A Wild Day in Tuscany

Italy is beautiful. And at the apex of Italy’s beauty is Tuscany. And at the apex of the beauty of Tuscany is a 5 hour hike called Cinqueterre. In the 5 hour coastal hike, you go through 5 different (and incredibly gorgeous) villages. It was one of the most breath-taking scenic trails I’ve ever been on.

But as Pete, Matt, and I set off on the trail, we had no idea the wild day that we were in store for. We had heard nothing but great things and were anxious to hit the trail and let the beauty of the Italian countryside surround us.

I’m not sure I can do the crazy events of the day justice, but I’ll try. So with the aid of some pictures I snapped along the way, this was our Tuscany experience:

Our string of bad luck started the night before we were going to do the Cinqueterre hike. We were having a pretty low-key night in Florence when Matt stepped off the sidewalk and rolled his ankle badly. It immediately was swollen and in the morning, when we awoke to get on the train to do the hike, his ankle was changing colors. Even though this was taken after the hike, this is more or less what his ankle looked like:

But Matt, being the trooper he is, decided to ignore the severe pain of his ankle and do the hike with us. Very noble.

So we took the train and arrived in Monterosso, the first of the 5 Tuscan villages. The views were spectacular. Essentially, the trail leads along cliffs on the coast, sometimes inches away from a serious drop into the ocean. There was also the occasional handmade wooden bridge:

All was going well along the hike until we reached an uphill climb. I went first, followed by Matt, followed by Pete. Matt and I ducked under a tree branch that jutted across the path, and Pete, who never saw it, walked straight into it. Immediately his head starting gushing blood. Nearly panicked, him and I hustled back to the town to get assistance, while Matt, whose ankle was killing him, hobbled back to the town some distance behind us. When Pete and I arrived in town, we did our best to explain the situation in broken Italian, and the people of the town tried their best to understand it through broken English. They gave us water and a chair for Pete while we waited for the ambulance to come:

A few minutes later (and still no sign of Matt) an ambulance arrived to take Pete and me to the nearest hospital, which was 25 minutes away. Although our day had done a serious 180, we kept our spirits high:

Oddly enough, Pete was in and out of the hospital in less time than it took us to drive there. They gave him a shot of anesthesiaand two stitches in the top of his head. Unfortunately for Pete and me, the ambulance that brought us 25 minutes away from the town we were in had driven away and we were left without a clue where we were. We spotted a sign that pointed us in the right direction to get back on the Cinqueterre and hopefully find Matt. Unfortunately, that sign said we were 8 kilometers from Monterosso, the majority of which was straight up the side of a mountain. We didn’t have much of a choice at this point, and we started walking up the windy, mountain road.

After 20 minutes and not very much distance covered, we decided to hitch-hike. I’ve said before that I would never pick up a hitch-hiker, and so I can’t blame the several cars that passed us without picking us up. We walked a few miles up the mountain with pretty low spirits, a totally unsuccessful run at hitch-hiking, but a gorgeous view:

After we had gotten nearly to the top of the mountain, our luck changed. A kind old man in a three-wheeled gas maintence cart saw our thumbs out and decided to give us a lift. Granted, he only took us a few kilometers because his destination wasn’t Monterosso, but still, our outlook was beginning to improve. Here was Pete in the back of the cart, and a shabby picture of our Italian helper:

After being dropped off by our three-wheeled, blue, savior cart, we continued walking and hitch-hiking. As it turns out we still had a long way to go. But a few cars later, we were picked up in a tunnel by a couple who lived in Monterosso. They were very nice people who had no problems at all taking us into the center of the village. Though I’m usually not a fan of hitch-hiking in general, I must say it was our saving grace that day.

We now had enough daylight left to get back on the Cinqueterre hike and try to get to see another village. And although there was still no sign of Matt, we knew at the very least we could meet back up in Florence that night. So after some pizza and ironically running into the ambulance drivers from earlier that day, we hit the trail once more. This time, a bit more cautiously.

The weather was perfect. The trail was beautiful. And fittingly enough, we hiked to the next village just in time to see the sunset. Here are a few images of the hike, the village, and the gorgeous sunset:

After some ice cream, we got on the train and headed back to Florence. (Well, actually we got on the train in the wrong direction and then missed a train or two and after an hour, finally got going in the right direction). But we eventaully found Matt, who was back at our apartment watching “Raging Bull.” We walked in, plopped on the couch and had quite a story to tell.

For all the Cinqueterre/Tuscany/Florence/Italy pictures, check out my photo site: www.flickr.com/photos/peytonlea

Thanks for listening. Until next time..

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~ by Peyton Lea on March 31, 2009.

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