Along The Italian Riviera with the Penn State Alumni Association

A group of 22 Penn State travelers explored the Italian Riviera from Oct. 27-Nov. 4, 2007, in a Penn State Alumni Association tour. You can experience the region’s beauty and history vicariously by reading dispatches from such places as Sestri Levante, Portofino, Genoa, and the Cinque Terre.

Sunday, October 28, 2007

On Italian Soil

Buon giorno (or at least I think that's how you spell it) from the town of Sestri Levante, along the northwest coast of Italy. Right now it's not quite 7 a.m. local time and I can see a gorgeous orange-and-pink sunrise over the mountains out the window of our hotel lobby, where this computer terminal is located. Possibly before the day is over I will be able to tell you the name of those mountains, but right now all I know is that they are gorgeous.

We landed in Florence late yesterday afternoon, and the view of Tuscany from the plane was lovely -- rolling green hills, plus what I assume were vineyards and olive groves, and many villas and villages perched on the hilltops. (Marie Secor, one of the Penn State travelers, observed that around here they seem to put their communities on top of the hills, whereas in Pennsylvania we put them in the valleys below. Not sure why that is.)

Once we got our luggage -- and, to our delight, everybody's bags made it -- we boarded a motorcoach for the 2-1/2 hour ride northward and westward to Sestri Levante, our home base for the next week. It was already dark, as Europe ended Daylight Saving Time on Sunday, but our trip director, Umberto, still pointed out a few things along the ride: a castle from the 1100s, a lot of marble-working businesses (they looked like tombstone factories), the city of Lucca, and the town of Viareggio. The latter town is on the coast, and once we reached it, we turned north and drove up the coast to Sestri Levante -- or just "Sestri," as the locals seem to call it.

Dinner was at our hotel, which specializes, perhaps not surprisingly, in fresh seafood. Just to give you an idea: The appetizer was some sort of sea salad with fresh calamari and octopus. I must say that the thought of eating octopus scared me, but I ate it, and it was quite good. (It helped that it was just little bits of meat, not at all recognizable as octopus!) Can't wait to see what other weird foods await me.

We all headed to our rooms, happy at the prospect of sleeping in a bed for the first time in at least 36 hours, and happier still at the thought of seeing what this place will look like in the daylight.

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