Throughout last week, I formulated a weekend plan that would be crazily busy. It would involve covering Florence, Pisa, and Cinque Terre in about two and a half days. After pitching the idea to various friends, only one, Esther, agreed to go with me, so we booked our tickets and set off early on Friday morning. We would meet up with another group in Cinque Terre, but more on that later.
All of our transportation would be by train, and we already had some train riding issues from the get-go. First of all, in an attempt to remain somewhat flexible with our schedules, we only bought tickets going to and from Florence, where we’d be staying. This was all well and good, except for the fact that we would have to buy a few tickets on the fly during our trip. Also, we forgot to print the train tickets that we did purchase, so we arrived at the station early to ask what to do. Of course, we almost missed our train waiting in the immense customer service line, and had to run to catch it. Thankfully, we made it right on time and the email confirmations that we showed on our phones worked just fine for the ticket agent. We were off.
Esther and I arrived in the beautiful city of Florence and lost ourselves in it. That is, we got lost in it while searching for our hostel. But after looking around for a little bit, we managed to locate the Euro Student Home around 2:00 and left our bags there. The attendant instructed us to return at 5:00, which gave us a few hours to get to and from Pisa.
Pisa is a nice enough city, but there’s not much going on in it. That is, except for the iconic tower right in its center. We showed up, attempted to do some good poses with the monument, and then were on our merry way. During the brief walk to the nearby train station, we stopped at a grocery store, deciding to pick up some dinner there rather than spending too much at a restaurant. I just grabbed a roll of salami, a hunk of cheese, and a baguette, and took a bit of each one to make a delicious mouth sandwich. We enjoyed our simple meals on the return train to Florence.
After a long search for the best gelato in the city, we got back to the Euro Student Home to find dozens of students our age gearing up to go out on the town. As much as we wanted to join them, the two of us were already exhausted and knew that we’d regret staying up ay later than we already had. Everyone else in the building left, and I fell asleep in the peace and quiet.
Cinque Terre is a series of five famously beautiful towns along the Italian Riviera. Tourists flock to the area to hike between the five, spending some time in each one. Typically, the hike takes about eight hours in total, and the time in each of the villages varies from person to person. Esther and I had planned in out really well: we were going to start hiking around 10:30 in the morning and be finished in time to catch out 8:43 train back to Florence. This would give us more than enough flexibility to take our time hiking, enjoy each of the towns, and meet up with the other group of IES students that was spending the entire weekend in Cinque Terre.
We left the hostel at 6:30, allowing ourselves enough time to grab breakfast on the way to our 7:13 train. McDonald’s was the only place open that early, so we grabbed a couple of breakfast sandwiches before arriving at the train station at 7:00 to see our train puling out from the platform. Since we had so many train rides planned throughout the weekend, we’d gotten the times mixed up! We momentarily freaked out, but settled down when we discovered that our tickets were transferable and we could just take the next train out. Everything was going to be completely fine.
Everything was not completely fine. There were two connecting trains on our trip form Florence to Riomaggiore, the first of the Cinque Terre, and our missing the first leg caused us to miss both of them. After a lot of tense waiting, we finally arrived at our destination at 1:30–three hours behind schedule. Our planned 8:43 train from the final village, Monterosso, back to Florence was the last one for the night. We had to catch it no matter what, leaving us with just over seven hours to make the eight-hour trip.
One of the main trails was closed down, so we had to take a detour that added a supposed additional hour to the hike. Esther threw out the idea of taking the bus instead of the detour to ensure that we’d make our train, but I wasn’t having it. I was hiking, and only hiking. We met up with the other group very briefly, but didn’t have much time to stay and chat. The train wasn’t going to wait for us. When all was said and done, after enduring pain, sweat, and thirst, we finished the hike with a little time to spare. Despite the rush of it all, the trip provided us with some gorgeous views, and it was a really satisfying experience. I wish we would have had more time to spend in Cinque Terre, but I’m still really glad that I got to go.
Of course, our trip still wasn’t over when we got on the train from Monterosso. We had to make two more connecting trains to get back to Florence, and this became a significant struggle due to our overall exhaustion. At the Pisa train station, our final stop before Florence, I removed the tennis shoes from my aching feet and traded them for flip-flops. Since the shoes couldn’t fit in my backpack, I stuffed my socks into them, tied the laces together, and carried them in my hand. Ester and I were sitting at Platform 5, waiting for the 9:30 train. When 9:28 rolled around, our train was nowhere to be found, but one was pulling into Platform 1. We double-checked the Platform 5 sign to see that we’d gotten mixed up and that the Platform 1 train was ours! I grabbed my backpack and shoes and sprinted for dear life on my gelatinous legs. Esther followed suit just behind me. I heard her yelling something at me, but in the delirium of it all, I couldn’t understand her. My only focus was the train. When we boarded in the nick of time, panting, Esther told me that she was yelling, “SOCK!” I looked out of the train window to Platform 5, where I could barely make out the tiny white object that I’d dropped while sprinting.
And that’s how I lost my left sock.