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Archive for the 'Guest Bloggers' Category

Ask and You Shall Receive

I sat with Katie at the CinCin bar, my enormous rolling bag propped at my side, trying to find the silver lining to my increasingly frustrating situation. I had just left/been kicked out of the house I was living in after quitting my job as a nanny after only two weeks of employment, but that’s another story. I had no place to live, minimal funds, no job, and I could remember almost none of my Italian from classes only a couple years before. I was in a tight spot. Katie, on the other hand, kept telling me I would be laughing about all this soon enough, and although I was dazed, I was definitely not feeling at all jolly.

We made a game plan over a cappuccino, for myself, and a pot of hot water for Katie. She has her quirks. After we dragged my bag over the cobblestone streets to her house and stuffed it under her bed, we went in search of a hotel room where I could stay for a night or two while I looked for an apartment.

The first place we came across was a bed and breakfast near Piazza Sant’Oronzo. It was a bit more expensive than I would have liked, at 50 euro a night, but I was desperate, and tired, and also in need of a shower. We accepted the room from a sweet woman who was incredibly pregnant. As I was looking through the place, Katie and I told her in broken Italian my situation, and how I came to be here in Lecce, with no job, money or place to stay. Well, this lovely Italian woman felt for me and said she had a friend who may be able to help me out. On a tiny scrap of paper she wrote down his name, Stefano, and where to find him, across from P.zza Duomo. I thanked her profusely and, after showering, headed straight for his office.

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She had let him know I would be coming so when I arrived we sat down together and had a long talk, in English and Italian, about what he could do for me. This man that I had never met before, offered me a room in one of the apartments where he collected the rent, and a job leasing four wheel bikes in Piazza Sant’Oronzo during the summer to tourists, with a monthly stipend that would allow me to stay in Italy for as long as I wanted.
I felt like crying, and when I made it back to my bed and breakfast , after a celebratory gelato from Natale, my preferred gelateria, I did. Happy tears, that is, and I felt my worries slide away from me as I drifted off into a mid-afternoon nap, very European of me.

Longest Night in Cinque Terre

The first Friday after I had arrived in Siena for a Summer Abroad Program through UC Santa Cruz, my new friend and soon to be soul sister Allison, and I, decided we needed to get away. That first week of language classes had tired us out and we were ready to let loose and start enjoying ourselves.

We had both heard of a small area to the northwest called Cinque Terre, or five lands, which was really five small cities situated along a breathtaking coastline with a hiking path connecting them. It was the perfect two day vacation we needed and on Saturday morning we took an early train out to the first city, Riomaggiore, and were immediately drawn to the startling view of calm, turquoise waters, which flickered specks of sunlight into our eyes as we stared down at the small city below, dazed by its beauty. We started along the path, which proved an easy and enjoyable walk that took all of 15 minutes.

The next city, Manarola, was more stunning than the first, with brightly colored buildings built one on top of the other, where happy Italians live their lives in the midst of all the tourists that coat their cities during the warm summer months. Here we treated ourselves to a mid-morning gelato and headed straight for the next city on the coast, Corniglia, where we planned to find a hotel and spend the night before attempting the two notoriously more difficult hikes the next day. We wandered around the city, inquiring at small inns at first, but found that they were all completely booked. After an hour we became a bit frantic and began going into restaurants and bars, asking if rooms were available upstairs. At one point a sweet Italian waiter guided us to his local bar where he said there were always rooms, but even this little unknown spot was taken. We began to freak out. We decided to hike to the fourth city, Vernazza, hoping to find a room there for the night.

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This hike proved to be incredibly strenuous, and we practically ran it since the sun was setting and we didn’t want to be hiking in the dark. We arrived in Vernazza, sweaty and exhausted, and watched the sun set over the sparkling water, alternating between gold and black, and then we rushed down to the city below, in search of accommodation.

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