wanting to lose my title as "Greatest Grandchild," I'm now forced to write something.

Last weekend a few friends and I hiked the Cinque Terre. It was nice...overpriced, but nice. I'm happy I went, happy I got the experience, happy to get out of Perugia; though, not too happy with the price tag. Without a doubt the best (not to mention cheapest part of the trip) was the water-front hiking trail which connected the five villages.
After staying in Riomaggiore--where we slept in a hostel which is probably the definition of "s%!#-hole"--we began our trip along the coast on Via Dell' Amore ("Street of Love" or "Street of Lovers", sorry my Italian isnt that great). As the name implies, this place is a hot-spot destination for newlyweds, dating couples, and the occasional American college student. Attached to the steel fence made to prevent hikers from falling into the sea were hundreds of locks with the names of the aforementioned lovers inscribed upon them. The largest collection of these "love locks" was a white fence midway between the first and second towns.

Once we reached the second town we were somewhat bummed to hear the seaside route to the third town was closed due to construction--leaving us with the option of either taking a train to our next destination or hiking up and over the construction before descending back down. Not being one to forgo adventure (or willing to spend the money on a 5min train ride) I voted for the hike. Fortunately, my comrades all had the same mentality and we unanimously decided to head for higher ground. In hindsight, this would probably be the decision that made the trip. The route we took was unbelievably nice as we hiked up first through a forest of olive trees, across the mountain through nothing but grape vines (and the occasional backyard) all before going down through woods which, if not for the fact the we're in Italy, could have been straight from my own backyard in MA.

I feel the need to use a lot of pictures for this trip since most of it consisted of just enjoying the view.

This contraption and many more like it could be seen all across the side of the mountain. In case you cant tell, its a motorized rail-car-type-thing-a-majig which carried the newly harvested grapes along the steep slopes. A pretty ingenious idea if you ask me given that I was pretty tired just walking the trail alone....I can barely imagine doing it everyday with a bundle of grapes strapped to my body. The best part was how these rail cars would traverse any slope, even those which seemed impossibly steep.

In the end we hiked about 9miles...needless to say my feet were hurting. Fortunately though, all my pains were forgotten over dinner where I had the pleasure of dining on some awesome risotto and local seafood. MMM

Then we returned to the hostel where I slept like crap, woke up early the next morning, and took a seemingly endless train back to Perugia....oh the joys of travel.

Until Next Time,


Wednesday, October 6, 2010

This Happened a While Ago....but I Still Thinks It's Worth Talking About

Ten minutes ago I got out of the shower with the intention of cleaning the kitchen, doing my laundry and reading some material for class. Instead however, I have only managed to make a sandwich, watch a few youtube videos and now start writing this blog. That's what I call productive. Anyway, since the last time we talked (or since my last blog--which was a while ago)the most notable events to have happened are a hike up Monte Subasio, and a trip to Rome with my Dad. For now though, I will only discuss the former of the two.

Monte Subasio is one of the largest mountains in Umbria and can be seen from pretty much any location in Perugia (granted you're looking south-east and there arent buildings in your way). Following an early alarm, myself and a few friends took a train to Assisi where we arrived shortly before noon (Assisi itself is close to Perugia but we took a few wrong train, making the trip a bit longer than necessary)

 Determined to walk the WHOLE way to the top of the mountain we refused a bus trip from the train station to the main "tourist" portion of Assisi. At first, this "warm-up" walk was pretty flat and scenic as we walked down several one lane streets surrounded by various farms. However, this easy stroll quickly turned into a march as we hit the first initial incline to the city. Now, I consider myself someone who is in adequately good shape...still, this was tough!

After an hour or so of exploring the city itself we embarked for the trail head leading to the summit. To get there however, we would have to walk across nearly the whole of Assisi which once again required a great deal of uphill walking--this seems to be a common theme here in Umbria.
Once at the trailhead, a few member of our corps decided to forgo the rest of the hike and instead spend the day exploring the city--a fair tradeoff. Still, I was determined to make it to the top and set out with my roommate Stephen and two other students at the Umbra Institute--Brendan Pescatore and Katie Parsons.

As an interesting side note: all the buildings in Assisi were made of limestone rock quarried on Monte Subasio. Extremely white in color, these rocks were scattered all over the trail and, as one would expect, were extremely heavy. For a while Stephen and I tried to carry some larger pieces up the mountain but (I) grew too tired and threw my rock away....thereby ending the "game". Beyond rocks though, Monte Subasio is also home to something a bit more appetizing--Cinghaile! To those of you who may not eat out a lot, cinghiale is italian for wild boar and if you havent had the chance to eat it you're missing out. Apparently, next to truffles, it is a Umbrian specialty though if you ask any 'honest' Umbrian they will tell you other regions of Italy have even tastier varieties.
Now while it would have been cool to actually have seen a real live cinghiale, I've heard they are rather vicious and not too friendly to humans (or any other animal for that matter) moving in on their turf. Instead however, we did get to see a cinghiale trap (or at least thats what we were told it was) a few kilometers below the tree line. Fortunately, there was nothing inside....
Once over the tree line we got our first real view of Umbria from over 2000' up. I could try to describe it but, as they say, a picture is worth 1000 words.
Following a few minutes wherein we rested a bit and took some photos we continued up the mountain. However, given the "rough'in it" attitude of our crew we decided to skip out on walking to the summit via the access road (yes, there was a paved road that led to the top...depressing, I know) and instead duck between a barbed fence to the open field leading to the top. Now, while you may think bypassing a barbwire fence is "badass" (we thought it was ourselves) let it be said that--un-be-knownst to us-- every two hundred meters or so there was an opening in the fence to allow for hikers to pass. Oh well, we get points for effort right? Anyway, upon reaching the top we ducked into a small crater in the ground to escape from the wind wherein my we ate some cheese and bread my roommate Stephen brought along. Upon finishing "lunch" we decided to head back down the mountain though not before we came up with the not to brilliant idea to leave our mark on the top in the form of a rock cairn.

Obviously, my engineering skills are far superior to those of my companions....yet, for some reason I couldn't get the structure to stand. I personally blame the wind which, as you can see from the photos, is howling about pretty wildly. As you can also see from the photos, I have a really bad tan line....just sayin' (I know you were thinking it anyway).

Be sure to check back soon. I have a bunch more stuff to write about so I should be updating this thing pretty regularly. Also, feel free to comment....just nothing stupid, like correcting my grammar and such. I know, these things are full of mistakes but given the speed at which I write them (and my lack of proofreading) what do you expect?


Friday, October 1, 2010

Picture Now, Words to Follow (II)

Here are a few photos from the last week or so. They include a hike up Monte Subasio, a trip to Rome, and an unexpected visitor outside my bedroom window.

I swear there is a story behind each photo....just give me some more time to write them.