A year ago I was in Europe and lately I’ve been thinking over some of the places that were the most memorable from that trip. If you read my travelogue posts from back then you already know the details of each place I visited, but I thought I’d do a series of short writing pieces over the next three or so weeks where I give my thoughts on particular cities or regions as a whole. I’m not going to talk about every location; just the ones that have been on my mind. The order that I write about them will be in the approximate chronological order of when I visited and each writing piece will feature two locations with a photo from the trip to accompany each of them. As a bonus, at the end of each writing piece I’ll note where I was, one year ago that day.
Thanks to Rick Steves and other travel guides, the five small villages on the Cinque Terre have been thoroughly discovered by the tourist horde. Most visitors are day-tripping from other cities in Italy, so if you spend the night there you’ll find the place a lot emptier at night. Then again, there’s not much to do after nightfall. Hiking the scenic trails and exploring the quaint little towns is the name of the game in that part of Italy. When I was in the Cinque Terre I stayed in Vernazza, and it was the most expensive accommodations of the entire 2015 trip. My room costed $50 per night, but it was an absolute steal compared to all the other listings I investigated, which averaged $75 to $80 per night. My room was on the fourth floor of a hotel at the top of a ridge that slopes down into the sea, so every day I got some intensive stair climbing action, but on the plus side it had a small balcony with an epic view. My days in the Cinque Terre were spent visiting the five towns and hiking the trails between them, and each day ended with a dinner I’d prepare for myself in an open-air part of the hotel overlooking the sea. Fruit, bread, cheese, meat – the most basic of meals, but when you’re feeling that sea breeze and watching the sun go down, any type of food will suffice.
Siena & Nearby
I’ve described Siena to some people as something of an alternative to Florence. Both are major cities in Tuscany, but Siena is smaller, has fewer sightseeing attractions, and doesn’t get quite as many tourists (to be sure, it still gets a lot). The historic core of Siena feels much more stuck in the past (in a good way) than Florence does, and apparently we can thank the Bubonic Plague for that. Siena’s main square is one of the few in Europe where you can just take a seat on the ground and no one bats an eye. It’s almost like a beach, but made of brick and you’re expected to keep your clothes on. For me Siena also functioned as a launchpad for day trips to other towns in Tuscany, namely Volterra and San Gimignano, but if you read my travelogue post titled The Battle of Tuscany
, you know I had some issues with the local bus system. San Gimignano is the famous town with all the towers that’s would die overnight if tourists stopped coming and Volterra is the lesser known town that hasn’t completely sold out to tourism because it doesn’t get enough tourists to be able to do such a thing. I don’t mean that as a disparaging statement about either town, and if you were in Tuscany I wouldn’t feel any regret in suggesting you visit either of them, but just know what you’re getting into.
On this day, one year ago, I was in Croatia and took a day trip from Zagreb, the capital, down to the land of lakes and waterfalls, aka Plitvice Lakes National Park.