While attending the Florence Health Institute, we have enjoyed long weekends every week which has allowed us to travel and explore. Our first weekend in Italy was very eventful! Half of our group traveled to Cinque Terre, while the other half chose to visit Viareggio, both of these places are on the coast in northern Italy. We all traveled by train, which was extremely eye-opening. One problem we all encountered while traveling was making sure we arrived at the train station on time. We advise future students to buy their tickets online and arrive about 20 minutes early to avoid missing the train because we almost did! Additionally, check to see if you will need any connecting trains for your trips. We quickly learned to make sure we had at least 10 minutes built in between arrivals and departures so we could hurry to the next platform.

Viareggio is the perfect beach to go to if you just want to relax for the day. It is about an hour and a half by train from Florence, so it’s not too far! There are both private and public beaches; half of our group opted for the private beach experience. You can barter with the beach employees, but typically it is around twenty euro for an umbrella, two beach chairs, and a sun chair. There are also restaurants along the top of the beach, so you don’t have to leave the beach to eat. Make sure you don’t just lay on the beach all day, explore the little shops along the boardwalk, too!

Cinque Terre is a little bit different than Viareggio; it’s a national park that stands for “the five lands.” Each village has something different to explore and experience. Starting with the village furthest south, Riomaggiore is famous for cliff diving; Manarola is one of the most photographed places in the world; Corniglia and Vernazza are known for their seafood, and Monterosso is known for its beaches which include a free beach as well as a beach you have to pay to enjoy. The free beach fills up fast, so go early in order to reserve a spot! Just like in Viareggio, you can barter the price with the lifeguards for the beaches you have to pay to enjoy.

The Cinque Terre is also known for its hiking trails. If you climb up the mountain, you can hike from one village to another, however, some of the trails are closed due to the danger of falling rocks. A few people from our group sailed the Mediterranean Sea and learned about how the national park is trying to preserve their lands due to the movement of rocks. Every year, different parts of the Cinque Terre have falling rocks due to the limestone in the cliffs eroding. As part of our sailing tour, we also got to go swimming in the Mediterranean. Watch out for jellyfish here, the sea is full of them!

We are so fortunate to have the weekends to travel! Studying abroad not only teaches us about our perspective majors but also teaches us about cultures in different countries and how we can adapt to and experience their lifestyles.