Ciao everyone, and thank you for returning to #ReflectionFriday, where today, I will be reflecting on one of my top five favorite weekends of my study abroad experience! This is a big statement considering all of the amazing trips Mount students have taken together over the past two months. However, last weekend our group traveled to some of the most breath-taking places I have ever been to. It feels like I say that every week because of how much beauty this country holds, but the cities, towns, and villages that we visited last Friday and Saturday made my love for this region grow even deeper than I thought possible. These smaller towns have, without a doubt, made their way to the top of my list of places that everyone needs to go to if they are in Italy! The combination of seeing Siena, San Gimignano, and Cinque Terre in just two days made for an incredible weekend that I am super excited to share with you!
Siena, San Gimignano, and Cinque Terre are stunning locations with scenery that easily has the power to stir up that initial desire in people to travel to Italy. These three spots are ones that I have only seen in movies and pictures, which is why experiencing their beauty in person felt so surreal. On Friday, we took a bus to different parts of the Tuscan region, where we got the chance to venture around the steep streets of two medieval towns. The brick buildings that decorate Siena along with the gothic town hall and slender 14th-century towers made it an extremely unique place that I loved exploring. This city is one that I’ve heard about my entire life, as one of my favorite saints and the patron saint of Italy, Saint Catherine of Siena, is from there! With her feast day quickly approaching on the 29th of April, I look forward to calling to mind all of the new things that I learned about her right there in the place where she grew up!
After our guided tour of Siena, Mount study abroad students hopped back on the bus and headed to the hilly town of San Gimignano. The hilltop setting gave us glimpses of the Tuscan countryside and provided us with views of an unforgettable skyline. Inside the walls of the Town of Fine Towers, as it frequently is referred to, was a Gelateria that was voted best in the world, which of course my friends and I had to be the judge of ourselves! We find any excuse to get gelato, especially since we have entered into our last month in Italy, and decided that this would be a delicious way to conclude our day.
Although we all woke up bright and early on Saturday, the weather was not so bright, but rather very gloomy. When we arrived in Cinque Terre, the rain was coming down hard, forcing my friends and me to hide in a cute cafe to avoid getting drenched. After an hour of waiting for the storm to pass, we agreed that we should make the most of our little time in Cinque Terre and ventured out into the rain to explore the Italian Riviera coastline. The train that ran right along the seaside granted us easy access to all five of the villages that make up Cinque Terre. Luckily, the rain did not last, and by the time we got to the next village, the sun was shining and it was so much warmer! The positive change in weather inspired us to eat lunch outside at an extravagant restaurant overlooking the ocean, where we all enjoyed fantastic pasta and seafood! After our exquisite meal, we spent the rest of the afternoon walking around the water and climbing to the top of various terraces!
While I loved Siena and San Gimignano, I really enjoyed Cinque Terre and could have spent an entire week there admiring all of the beautiful villages along the coast. This place is one that I have been excited to visit ever since my younger sister and I watched the Disney movie Luca which takes place in Italy. Although Luca is set in the fictional town of Portorosso, the name sounds suspiciously similar to Monterosso, which is one of the five villages that make up Cinque Terre. Seeing scenes from this movie, such as the colorful houses and harbors filled with boats, in person was a magical experience that made my weekend so incredible. Come back soon to find out which coastal city my friends and I are traveling to next!