Today I boarded a train to Pisa departing from the Santa Maria Novella train station in Florence on a trip to meet my dad’s Italian half brother to go to the beach and explore the area of Tuscany where he lives. After only an hour on the train, I arrived in Pisa and my uncle picked me up to drive to Forte dei Marmi, the beach town where they are part of a beach club.
We relaxed on the beach for a bit but the sun wasn’t out unfortunately so it was too cold to go swimming. My uncle and I walked along the water towards a pier with their dog, Brenda, and talked about the differences between Italian and American schools among other things. I find it interesting that he said it’s common for Italians to not start working full time until their late twenties because Italian university can take up to six years on average to finish, unlike shorter university programs in the US. Students in Italy also have a choice of high school, allowing them to specify a vocational path like science or business as early as high school, which seems helpful like the university program for business that I was in at my high school.
When we got back from our walk to the pier, we had lunch at the beach club and I got an amazing platter of fresh seafood – frutti di mare. I also had some gnocchi with prawns and it was one of the freshest meals I’ve had since coming to Italy. The region where my uncle lives is unique since it is near the ocean but they live in the mountains nearby, so there is beautiful scenery but also ocean access and fresh seafood all the time.
After lunch, we drove to Seravezza, the town in the mountains where my relatives live, and stopped at the amazing gelateria that I remember vividly from the last time I visited Italy years ago. I got a cone with dark chocolate, cookie, and pignoli flavored gelato that was quite possibly the best gelato I’ve had in my time in Italy so far.
We continued on to Pietrasanta, the town nearby that is famous for attracting many artists from near and far. The town square has large sculptures that reminded me of the time I was here years ago since I remember my sister and I playing and taking pictures with the peculiar art pieces. Down a nearby street, an artist had arranged colorful umbrellas all along the top of the narrow street between the buildings and it was so pretty and cute to walk beneath.
There were a few churches along the way that we stopped inside to view, and it reminded me just how old Italy is in comparison to America in terms of history and deep-rooted religion as a unifying factor for towns and communities. My uncle mentioned how the area of Forte dei Marmi was getting so popular with rich Russians who come to vacation there, and we saw some signs indicating the construction of an Orthodox church, verifying the growing popularity of Russian visitors.
On our way to the train station, we stopped at a marble carving factory where we saw many pieces in progress. The mountainous region is known for its marble, and the last time I visited, my family and I even took a tour of a marble quarry and went into the caves inside the mountains, which was a cool experience. We then said goodbye and made plans to see if I could return with a few friends to hike the mountains near Seravezza sometime this semester.
Back in Florence, I met up with my friends to get some gelato from a new place we hadn’t yet tried called Edoardo. I tried a flavor called Gianduja which tasted exactly like Nutella in gelato form – absolutely amazing, although I still think the ice cream I got earlier in the day in Seravezza was better. At this point, I feel like I’ve become a bit of a gelato connoisseur, which isn’t entirely a bad thing.