Saturday, April 28, 2007
The belated Italy recap!
I started the trip in Rimini, a beach town on the Adriatic coast. Paganello was sadly underwhelming this time around, but I still can't complain about getting to play Ultimate for 4 days in perfect weather on a gorgeous beach. We ended up winning our game on Monday morning, which won us 19th place out of 22 women's teams. Then we watched the 3 finals games (women's, mixed, open) and had one last evening of hanging out together.
Tuesday morning I split for Venice and arrived within 30 minutes of Scott, who was coming down from a long weekend spent in Vienna. A few hours later, we met up with the rest of Team Italy: Paul, Amy and Jay who were hilariously loopy from being awake for 24+ hours. We wandered through the big sights and ended up in the ghetto (the first Jewish ghetto in the world) where we had a beautiful Italian dinner. We all slept very well that night.
We spent all day Wednesday in Venice (toured the Doge's Palace and St. Mark's Basilica) and then took an evening train to Florence. We checked into our hotel there, and then went out for gelato - the best in Italy.
(The basilica in Florence.)
We spent all day Thursday in Florence (saw Michelangelo's David) and then took an evening train to Rome. Yay Rome! It felt good to be "home." We walked from the train station to the downtown apartment where we were staying, and were greeted by Laura and Valerio (the tournament directors) a dozen other Ultimate players. Bread, cheese, beer and a few tournament details rounded out the night.
(Fishing a frisbee out of the river.)
A quick note about the Rome tournament - there were only 20 or so players, divided into 4 teams. We played throughout the city, wherever Laura and Valerio deemed there to be enough space for a small field. Friday's games were in the northwestern part of the city. We tossed at the Pantheon, but the police told us to move on, so we made our way to Piazza Navona, where we managed a 30 minute game of 7 on 7. Lots of tourists stopped to watch, and only a few wandered blindly through the middle of the game. From there, we went to the banks of the Tevere River, and then on to St. Peter's. We got in a few points of Flutterguts before the Vatican City police told us the area was "only for praying." On to Castel Sant'Angelo, where the old moat offered a relatively spacious, peaceful area for our last games of the day. We went home, showered, and spent the afternoon touring the Roman forum. I've been there a few times before, but it's always incredible. Afterwards, we made our way along Via Aventina, where I used to teach, and had cheap champagne at the bar I used to frequent. The bartender still recognized me! We crossed the river and made our way to the Trastevere restaurant for the tournament dinner - pizza and beer. Fantastic. A pretty walk home, and a deep sleep.
(St. Peter's Basilica)
Scott and Amy and I got up early on Saturday in order to see St. Peter's basilica before the games started. We were in the church by 7:15, gaped a bunch, and then climbed to the top of Michelangelo's dome for amazing views of Rome as well as the inside of the basilica. We hustled down to Piazza Venezia for the first games of the day, on "fields" filled with trees, trash cans and gnarled roots. We happily moved on the Colosseum for a quick, cramped game, before heading through the Forum for a game under the basilica of Constantine. Incredibly, no park police kicked us out. We finished with a nice big game in the Circus Maximus.
We had a busy Saturday afternoon - the Pasta Museum, the Cappucin Crypt (decorated with the bones of hundreds and hundreds of monks) and the National Museum. We met up with the rest of the tournament players for dinner at a nearby restaurant and ate all kinds of good salami and pasta.
Sunday's games were in the northeastern part of the city. A few minutes at Piazza del Spagna, before a pair of undercover cops kicked us out, a nice long game overlooking Piazza del Popolo, and finally a grand finale game on a pebble field right behind the Villa Borghese. We hustled back to the apartment, grabbed our stuff, and hopped on a train heading north.
We arrived in Vernazza, one of the Cinque Terre towns, around 9. Our landlady met us on main street and showed us to our apartment. Lovely seafood dinner, a walk through the narrow winding streets which culminated in a stunning sea-and-stars vista.
We spent all day Monday hiking between the 5 towns. I hadn't visited Cinque Terre when I was living in Italy, so it was exciting to see a new place, especially one so beautiful. The five towns are stretched out along seven miles of the coastline. They sit right on the water, clinging to the rocks, and separated by terraced lemon and olive groves. The trails between them offer stunning views. We stopped halfway through the second trail and clambered down to a little pebble beach, where we swam and sunned for an hour or so. We continued to Corniglia and had a leisurely picnic. We arrived in the last town, Montarossa, around 5 - just enough time to get gelato and hop on the ferry back to Vernazza. We had a relaxed evening writing postcards and sipping cocktails by the harbor before an enormous pizza dinner.
(The Cinque Terre coastline)
(Documenting the coastline)
(Sunset at the Vernazza harbor)
Scott and Jay and I took the earliest train out on Tuesday morning in order to get to the Vatican Museums at a decent hour. I called my friend Lucas when I got there - we used to go salsa dancing when I lived in Rome, and he works for the Museums. Fun to reconnect with him. We spent hours in the Museums and Sistine Chapel and were among the last to leave. (I ran into another old friend while I was there - Rich, who used to work at St. Stephen's with me, and who works as a tour guide. Pretty funny.)
Finished with the Vatican, we turned our attention to shopping. Limoncello, lingerie, fine cheese, all the Italian essentials. We ran into Paul and Amy, who had taken a later train to Rome, and stopped into a fantastic pastry shop just as an enormous hail storm started. Our only instance of bad weather the entire trip, and we were trapped in a pastry shop! Delightful. We continued walking/shopping through the city, checked into the apartment we were renting for the night, and went out for one last good Italian meal.
Wednesday began with a 5 am taxi to the airport and was a long, long day of travel involving canceled and delayed flights. Happily, everyone made it home safe and sound at the end of the day. A successful trip.