Monday, September 21, 2009

Nextech, Pisa, and the Cinque Terre

Hello all,
I'm back from my weekend adventures and had an absolutely amazing time. Before I start on that, though, let's backtrack to last Thursday and the Nextech Electronic Music Festival.

None of us were sure what to expect on Thursday as we rode the bus to the Nextech venue, which looked to be an old train station turned large, empty, space. We knew Electronic music was somewhat similar to techno so, being from New Jersey, I had a minor idea of what was in store. However, we were not prepared for the strange lights, interestingly clad djs and participants, and trippy modern art that accompanied the festival. Regardless, it was a good time and an interesting cultural experience. We took artsy pics amidst the modern art, met one of the weird DJs, and did a lot of funky dancing in a huge room with blasting Electronica. It was strange and new for us, but I'm definitely glad we went.

After that, Friday was spent relaxing and resting, aside from the 13 mile run I had to do for my marathon training. It felt great though and I'm proud to say it's 1/2 the distance of the actual marathon. I feel really good about training for it and on a similar note, I joined an AMAZING gym today. I figured since my SMC teammates started training today, I should start getting back to the pool and weight room. After a little trouble with the transit system, Liz and I found the gym and went inside. We got a tour from Lorenzo, a young guy who spoke decent English and was very helpful. I decided to join even though it is a bit pricey, because it's all inclusive: pool, weight room, cardio equiptment, classes, and DAY SPA (aka massage, mani/pedi, etc). So I'd say that was a success.

But backtracking from today and moving forward from Nextech, we come across my phenomenal weekend in Pisa and the Cinque Terre. We boarded busses Saturday morning and made the 1 1/2 hour trip up to Pisa. Once there we were given a tour of the small, walled city (there's not too too much to see, but of course the Leaning Tower, Cathedral, and Baptistry) and had a delicious lunch at a local place. After that it was back on the bus as we headed for the beach. The weather was supposed to be miserable all weekend, but Saturday we got lucky and it was warm and sunny. We pulled up to the beach area, changed in a bathroom at a local bar, and made our way to the tiny strip of beach that is free to hang out on (most areas are owned by businesses and charge for chairs). It didn't matter that the area was small though, because we spent the entire time in the water. It was so warm and nice and the Alps were just chillin in the background, no big deal. GORGEOUS.

Sunday we got on the bus and began our excursion in the Cinque Terre. Our first stop wasn't actually part of the 5 lands, but a por city right before them on the coast. We spent a little over an hour there, sampled some amazing pesto, saw a church, a castle, AND the grotto/cave where Lord Byron gained inspiration for some of his works. Again, no big deal. We then proceeded on a very wet (it was raining) boat tour of the rest of Cinque Terre, stopping in one of the towns for a delicious warm lunch of bruchetta pizza and the area's famous pesto. After that we hopped on a train to another of the towns and walked on the Lover's Lane to the final town (number 5) before hopping a train back to where we started. Lover's Lane is a trail connecting towns 4 and 5 of the Cinque Terre, and it's covered in graffiti and writing of people's love for each other, in addition to lots of locks, like on the Ponte Vecchio. The idea is to write the name of your lover and you on the lock, then lock it to something (fence, bridge, etc), and throw the key into the ocean (or Arno River, in the case of the Ponte Vecchio). That was a beautiful walk along the cliffs overlooking the sea too. I then promptly passed out on the bus home and arrived to a rainy Florence around 7 on Sunday.

All in all, however, it was a great weekend. We're so lucky to be able to have the opportunity to travel Italy with the program and have so much included (like the 5 course dinner we had on Saturday night with salad, soup, pasta, chicken, potatos, spinach, and dessert). We're also lucky for all the cultural experiences like Nextech that we're offered in Florence. The next one is coming up on Wednesday, a Fiorentina soccer game! I'm so so sooo excited about that. So stay tuned for updates about that trip but also for pictures and video from this weekend (they'll have their own post to save space and because they're not full updated yet)..


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