Sunday, September 18, 2011

Monte Conero: Gravel Floors and Sunrises

Ciao Ciao mi amici! (that’s hello my friendsJ)
It has been almost a month since my arrival in Italy, and not one day has gone by without some sort of adventure. This past week our group has become more and more comfortable with our town of Macerata, exploring and making some friends, all while consuming heavy amounts of gelato.
Over the past week, I have been busy with roommate dinner and movie nights (we are fabulous cooks if I do say so myself), group dinners with our new Italian friends on a rooftop underneath the stars, dinners to our favorite pasta place to celebrate Emily and Brittany’s birthdays (they have homemade pasta there!), and last, but not least, camping! Yes, this girl went camping. And not normal camping, but backpacking. Under the stars, on top of a tarp, using my backpack as my pillow kind of camping.
The weekend started off beautifully: we had another walking tour of Macerata, something we were worried about with the continuous heat and our lack of a normal attention span. But Filiberto had some tricks up his sleeve: we saw some incredible things in the very town we have been in for two weeks. He took us to two churches that literally left me speechless. One was so small, but so filled with details, each piece having meaning. The other, huge, but still, filled with just as many secrets, ones that could easily be overlooked if our wonderful guide hadn’t helped us out. This town holds so much history, history that the people here have pride in. They respect the history that formed its walls and scenery. It’s unlike anything you could find in the United States, I think.  
Friday night, my roommate, Mary, and I packed our bags for the rest of the weekend, one backpack each, of the things we would need to survive the night and next day. We even managed to pack ourselves lunch! (How domestic of us). Early Saturday morning we were off to the bus station to get an early start on the day. We met a few others from our group, just in time to catch the 7:50 train to Ancona. From there, we took a bus to a small coastal town called Sorolo.  We hadn’t planned anywhere for us to say, but as we got off the bus, we saw across the street a large sign for a camping sight on the water! How perfect, right!? We went down, reserved our plot of gravel, and headed off to Monte Conero, a large mountain in the region of Marche, that’s cliffs hang over the water and encloses beaches in its protection.
 Starting on a paved road and ending up in a narrow path, surrounded by trees, rocks, and a steep edge, we were dripping in sweat by the time we reached the top. Once we reached our destination though, the view was breath taking and it made the climb, and our already sore calves, worth it. The steep cliff reached down into a private beach, only accessible by hiking or a boat. The cliffs were beautiful, the water blue, and the sky bluer. I wish theway I was describing these things could do them justice, but not even pictures could accurately tell you about this place. There at the top, we took a break and ate our lunches, eating some of the best fruit I have ever tasted, bought at a local fruit stand. After our descent, we walked toward another edge, one that is not as high but more out over the water. This was just as beautiful; standing atop you could see for forever and also had an amazing view. We made our way down to our beach (after running out of water. Note to self: more than one bottle. Always.) After reaching the beach, we all pretty much jumped in the water to cool off, laughed about the over-abundance of speedos, and passed out among the sand and rocks. We were exhausted from our hike!
After the beach, we hiked back up to Sorolo, ate pizza on the main piazza, followed by… you guessed it… gelato J The scene was picture sickeningly perfect: friends having cute drinks and appetizers together, kids eating gelato cones, and two couples taking wedding photo’s overlooking the cliffs and water.
Even with all of the exploration of the day, the mind-blowing scenery, and the relaxing beach, part of this happy memory came when we all got back to the campsite. I swear, we laughed for hours. Over nothing really, but nevertheless, it continued until we got clapped at (which we think meant we should quiet down). Something about sharing a tarp with 5 other people under a tree with only 2 sheets and 2 sleeping bags, made the night bizarre but entertaining either way. Of course, no one slept all that well. If it wasn’t the cold that woke you up (or the heat in the case of the girls with sleeping bags) it was the mouse that took residence in the tree above us. This thing insisted on being up all night, throwing stuff at us. You may think I’m exaggerating but I’m not: we woke up with chewed up seeds and leaves covering our sheets and tarps.
So 5 am, I was wide awake and too scared of the mouse to go back to sleep (also, sleeping on gravel isn’t as comfortable as you may think). By 5:30 I was ready to see the sun rise (Scott’s idea) so I was on my way, the other 4 girls with me. (Shocking, not so shocking, Scott slept through it, changing his mind after we woke him up). After a long, and very impatient wait (and much to Mary’s surprise), the sun eventually showed its face, and it made the whole wait, the whole sleepless night, worth it. Bright fiery red and orange, it was awesome.
So that was pretty much the end of the super big adventure. We lay on the beach most of Sunday morning, enjoying the incredibly clear water. We could see the fish swimming around us, it was the coolest thing. After a quick rinse off in the campsite’s pool, we headed back home. (There was a short bus and train strike most of the day Sunday, but it was over by the time we needed to come back.) Basically, it was an absolutely amazing weekend. So relaxing and so much fun, doing things I’d never done before, with people I only met two weeks ago. I am so blessed and so happy I met these people, I’m here in Italy, and that I am able to experience this all. One year ago, I never thought I’d be here, and now I am. So happy J But I’m off to bed now. A real bed sounds so wonderful, I’m about to take full advantage of it.

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