A Road Trip of a Lifetime – Finale

We woke up early, had breakfast, said goodbye to Montepulciano and headed to the last town of our road trip, the Eternal City aka the Italian capitol Rome. We went first to the Citta’ del Vaticano (Vatican City), which is the smallest country in the world in terms of size and population. Catholic or not, the Vatican has gorgeous works of art, architecture, and history that everyone can enjoy. I would have loved to see again the Sistine Chapel ceiling – Cappella Sistina in Italian – famously painted by Michelangelo, but unfortunately the line was too long for us that had only a day in Rome.  So we walked around St. Peter’s square and admire St. Peter’s Basilica and all those tourists for a bit.

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Piazza San Pietro

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Classic

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Basilica di San Pietro

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Panoramic view of San Pietro

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Where’s Pinocchio now?

Since all the corners of the Vatican City are within walking distance, Dustin suggested to walk around (literally) the Vatican City following the outside walls that surround this small city. It turns out the Vatican City has a boundary of 3.2 km around,  and we can actually say that we walked around the entire Vatican.

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The famous dome of Michelangelo, St Peter’s Basilica

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Walking around Vatican City

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Vatican CIty walls

After that we headed to our car and drove to our hotel that was right in the center of Rome.  We showered and off we were to walk all around Rome.  This is what we do on most of our trips unless we absolutely have to get somewhere too far away to walk.

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Roma

First stop, the Spanish Steps – Piazza di Spagna. I love this spot. Great place just to hung around, sit on the steps and enjoy the view.  And of course I love the shops that surround them. The streets here are lined with just about every designer boutique you can think of. It’s shopper heaven.

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Spanish Steps

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In Rome

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One of the many selfies

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Bacio a Roma

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Piazza di Spagna

We passed on shopping and continued our walk towards the Trevi Fountain – La Fontana di Trevi. Arguably the most famous fountain in the world — thanks to La Dolce Vita by Fellini and Roman Holiday with Audrey Hepburn and Gregory Peck – Trevi Fountain is a must -do in Rome.  However, it was so crowded with tourist that it was impossible to enjoy it.

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Another Selfie

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Need to refresh in the fountain=)

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Me and il mio amore

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Fontana di Trevi

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Masterpiece

Dustin threw a penny in, made a wish and vowed to return to Rome one day.

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Throw a penny and make a wish

Next,  we marvelled at the construction of the Pantheon. This building was rebuilt as a temple to all Roman gods, we stepped inside to see the legendary domed ceiling, which, in addition to the entrance, is the structure’s only source of light.

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Il Panteone

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The Pantheon

At this point we were hot and melting in the hot sun walking towards the Piazza Navona where the fountains welcomed us with cool water.  La Fontana dei Quattro Fiumi (the “Fountain of the Four Rivers”) was the one featured in  ‘Angels &  Demons’. 

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Piazza Navona

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Fountain of the Four Rivers

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Fontana dei Quattro Fiumi

We decided to take a break and chill at one of the most historic cafe’ in the square - Tre Scalini - and settle in for some people-watching while enjoying their renowned for its delectable chocolate home made tartufo ice cream ball.

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Our view from the Tre Scalini

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Chocolate home made tartufo ice cream ball.

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Selfie

Nice and refreshed we were ready to take in more of what this ancient city had to offer. For us the most interesting and fascinating part of our visit in Rome,  was visiting the older parts of Rome, the Roman Forum, Palatino and Colosseum (conveniently rolled into one 12 euro ticket). There is something equal parts breathtaking and sad about dilapidated ancient buildings. Some parts still have a hint of what they once were. We walked around walked around for quite a while, just observing the Roman Forum’s ruins.

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Panoramic view from Palatino

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Foro Romano

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Selfie

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Ruins

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Roman Forum

Ahhhh the Colosseum!  The Colosseum is a massive structure, the largest amphitheatre of the Roman Empire and in the world today. I was impressed by the interior of the site!  It’s not particularly large inside, especially when compared to the sports stadiums we have today, but it is very well preserved and can momentarily transport you to ancient times.  This is definitely a must-see if you are in Rome.

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Il Colosseo

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We and the Colosseum

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The Colosseum

When we were inside of the amphitheatre,  Dustin expleined to me that the underground chambers and passageways we were seeing,  were originally covered by a wooden floor. These passageways were used to transport animals and gladiators to the arena.  You will need to use your imagination to picture the Colosseum floor covered in sand to prevent slipping and to soak up the spilled blood. Pretty cool!

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Blowing a kiss to my Gladiator;-)

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The passageways where the gladiators waited for battle.

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Me & my Gladiator

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Underneath the Colosseum

This was the end of our road trip. We had a blast and I can’t wait for our next adventure!

 

 

A Road Trip of a Lifetime – Part Three

No doubt Tuscany, with its breathtaking panoramas, excellent wine and exquisite food, is one of the most beautiful regions in Italy. There are so many things to see and to do that it was a real challenge to plan our one day we had to visit Tuscany. When researching both Dustin and I were certain that we absolutely had to visit San Gimignano – a UNESCO World Heritage Site. They call San Gimignano the “Manhattan of Tuscany”.  San Gimignano rises on the top of a hill, 400m above sea level.  The patrician families who controlled the town built around 72 tower-houses (some as high as 50 m) as symbols of their wealth and power. Although only 14 have survived, San Gimignano is the most perfectly preserved medieval Italian city. It’s not just the towers that have made the city famous; the entire city is a magical flashback in time.

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San Gimignano walls

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San Gimignano Towers

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Look who made it to San Gimignano!

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“Manhattan of Tuscany”

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Just loved this

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Il Corso in San Gimignano

The views from the top of the wall, which we did climbed,  are absolutely incredible. The Tuscany you always dreamed of!

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Selfie in San Gimignano

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A painting

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Tuscany hills

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Love the colors

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Driving away from San Gimignano

After spending a good part of our afternoon in a picturesque, medieval hill-town in the lush Tuscan countryside, we jumped in the car and drove in another awe-inspiring Medieval and Renaissance hill-town, Montepulciano. We thought that Montepulciano was the perfect place for us to spend the night, and it sure was!

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Montepulciano from the distance

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Amazing hills

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LOVE

We stayed in one of the oldest hotel in town, Albergo Il Marzocco. The hotel is within the  town walls, it’s in a quiet location  and the staff  really made us feel at home. After taking a shower we ventured out in search of a restaurant. I really wanted Dustin to try the quintessential Florentine dish, the famous and colossal Bistecca Alla Fiorentina or Florentine Steak. While walking we got inspired and vowed by  this adorable restaurant,  Ristorante Degli Archi,  that was tucked back between buildings and had a sign that made us smile (Inside Wonderful View) and sold us on having dinner there.

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Inside Wonderful View Sign

This was no doubt our favorite restaurant we’ve ever been to and  the greatest meal experience of our life. The place is elegant and oozes love. The arches are what make the interior so stunning! The deep red walls, brick work, paintings, tapestries, and lamps make this dining room feel so welcoming and super romantic. It felt like we were in someone’s living room.

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Ristorante Degli Archi – Montepulciano

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Amazing view & handsome man;-)

Montepulciano’s fields produce a violet-scented, orange-speckled ruby wine called Vino Nobile di Montepulciano.  Dustin chose a 2009 Vino Nobile di Montepulciano bottle for this special meal.

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2009 Vino Nobile di Montepulciano

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Perfect picture

The staff were amazing and super friendly.

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We had bruschetta for appetizer

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My chicken dish

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Our lovely waiteress cutting the 1.4 kilos Fiorentina steak

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La Fiorentina

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Ready, Set, Go!

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My hubby sucking on the bone

After dinner the owner Pier sang to us. Seriously. It was one of the single greatest moments in our life.

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Great night!

To me a good meal is more than just tasty food, it’s an experience that should be remembered. I can safely say with absolute certainty we will remember our time at Degli Archi for the rest of my life. Thank you Pier! After dinner we walked around, got gelato and enjoyed the town at night.

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We were shocked of how many older people were out at 11pm

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La piazza in Montepulciano

Next is gonna be the last post of our road trip.

A Road Trip of a Lifetime – Part Two

Day Two – Beautiful Tuscany. Pisa, San Gimignano & Montepulciano

Day 2 was probably my favorite day as we travel beautiful Tuscany. Our first stop was Pisa.  The city itself is probably best know for its Leaning Tower Of Pisa or La Torre di Pisa as we italians call it, and as the birthplace of one of the most famous men in the math,physics, astronomy world  Galileo Galilei.  Galileo secretary claimed that he dropped two cannonballs from the top of the tower to discovered that gravity is the same on every thing. though there is no real evidence to support this.  The interesting thin is that the Tower of Pisa  is simply the campanile, or freestanding bell tower, of the Cathedral of Pisa,in Piazza dei Miracoli (Square of miracles). The tower and its placement seemed very unreal to me, so beautiful and it is in fact a UNESCO heritage site.  It was doomed from the start though and before they even finished construction it began to lean. It became famous as it started to lean more and for decades, engineers from around the world took an attemped at fixing it. In 1989 the tower was finally closed and they fixed the problem saving it for generations to see for years to come. In 2001 the tower re-opened and it now has a more manageable lean. The top is 4 meters from vertical. We hung around there for a bit, took some fun pictures, bought Pinocchio…follow The Adventure of Pinocchio=)

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Camposanto – Piazza Dei Miracoli

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Leaning Tower of Pisa

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Of course I jump

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Hmmm leaning?

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Love the architecture

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Pinocchio in Pisa

 The interesting thing I learned is that the Leaning Tower of Pisa is not the only leaning tower. Check below.

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Select leaning buildings

Driving across Tuscany countryside was simply amazing!  We saw lots of sunflowers fields and of course since sunflower is my absolute favorite flower my wonderful hubby made sure to stop at a few fields and let me run free around them=)

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Sunflower field from the highway

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Huge dried sunflower

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Small sunflowers

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Girasoli..Gira means “turn”, and sole means “sun.

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Swimming in sunflowers field

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I was able to capture a bee

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More sunflowers fields

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Sunflower closeup

Girasoli, which is what Italians called sunflowers sun turn. Gira means “turn”, and sole means “sun. Have you ever noticed that a sunflower will be point its’ face to the East in the morning and by the last light of the evening, it will have turned to be facing the sunrise? The sunflower moves itself in the most direct position in front of the sun so it can get the maximum sun rays, so the sun always shine on their “face”. I LOVE sunflowers. Sunflowers is one of Nature’s happiest of flowers and, to me no flower can lift spirits quite like sunflower can.  I think is a lot of photos for a post, I will leave the rest of our Tuscany trip to San Gimignano and Montepulciano for the next post.

A Road Trip of a Lifetime – Part One

I can’t believe it’s been so long since my last post back in April.  Between recover from the tragic event at the Boston Marathon, my promotion as an ASM at lululemon, traveling to Italy and life I have just been so busy and crazy that it’s been hard to find the motivation to sit down and write a post.  After the marathon me and Dustin ran the Boston Run to Remember half marathon and 5K which truly was a one of a kind experience this year. It didn’t matter that it was a cold and rainy Sunday morning.  10,000 runners showed up for the same reason, to support and be connected.  I think, in many ways this race was a great way to bring a little bit of closure while doing what we do when faced with adversity – run. The most touching moment for me was seeing all along Memorial Drive and in front of MIT, police car after police car from all over Massachusetts.  In front of the cars, stood police officers from all over the State. Cheering on the runners, probably dealing through their own emotions from 4.15.13.  I was immediately drawn back to that exact moment when everything changed.  And when I saw a few police officers wiping tears from their eyes, I started clapping, thanking all of them while I was chocking.  That was my last race.

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Logo I made

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After the race

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#Bostonstrong

After that, Dustin and I had a really time for lots of different reasons. There was no doubt we desperately needed a vacation.  However, we had plans to visit my family in Italy to meet my new niece Giorgia birth and celebrate her baptism. So, like we did last year we decided to take advantage of being in Europe already and take a mini vacation, just the two of us, after family time.  Our vision was to travel from my hometown in the north of Italy to Rome while stopping along the way to Cinque Terre, the five picturesque villages along the Italian Riviera coast and, Tuscany with its beautiful landscapes, and rolling hills,  all this in a matter of three days.  Can you say #roadtrip? Needless to say that this trip helped me find the motivation to blog.  I suddenly  had an urge to document some of my soon to be memories of one of the road trip of our life time.

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Our three days road trip

Traveling is an amazing thing. It opens our eyes up to new people, new food, new ways of life. Traveling can make you realize that you never want to stop discovering – or possibly that you’re happiest when you’re right at home.“The name of Italy has magic in its very syllables.”~ Mary Shelley

Day One – Cinque Terre (Chink-weh TAY-reh) which means “five lands”.

Cinque Terre was every bit the dream I expected it to be. In person, it feels as if you are living each day in a postcard.  It’s definitely one of the most beautiful, picturesque places on earth. Imagine  five ancient villages in coastal northern Italy connected only by footpath or boat landing.  Simply beautiful. When we arrived, I was instantly fascinated with the colorful structures nestled into the rocky cliffs rising from the Ligurian Sea. It was magical.  It’s like something out of a fairytale.  Noted for its beauty, Cinque Terre was declared UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1997.  Quoting from a guide : “Le Cinque Terre is an enchanted location situated between the sea and the sky where the spirit of man returns to nature.” Powerful.

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Riomaggiore

The five towns that compose the Cinque Terre include Monterosso al Mare (where we stayed and the only one with roads)  Vernazza, Corniglia, Manarola and Riomaggiore. The thing with Cinque Terre is that its protected as a national park that requires a 5 Euro entry fee, so there aren’t that many roads and even if there are roads on a map, they are only for residents. With that said, there are no cars or camels in the villages so your best vehicle is your feet! And that is exactly what people and tourists do around here. Walk.

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Hiking Paths

A scenic 13 km hiking trail on the cliff links all the five villages. Hiking from town to town is a great way to experience each area while seeing as much as possible while being active.  And the hiking paths here are some of the most spectacular in Italy.  As you walk between them, tiered vineyards and olive groves cling to the steep mountains, and every few kilometers you reach a crowded, colorful village.  The area is well known for its grapes, olives and pesto, which have unique flavors due to the mild, warm climate and shelter from winds by nearby mountains.

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Galleria

With only one day in the ares we managed to only hike from Monterosso to Vernazza and we absolutely loved it! This is the longest, ( 1.8 miles (3km); 2 hours to walk) most difficult hike in Trail #2, this section has lots of stairs and narrow passages. But with its panorama of all five Cinque Terre towns, I am sure it’s be the most rewarding, too! It was a really hot and humid day but Dustin and I managed to hike the whole trail in 1 and a half hour. It was really hard and we definitely felt it in our quads and calves the day after, but we hiked without resting except for the  few stops we took to enjoy the breath taking panorama and take photos.

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Boston Strong

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The beginning of the hike from Monterosso to Vernazza

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View of Monterosso

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My love

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Lots of stairs

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To Vernazza

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LOVE Vernazza

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Still Vernazza

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More Vernazza

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Last stretch of the path to get to Vernazza

If you decide to hike Cinque Terre you need to know what to expect! Some of the trails are more difficult than hikers expect, and trails can always close without previous notice. Not to mention that some of Cinque Terre’s most popular paths were devastated by the 2011 floods and are currently closed for restoration.  For example, we wanted to hike the Via Dell’Amore – The Path of Love , a suggestive and romantic path where you can find the original “bar dell’amore” (love barthat has a beautiful balcony that overlooks the sea. But it was closed due to last October severe rainstorm that brought massive flash floods and landslides, to the Cinque Terre.

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Via dell’Amore locks

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The Path of Love

Each town has its own charm and special touch, but if we had to choose our favorite, it would be Vernazza –Vernazza has a natural pier with a amphitheatre shape making it perhaps the most picturesque village of the Cinque Terre. We walked in the village that is dominated by a watch tower and the “Castello” remains and of course climbed up the cliff to visit this old castle and enjoy the view of the sea and the town below.

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Cinque Terre Colors

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View from Castle Doria

After our hike we took a 10 minute train ride back to our hotel in Monterosso, showered and off we were to see the rest of the villages by ferry boat. It was a wonderful experience to travel along the Cinque Terre coastline by boat. The villages look quite different if you look at them from the sea, and who doesn’t enjoy sitting on a boat on a hot summer day?

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Enjoying the ferry ride

It was already 3 pm and didn’t have enough time to stop and explore Corniglia and Manarola and decided to stop in Riomaggiore which is the most eastern village. Here houses are tightly tucked next to each other on the steep hills.

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Corniglia

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Manarola

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Corniglia

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Corniglia

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Riomaggiore

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How many Italians do you need to build a tiny boat?

Back to Monterosso by train to search for a nice restaurant. We found this nice place by the sea where we had dinner.

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Train back to Monterosso

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Spaghetti alla gorgonzola e noci

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Spaghetti Ai Frutti di Mare

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Cinque Terre white

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Ristotante Baia Monterosso

Then we walked more to the center of the village, stopped by the sea front and enjoyed the peaceful and romantic atmosphere that this magical village had to offer.

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Monterosso striped church – Church of St John Baptist

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Monterosso..so romantic!

I definitely would love to go back and hike to all the villages. Bye bye Monterosso see you next time!

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The Giant or Neptune in Monterosso

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Neptune

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Ciao ciao Monterosso

To be continued…

Love Boston

I’m heartbroken. I still find it hard to believe what happened. I have no words. I ran the Boston Marathon on Monday. I wasn’t there when the explosions went off like my friends Marisa and Stephanie. But I had been at the finish line 90 minutes prior, and had seen my husband and his parents waiting in the crowds for me.

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My family

I finished the race around 1:18 pm and walked aways to get my gear bag and met my husband and his parents at the family meeting area. For some reason this year took longer than the previous years. I finally met up with them around 2pm and hugged each one of them. I was cold so we started to walk our way back to our car that was parked on the parallel street to Boylston Street. It was a beautiful day. People were congratulating me for running the Marathon.  We walked right by the course and saw runners taking their Right On Hereford on their way to the finish line. Everything was normal. We drove back to Natick to find a place to eat and as soon as we got our food I got a text from my mother in-law asking me: ” Are you OK? What’s with the explosion”. Few minutes later our friend Dutch calls me checking if I was ok.  That was just the beginning of calls, texts, facebook messages we received in the next few hours. We saw the footage of the explosion…I was saddened and just felt sick. I couldn’t even think of food.

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I was infuriated and repulsed by the ugly details of this tragedy. Why? Innocent spectators at a marathon? It was supposed to be a day of joy and celebration instead quickly became a day in which running a marathon was of little importance. What if I was 90 minutes slower, I keep asking myself… My husband and his parents were there in the crowds, what if the timing had been slightly different…I assume most of you went through the same wave of emotions I did – shock, disbelief, horror, tears, grief.

I don’t have the answers.  I don’t feel much better. But I know one thing, those evils who did this underestimated the strength of the human spirit.  Hero’s immediately responded to the tragedy running towards the explosions to help; runners hitting the finish line and continuing on for the hospitals to give blood, Bostonians offering up their homes…didn’t they know that attacking us, they actually brought us together even more.  The running community came together and  people across the world are continuing to show their support by wearing race t-shirts and Boston Marathon blue and yellow. The #prayforboston hashtag & #runforboston showed up in social media almost immediately, whose organizers encourage runners to dedicate their runs to our city and share it as to spread the LOVE!

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Marathoners

Yesterday, me and my lululemon Natick run club, ran for Boston, for the victims and for everyone that couldn’t have the joy to finish.

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Run for Boston

People were talking about how the Boston Marathon would never be the same and how runners will fear running the marathon again. I think they’re wrong. It’s true that the Boston Marathon won’t ever be the same, in fact it will be more meaningful. What I’ve been hearing all around me from runners and non-runners is: ” Next year I’ll run Boston!” That’s right! The turn out is gonna be bigger than ever and we will prove that we are standing united, we will keep going and do what we are passionate about chasing our dreams!

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United

I also want to add that I am overwhelmed by how many people cared about us… I thank you all not only for caring for us but for still showing me a support that I could never dream of. A support that I need now more than ever to help me start the process of healing. Keep on running.

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2013 Boston Marathon Runner Tracker

Tomorrow aka April 15th is the day that; Leonardo da Vinci was born, American President Abraham Lincoln died,  the RMS Titanic sank and this year of course…is Patriot’s Day and the 117th Boston Marathon!  And if you’ll be out on the route watching and celebrating, and have friends running, it’s helpful to know how to track runners so you know when they’ll pass by.  This year the B.A.A. makes it even easier for you to monitor runners, all you need is to get your friends’ bib numbers, so get on that now=)

If you want to track me on Monday, you can do it right from the BAA website or you can register to the AT&T Athlete Alert to stay up to speed via text or e-mail.  You will get alerts when I pass the 10-kilometer, half-marathon, and 30-kilometer marks.

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First thing you will need is my  bib Number, which is 6760.

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My lucky number

Then, here is below the instructions to get a text or an e-mail alert.

TEXT - Simply text the word RUNNER to 345678 using your US mobile phone. You will then receive an sms text response with instructions on how to submit a runner’s bib number. (Message and data rates may apply. You will be opted in to receive four messages during the race. Send STOP to quit.

EMAIL - Continue to the registration page for the AT&T Athlete Alert on the race website. Sign-up using your mobile phone number for SMS text message updates, or by entering an email address for email updates.  Click here to sign up now.

This is not IT! For the first time, the Boston Athletic Association has created a mobile app to help runners and spectators maximize their Marathon Monday experience. Spectators can track runners, find marathon-related events, and peruse the course via iPhone or Android.

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Those watching from the sidelines as runners hit the pavement can tap into the smartphone app and track exactly where participants are along the route by selecting certain checkpoints, such as the 10K, halfway, 30K mark and finish line. “Spectators will also be able to search for runners by bib number or by name, view a real-time race leader board, and search for results after the race,” according to a description on iTunes, where the BAAMarathon app can be downloaded for free.

The app allows runners to easily view key race information.

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Elite Field

Tour the race course via Maps, and easily share their race experience with the Boston Marathon on social media before or after the race.

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Mile 10=)

The app allows runners to easily view key race information, tour the race course via Maps, and easily share their race experience with the Boston Marathon on social media before or after the race. Also, it’s not only helpful on race day, but it is also a useful tool for those coming into Boston for the entire weekend who may be searching for things to do and places to go.

Have fun Monday, and see you out there. Off I go for a 3 easy mile run to loosen up my legs.

1 day to GO!

Marathon Fever Strikes Boston!

Boston has been hit with marathon fever! With just less than two days to go until the 117th running of the Boston Marathon there is a certain excitement in the air around Boston.

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Marathon Fever

I was anxious to hit the John Hancock Sports and Fitness Expo this morning, so Dustin and headed to Boston pretty early . There were SO MANY people around Boston…the buzz throughout the city is just incredible and made me even more anxious to run=)

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Boston Fevah

For the first time the Boston Athletic Association has created a RUNNER PASSPORT™ to help all runners maximize their Boston Marathon experience. There are city maps, visitor suggestions, and key race information throughout the booklet. Most importantly, the runner Number Pick-Up Card is the back cover, and can be submitted at the Expo.  After I turned in my Number Pick-Up card,  they gave me my bib number packet, and a blue lanyard with a plastic sleeve.

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My packet

I put my passport in the sleeve, and I wore it around my neck to identify yourself to others as a Boston Marathon participant=)

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2013 Boston

After getting my number and the shirt we  run into Gina and Mat on our way into the exhibition. I haven’t seen Gina in a long time and I was really happy to see her. Especially because I am not sure I will see her on Monday.

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Gina & I

We walked around for a long time, stopped and talked to the Pro-Form booth where they were featuring the official Boston Marathon treadmill. This thing is sick!  First of all this treadmill is designed with the help of the BAA, and it has a setting that actually mimics the terrain of the Boston marathon by matching the elevation every mile of the way. The coolest part is that it has an video of the course, which was filmed, during the 2012 Boston Marathon. And while we were watching going by mile 10 where we lived we saw Dustin in our front yard waiting for me…pretty cool ah!

excellence

New Balance

Dustin bought me my new favorite shirt!

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My new shirt

We were in the Expo for 3 hours and I was really starving at that point but I really wanted to wait till Steph got there. I was anxious to see her! She looks great and ready to go!

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Steph & I

Kara Goucher and Shalane Flanagan were signing autographs at the Nissan booth but the line was endless that decided to get some food in my belly instead. Those two ladies are an inspiration to me and it is an honor to run the same course on the same day as they will. If you think about it’s a privilege. Under the same conditions we all can see how we stack up against the top athletes in the world. In what other athletic event would you be able to play on the same field as the best in the world?

Second tome running "with

Second tome running “with” Kara

We went to get a glimpse of the finish line too…just from far though.

dna

Finish Line

In the swag bag this year they had a special 26.2 Samual Adams Boston Brew bottle opener.

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26.2