Emory Women's Soccer Team's Final Two Days In Italy
Eagle Reign on Lover's Lane
We began our day early once again to spend as much time in Cinque Terre as possible. Bussing to our first stop at Portovenere, we drove alongside the coast and through the town of La Spezia. Our tour guide for the day hopped on our bus in La Spezia and talked us through the city's history and the role that the massive naval base plays in the lives of the people who live there. Rather than the naval base seeming like an enclosed structure in itself, she explained, many of the citizens feel like they themselves are enclosed as it stretches far along the coast throughout the city. She pointed out the orange flags draped from some of the balconies which indicated a resistance movement to the base. As our bus rolled to the stop at the departure area for the ferry, we were told we had 30 minutes until heading to sea.
We spent this time wandering the streets of Portovenere. We explored uphill to what seemed to be the main road, of which many shops were lined. "Main" however is a relative term, as the narrow cobblestone streets would not be able to fit more than five people across. First, we sampled some incredible pesto from a storefront. It was accented with pecorino cheese which gave a very unique flavor to one of the famous products of this area. Another product that this area is known for is anchovies. As I'm all about trying new things and really getting the best out of where we go, I decided to try some fried anchovies from another restaurant (shout out to the Stein side of the family, I know you all would appreciate this). I guess the fact that they were cooked hampered the usual saltiness of the fish that we are used to when eating them on top of salads, for example, but they were quite good. We also checked out a few artisan shops and clothing stores.
Before we knew it, our time in Portovenere quickly passed and we were off to the dock to board the ferry to Cinque Terre. We sped across the wavy Mediterranean Sea on a two story boat. Myself, Kaiser, Kaelyn, Jess, and Bri spent some time up on the second level initially. The tour guides provided information about the random towns that dotted the coastline. Steep mountainsides met the water with almost no gradual incline. It was incredible to see the houses and terraces that had been constructed on terrain that was practically vertical. We made our way downstairs eventually to see the view from there, which was just as beautiful. Perhaps we spoke too soon about not getting splashed too much from sitting at the front, as we were met with a very generous bout of water as we crashed through one wave closer to the end of the trip. We passed by four of the five towns before finally arriving at the last one to dock and begin our day there.
Monterosso al Mare is by far one of the most beautiful towns I have ever seen. The buildings are overrun by color and accented by the laundry hanging on clotheslines outside their shuttered windows. A small beach dots the coast as we approach, but is overrun by debris and rocks from the ocean. We learn how a major flood in this past October damaged a large part of the city. Signs are posted throughout that demarcate where the water levels rose and where damage was done through photographs taken during the flood. After being told some history about the parish church of St. John the Baptist, located near the entrance to the city, we had a few hours of free time for the afternoon. Many people shopped for jewelry, clothes, scarves and more. Myself, Claudia, and Charlotte (the XL tour rep) had lunch at a great restaurant with perhaps the freshest Caprese salad and Bruschetta I have ever had. After free time, we had the option to either take the train directly to Riomaggiore, or get off a stop early at Manarola and complete the walk on Lover's Lane to Riomaggiore. The majority of us chose to journey on Via dell'Amore.
The supposed 15 minute walk turned into maybe a 45 minute journey, as we couldn't help but stop and take photographs along the way. The view was breathtaking the story about the road held much cultural significance. Right at the beginning of the walk, a metal grate was home to numerous locks with couples' names etched or drawn on them. We learned how lovers would come attach their locks to the grate, or various locations throughout the walk, and throw their key into the ocean to signify their enduring love for each other. Random cacti also dotted the path, which also had names drawn into it. We were feeling a bit daring so we ventured off the beaten path, literally, upwards on some stone steps on the side of the mountain. Though I hesitated at first, I made it about halfway due to Sue encouraging me to have a "YOLO mentality." We safely climbed down, continued on the path, and make our way to Manarola. Props to our tour guide who stuck with us and waited despite our dawdling while taking pictures and truly getting as much out of the walk as we could.
Arriving in Manarola we were greeted by a large mural which indicated our meeting place after some time to venture through this town. We walked through a tunnel to the main part of the city, where many of us bought some fresh fruit to snack on to hold us over. Though the colors of this city were the same as Monterosso, they appeared more worn and washed out-it was still beautiful nonetheless. Many of us also tried some gelato or a frozen lemonade drink-as this area is also famous for their lemons. Perhaps the coolest part of Manarola was the small port at its base that we were able to travel down to by steps and hang out on the rocks. Elderly men sat chatting at the entranceways to their shops, fishermen lined the edges of the sea, and brightly colored row boats rested around the path downward. In the area where we were sitting, a fisherman reeled in a fish for a stray cat. We enjoyed time relaxing in the cove and taking in all of the sights before departing via train back to the bus.
After a respite at the train station while a decent wait for one to arrive, we headed back and eventually drove back to the hotel in Montecatini. We were off for dinner on our own that night as opposed to our normal meal in the hotel restaurant. I ate with Lidija, Veronica, Kuehl, Meredith, Jess, Kaelyn, Charlotte, and Feldman at a restaurant off of one of the main roads. Afterward we sought out gelato as we would be unable to get any before our game the next day. Eventually we ventured back to the hotel and called it a night.
Rest Stop Resilience and our Last Day in Italy
Our last day in Italy wasn't quite what we expected. After hitting the road early, our bus came to what we thought was a normal stop two hours into the four hour drive to Milan. We exited the bus to use the restroom, stretch our legs, and check out the convenience stores. Word began to get around that our bus was having mechanical issues. Horrible traveling luck struck the Emory Women's Soccer team once again. When our bus broke down in Virginia at a rest stop this fall, we knew it was the first, but we soon came to learn that it definitely wasn't our last. The only redeeming part about the bus breaking down this time around was that we didn't have to run agilities around the rest stop as we had a game later that evening. We hung out in the parking lot and inside of the convenience stores, which luckily had seating area. Many of us played cards or caught up on the season finale of Grey's Anatomy. Luckily there was semi-decent sandwiches at these rest stops so we were able to have something sort of substantial for lunch, although that's not saying much.
After three hours, the replacement bus came and we bid farewell to Danielo as we departed the place of our temporary respite. Unfortunately, we weren't able to travel into Milan because of this debacle. Though we were disappointed, we still had our final game to look forward to later that evening. After one more rest stop and a few more hours on the road, we arrived at the location where the team was to eat their pregame meal. We tossed our bags in a holding room and proceeded to the dining area. The self-serve buffet was certainly a morale booster. Salad, cooked veggies, potatoes, bread, pasta, and chicken lined the table cloth coated tables for us to choose from. We fueled up and waited for Danielo's arrival so we could head to our game. During this down time we rearranged some bags, and were happy to see that our uniforms survived their washing at an Italian Laundromat.
We suited up, geared up, and drove 20 minutes to the location of our game. I think I can speak for our entire time when I say that we have never played in a location as beautiful as this one. The field was settled in a valley and flanked on one side by three distinct mountains. Though our game in California versus Redlands had a beautiful backdrop, this one definitely blew it out of the water. Following the warm up, run out, and pregame cheer, we began the match. It has been great to see our play improve throughout the entirety of the trip. This by far was the game in which we played the best. Though we went down early 0-1 when they scored off a breakaway that rebounded off of my first save, we came back strong and were able to put in a goal literally in the last few seconds of the first half. Claudia bent a ball in from a corner on the left side, and through a scrum of players it got slotted into the left side netting. This definitely shifted the momentum in our favor as the first half drew to a close.
In the second half we saw a lot of strong possession and movement of the ball to both sides of the field. We took advantage of our speed on our flanks and were able to often times break through and get a cross off. We secured two more goals and came back to "get the dub" and victory in our last game. Our cheers of "ole, ole ole ole" (led by Caroline Coates) reverberated throughout the field as we came together as a team following the game. In great spirits, we bussed to our final hotel location for our last night in Italy. We couldn't believe that it was already our last night. We had seen so many cities and done so many things in our nine days in Italy. Arriving at the hotel around 11:30 PM, room keys were sorted out and Coates gave a meaningful speech to the team about her time with us. Not going to lie, I had to hold back tears…and I'm pretty sure I saw Charlotte (Butker) tearing up out of the corner of my eye. We also had debriefing talks from Charlotte (XL Travel) and Sarah, who has been incredibly helpful and great with us the entire trip. As the rest of the time celebrated together in the lounge area of the hotel, I spent the rest of my evening doing final packing preparations as I was catching a cab at 5:00 AM to head to the airport for my London departure. The team had a great time relaxing after a successful game and an amazing time in Italy. It was time for one last buona sera before our journeys back to the States, other locations in Italy to travel, or myself who headed to London for my study abroad program. We truly did Eagle Reign on Italy. Grazie mille for following my blog about Italy!