Amazingly, this time everything rolled smoothly. We simply picked up a car in Milan, looked at the map, and someone pointed a finger randomly at the map, saying "Let's go there." After six hours driving through stunning landscapes we arrived at a tiny touristic town called Levanto near Cinque Terre and the Italian Riviera.
And our luck did not finish there: after knocking on some people's doors asking for a hotel room, we managed to rent this superb three bedroom flat 2 minutes from the beach. I was in heaven.
We spent 2 days soaking in the sun in Levanto and Buonnasola (another beautiful beach 10 minutes away), had dinner in Vernazze, an even tinier village with one of the most fantastic sunsets on Earth (the other one being my Dad's hometown, Campo Grande, in Brazil), watched shooting stars lying on the rocks (I had never seen one before, until my new friend C. told me to keep looking at the same point in the sky for 10 minutes. I screamed when I realized it was true.), and ended the trip with late drinks in a medieval city called Lucca and the best risotto in a restaurant in Milan with a view to the Duomo.
Now. The fun part: (Before any Italians read this, please note I am totally generalizing).
1- Tanning is SERIOUS BUSINESS for Italians. They surely don't give a rat's ass to that whole nonsense of sunbathing before 11am and after 4pm, or using SPF 30, or things like wrinkles and, uh, CANCER. Why, if they can turn into a 70% dark chocolate version of themselves? I've never seen anything like that shade of tan. They were all something like this:
(That's the only picture google came up with when I typed "super tan". And that picture is probably from someone's granny in the 60s - which gives us an idea of how crazy must be these days to go this dark :).
Everywhere there were ladies toasting away midday, with a cigarette in one hand and baby oil spray on the other. And their faces MATCHED their bodies. Damn, I don't think I've come across anyone that, uhm, ruthless since the 80s.
2- Young men in Lucca ALL have long hair scraped back in a (yes) BUN. I'm not making this up. We went into the town center at night for drinks and we encountered this corner full of boys and young people standing in front of pizzarias and gelaterias (apparently their saturday night hangout of choice). And a whole group of them had their hair UP, loosely tied with the ends sticking out. Something like this:
I've seen men wearing their hair this way occasionally, but I never thought this was a MAJOR trend anywhere since the... what, early 90s? Oh, and all of them also wore knitted jumpers tied around their shoulders in a preppy sort of vibe, even though it was 35ºC outside and there wasn't any remote possibility of temperatures falling.
3- Italians can be quite scary sometimes. Everything seems to be "private" or "exclusive", and you have to pay to have to privilege to be at this places. Every beach has a private area with sun loungers (30 euros a day), and we were kicked out of all of them. You cannot order an espresso at the bar and take it to a table without someone screaming at you that you need to pay a fee to sit down, and don't even try to use their toilets or (the heresy!) throw a can of coke in their rubbish bins if you haven't bought it there.
4- Italians like their buildings to be grand and embellished, but it seems that around the riviera and Cinque Terre they don't want to spend too much money on sculpted ornaments. Instead, they paint extra windows, balcony columns, adornments and bricks on the walls in 3D style, so from a distance it's like you're looking at carefully built antique architecture. Marvelously kitschy. Something like this: