Friday, May 22, 2009

5.20.09 Livorno, Florence and Pisa

This morning we had breakfast delivered to our room. This is a free service on the ship. I don’t know how I’m going to go back to not being pampered like this. We headed out around 9:30ish and took a shuttle into Livorno where we would grab a train to Firenze (Florence). We met 4 sisters on the shuttle (all in their 60’s) who were planning on doing the same, but had no idea how. I told them to just follow us and I would take care of it. The shuttle took us to the city and we grabbed a bus to the train station. From there Melba and I bought tickets to Firenze and the 4 sisters bought tickets to Pisa. Pisa was along the way so we took the same train – it left at 11:11am.

These four sisters fell in love with me (according to Melba). Getting around town isn’t that difficult, but it sure helps that I know the local customs, language, how the buses/trains work, etc. This is the first real day of the cruise and I’m sure these sisters liked having a ‘personal tour guide.’ It was really easy for me to just tell them to follow us, but I know that it made a big difference for them.

Melba and I filled our Camelbacks and loaded them with granola bars before we headed out. My Camelback has a leak on the top (near where you fill it up) so I can’t set it down without having some water leak out. Now that I know that it makes using the Camelback much more enjoyable. Our train ride into Firenze was 80 minutes long so we didn’t get in until 12:30pm. Our plan was to see some sights there, eat lunch, hop on the return train, get off at Pisa, run and see the leaning tower of Pisa, then hop back on the last train heading to Livorno where would catch the last shuttle back to the ship.

We followed a map to the Duomo – it is beautiful. There was a long line to get inside (not sure why) so we waited about 20 minutes before getting in. Most of the things we wanted to do cost money (that’s not always a given when things are inside of a Church) and I had run out of Euro. I talked with a local who directed me to a bank and I pulled out some more Euros. I think the exchange rate has gone down slightly – but I’m not certain. I like being able to speak Italian because the directions to this bank were somewhat complicated and I don’t think I could’ve found it had I not been able to speak Italian.

€8 per person to climb the 463 stairs of the Duomo and look out at Firenze. Absolutely gorgeous. I looked out at the Tuscan country side and it was just beautiful. I haven’t seen anything to compare it to. Red rooftops throughout the city, the Churches stand out, and it all continues to the green mountains which have houses built up on them. Just amazing. I was no longer bothered that Melba chose to take me to Firenze (instead of spending the day in Pisa). We spent about 20 minutes at the top taking pictures and joking about when we would move to Tuscany.

We left the Church and looked at the doors of the baptistery opposite the Duomo. There were made by Berghini a long, long time ago. 3D gold carvings (not real gold – that was just the color). We actually looked at replicas of them because the real ones are being restored. There were 8 square carvings – 4 on each door – and each one depicted a story from the Bible. All of them were very well done with lots of detail.

As we worked out way back to the train station we stopped at a sandwich shop for lunch. Melba had prosciutto and mozzarella and I had tomato, basil and mozzarella. The food here is just so good. It was simple, but good. We ate quickly and made it to the train station with some time to spare.

Melba slept most of the way back – I needed to stay awake because I was worried about missing our stop at Pisa. I later learned that Melba was really hot. The train was hot, but I was sitting by the open window and had a breeze blowing on me – I was unaware that Melba wasn’t getting any of it. I would have gladly witched seats with her had I known.

We got off of the train at Pisa at 4:30pm. I checked the schedule and saw another train going to Livorno at 5:34pm – this gave us just over an hour to walk over a mile to the Leaning Tower of Pisa, see it, take some pictures and walk back. Sounds easy, but Melba wasn’t feeling well and had a headache due to the heat on the train. We also didn’t know exactly where we needed to go. We got to the Tower shortly before 5pm. It’s pretty cool. It actually leans quite a bit more than I thought would. Melba’s Lonely Planet guide says there are always lots of tourists taking pictures with their hands positioned to look like they are either supporting or pushing the Tower – yup, that’s exactly what we saw. We took a couple of pictures and worked our way back.

I bought Melba some gelato hoping it would help her feel better. We ended up getting back to the station in about 20 minutes so maybe it worked.  After walking over a mile each way (plus the walking in Firenze and climbing 463 stairs) my legs were dead – as were Melba’s. But we had done everything we wanted to do at this port. And now we were rushing to make it back to the ship. We got to the station with about 15 minutes to spare. The train arrived on schedule and thank goodness I remembered the name of the Piazza where the shuttle would pick us up. We got on the shuttle around 6:10 – not bad considering the last shuttle was scheduled to leave at 6:30. We made it back safely to the ship.

We were covered in sweat so we headed back to our room to take showers before going to dinner. I think today was one of the funnest days of my life. When I was a missionary I always thought it would be fun to come back to Italy as a tourist. I also thought it would fun to cruise Italy with my future wife. Here I was doing it. I knew the language, customs, etc and we were having a blast. The day ended up being everything we wanted it to be. When I got back on the ship I had a hard time speaking English to everyone because I was used to speaking Italian. I will miss being able to speak Italian to so many people once I get back to the States. In fact, I think I am going to miss Italy like crazy once we get back to the States – there are so many things that I love about Italy from being a missionary here and I had forgotten most of them. Now that it’s all coming back to me I can understand why it took me so long to ‘come home’.

Tomorrow we arrive in Monaco. We will be anchored, not docked. We were told that people who have paid for shore excursions will be the first ones to be tendered to land. (I think that’s the verb I should be using). We’re going to sleep in and leave later in the morning. There are some museums and such within walking distance of the port. My feet are feeling better after all of the walking today so I hope I can handle a day of walking tomorrow.

No comments: