Jun 4, 2014, 5:43 PM EDT
Tuesday/Wednesday, June 3/4, 2014
The Irish left San Marino at about 10 a.m. on another glorious day in Italy, taking the three-hour bus ride to Florence. The group gathered early afternoon in Piazza Signoria, just in front of the Palazzo Vecchio—and that was the meeting place at 10 p.m. when the Notre Dame contingent departed. Everybody searched out lunch and dinner options on their own.
In between, all the Irish players and staff wandered at leisure—from Piazza Santa Maria Novella, to the awe-inspiring and colorful Duomo, to the famed Uffizi gallery, to Piazza Santa Croce.
There were plenty of views of the Arno River, including the famed, covered Ponte Vecchio (with dozens of jewelry kiosks lining both sides). On the other side of the river was the Palazzo Pitti–and lots of little alleyways, nooks and crannies.
When in Firenze, try the Trattoria 4 Leoni on Via Vellutini–and order the orecchiette with zucchini, the mixed seasonal vegetables and the tiramisu.
By 11:30 p.m. the Irish had taken the one-hour bus ride to the Grand Hotel Tettuccio in Montecatini Terme, a delightful little town known for its spa therapy.
On Wednesday, the Notre Dame squad headed out at 9:30 a.m. for the hour-long bus ride to Cinque Terre (Italian for “five lands”)–where the group then took the train into the first of the five seaside villages on what is known as the Italian Riviera.
From there, the exploration began on a more individual basis—with three-four-minute train service connecting each of the five terraced towns—Monterosso al Mare, Vernazza, Corniglia, Manarola and Riomaggiore. It’s not easy to reach the villages because car traffic is non-existent, but both trains and boats connect them. There used to be walking passages between all the villages but severe flooding over the years has closed many of those.
Many members of the Irish group made the hour-plus walk from Monterosso to Vernazza (or the other way around)—and most all the players made it into the water at some point. There was plenty of cliff-diving activity at Manarola by both players and coaches, with Nick Ossello and Matt Landis making multiple jumps and assistant coach Gerry Byrne earning a 9.5 for his form.
When in Vernazza, try the Ristorante Belforte perched on a rocky hill at water’s edge on Via Guidoni—try any of the many fish offerings and enjoy the best views in town.
By late afternoon, the Irish made the return trip to Montecatini Terme for dinner at the hotel. Along the way you see impressive hillside deposits of marble, with a handful of quarries in view along the highway. These are some of the same quarries that produced the marble used by artists such as Michaelangelo.
On Friday the Irish head to Rome.
Check UND.com and WatchND for print and video updates from the Notre Dame men’s lacrosse journey to Italy. Stay connected to this trip on Twitter via @ndlacrosse, @ndheisler & @ndlaxexperience. Use hashtag #NDLaxItaly.
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