We first heard about Cinque Terre in the Rick Steve’s “Europe Through The Backdoor” guidebook. He described it as the authentic, untouched, Italian Riviera. Of course, it's no longer untouched because Rick has quite the following. But the views were stunning nonetheless and the towns still possessed lots of charm.
We took the train from Florence to Monterosso (the first of the 5 towns that comprise Cinque Terre). As good ‘ole Rick described, we enjoyed flashes of the Ligurian Sea as the train whipped through the Mountain tunnels along the coast.
My heart raced a little as a true California girl that loves the coast and sights of the ocean. After weeks of staying in big cities, the sights were refreshing and lifted our moods.
Florence is known for their museums. Look up Florence Attractions on Trip Advisor and you’ll find a long list including the Uffizi, the Academia Gallery, and more. So if you love art, buy a pass and start working your way down the list.
But if you’re just a casual admirer of art, like Tom and I, try enjoying Florence a different way. Below are 6 ways to see Florence without ever paying an entrance fee or walking through a turnstyle in a museum.
And since we are self-proclaimed foodies, I’ll start with our gastronomical encounters:
When Tom and I first stepped out of the train station in Venice and began to make our way to the famous Piazza San Marco (St. Mark’s Square), we were overwhelmed by the dizzying array of fanny packs and running shoes. Like one large spineless blob, the monstrous crowd of tourists absorbed us into itself.
At times, I couldn’t tell if I was in Vegas or Italy. The only difference seemed to be that the street vendors in the real Venice peddled cheap toys and Prada knock offs, while those outside the look-alike Venetian in Vegas flick little cards adorned with naked women.
I thought to myself, so this is Venice. And although the town itself and its winding canals looked beyond charming, I was disappointed overall. This was our first stop in all of Italy and the authentic mamma mia experience I sought was nowhere to be found. In fact, there were more tourists than Italians in this little corner of their country.
But then something changed.
J’aime Paris! Paris has so much to do and see, but you don’t want to see Paris; you want to experience it. Like a good French meal, this city begs to be enjoyed slowly, in small bites, and savored.
It’s easy to imagine how the impressionist movement got its start in this town. For us, Paris wasn’t about running around town to check off a long list of all the tourist sites and attractions (and there are plenty). It was about getting an impression of the city, the people, the culture, its history and, of course, its food.
With a new girlfriend, you don’t get to know her by reading her yearbooks and hastily touring her childhood stomping grounds. Rather, you take her for a walk along the Seine, you share a glass of Bordeaux, and you engage her in conversation over a slow, drawn-out meal. We found Paris to be much the same.
Besides, you can’t see everything when you travel. Money or time will always become a constraint. Instead of stressing out over what I haven’t seen, I've learned to throw up my hands, slow down my pace, and experience what I can right in front of me. In tourism, as in French life, choose quality over quantity.
Below are 5 ways we slowed down and got to know our girl, Paris:
I'm Jaime. My husband is Tom. Suburbanites, backpackers, and expats...we've been them all!