Today’s blog post comes to us from Fordham University student & API blogger Nicole Alston!
This past weekend, API took us on our first group excursion!
We met at the Santa Maria train station EARLY on Saturday morning & got on private busses (equipped with its own wifi network) which took us to our first destination, Lucca!
The drive was only about an hour. Lucca is a very historical city & much less touristy than Florence. The city is fortified still today by thick walls which encircle the city center. The wall around the city has been made wider across the centuries & now serves as a public park where people can walk their dog, go for a run – or most popularly – ride their bike!
Once in town, we stopped at multiple gorgeous piazzas which are home to the most beautiful basilicas, churches, old bell towers, restaurants & the cutest Italian dogs:) After a walking tour of the city, my friends & I found a local pizza joint that our guide recommended called ITACO – a slice was only 1.50 euro! #studentsonabudget. After a few hours on our own, we all met back by the busses to head to our next spot – Viareggio – a popular beach town on the coast inhabited by Florentine summer vacationers.
The city is completely surrounded by sand & the town borders the water. The main promenade is split between pedestrian walkways & bike paths, all which span the entire length of the beach. While on the promenade, we passed numerous shops, restaurants & the ever popular beach clubs! Each beach club includes beach access, sun chairs, a pool, a restaurant & potentially other amenities such as a gym or a spa!
API took us to Bango Piero, a gorgeous property lining the promenade. My friends & I immediately ran for the water & spent most of our time enjoying the rough waves at sea. For a break, we played beach volleyball using a stretch of land apart of our same beach club with a pre-set net. Once we were finished at the beach, we loaded onto the busses to head back to Lucca & to our hotel which was just outside the city center for dinner & some much needed sleep.
The next morning we woke up early again in order to be on the bus to head to La Spezia! We docked a boat which took us to the historical town of Porto Venere with the infamous Grotto Byron.
I do not remember exactly how many people our tour guide mentioned live in PV, but considering our “city tour” consisted of walking down one main street & took only 10 minutes to reach the top of the hill – I am going to go with not many. Although small, the town of PV does not lack charm, delicious delicacies (including peso & focaccia) or views!
After our tour & stopping for amazing pictures at the famous Grotto Byron, I headed back to the bottom of the hill near the port into the main piazza to have a much needed espresso among locals. We took the boat back to La Spezia & walked to the main station in order to board a train for Monterosso – one of the five lands which makes up Cinque Terre.
The second we arrived in Monterosso, my friends & I immediately found a place to eat lunch (& because we were starved) so we could finally sit down & try the region’s famous pesto sauce! The restaurant was charming & built into the coast, so we were basically sitting on top of the beach & the gorgeous Mediterranean sea. The peso gnocchi did not disappoint either. After we ate, we strolled through town for some shopping, exploring & gelato! After a few hours, we met the group back at the train station where we headed back to La Spezia to meet the busses which would take us back to Florence! After about a two hour drive, we arrived back at the Santa Maria train station around 19:30/19:45.