I’m Emily, the Chair and the Italian Editor of the Linguist this year. I have spent the last 10 months studying at the University of Padova in the north-east part of Italy.
My friend and I decided to travel around Italy as a way to celebrate finishing our winter exams. Given that you can take a train to pretty much anywhere in Italy, we decided to go on a spontaneous trip around Tuscany, home to the cities of Florence and Pisa. As it was February and low tourist season, we could book cheap hotels last-minute.
Our first stop was Florence. It was an hour and a half direct train from Padova and we booked a low-budget hotel for two days in the middle of the city centre. We were immediately taken aback by the beautiful Renaissance architecture, particularly the Duomo and Giotto’s Tower. On the second day, we visited the famous Uffizi gallery and the Accademia gallery. We just had enough time to visit the stunning Boboli Gardens adorned with grottos, sculptures and fountains. On our last night, we had wine in a local enoteca and met a Scottish girl who we ended up spending the whole night having spritz with in a Florentine piazza.
On our third day in Tuscany, we took a two-hour train to Siena, a medieval town known for il Palio, a horse-racing tradition. For lunch we had bruschetta under the sun in the Piazza del Campo, where Il Palio takes place. Afterwards, we went to a medieval castle where we had a stunning view of the Tuscan hills freckled with charming beige houses. Lastly, we made sure to try the traditional cuisine: a heart-warming Tuscan soup and Chianti wine.
Our final stop in Tuscany was Pisa. We only planned to spend half a day there, as our priority was to see the iconic leaning tower. However, we actually ended up spending the full day there as there was a huge delay with the trains, something that is very common in Italy. We had to take a different train two hours later, but halfway through the journey we realised we had taken the wrong train, like so many other passengers because of the chaos with the delays. This led to us being sat at a random train station for an hour in the middle of a thunderstorm whilst waiting for the right train. Spontaneity doesn’t always pay off!
Whilst looking at the map, we saw that Pisa is very close to one of the most famous tourist destinations in Italy, and one of the most beautiful: Cinque Terre, meaning “Five Towns”. This little gem of a place is located in another region called Liguria. Each village is dotted with tiny colourful houses that have the illusion of being stacked up on top of each other. Given that they are fishing villages, there was an abundance of tasty fresh fish, and the region is also famous for its focaccia. We took a train from La Spezia, where we were staying, to the first village, Monterosso al mare, which is known for its turquoise, crystal clear sea. On the second day we saw two villages, Vernazza, which has a famous focacceria, and Manarola, where we saw a gorgeous sunset as we sat on some rocks right by the sea. It was a perfect way to end our 6-day trip.
This short and sweet trip was definitely the highlight of my year abroad in Italy, and despite the chaos of Italian transport, it is something that is so worth doing.
Emily Mercer – Chair and Italian Editor