Florence and Pisa
It’s Friday as I’m writing this but I’m going to tell you about Thursday when we took our first big excursion from the Norwegian Epic. When we booked our cruise I was worried about the size of the ship … in particular how the large number of people lining up for dinner and departing for excursions would annoy me. I’ll say this … Norwegian has mastered the art of managing large numbers of people. Freestyle dining … in which there are no fixed dining times unless you want them … eases the lines for dinner. And they’ve managed to master the art of moving large number of people in small groups. The Epic docked in Livorno, an industiral port city that is roughly an hour and a half bus ride from Florence. Even though there were perhaps fifteen buses of cruiserrs departing for the tour, loading was quick an efficient. Luca, our tour captain, gave us some lessons in Italian, on surviving as a pedestrian in Italy and on negotiating for a good price. He mixed in funny stories and interesting background on Florence and Pisa.
We arrived in Florence at 9:30, disembarked and … naturally … started walking. Our first stop was Santa Croce Square, where we had 45 minutes free time to either explore inside of the Church of Santa Croce, do some shopping in the numerous gold and leather stores nearby or stand outside and be accosted by people selling every sort of Tchotke … or just outright begging. We opted for the inside of the church which, like all of the churches in this lovely country, was beautiful and filled with historical treasures. My Mom is probably chucking at how much I’m enjoying it. After our free time, we began the forced march portion of our tour with a local guide, Lucia. Lucia was both knowlegable and personable, but her accent made it necessary to concentrate in order to catch what she was saying. There was so much to see, it’s hard to describe it to you without the photos trapped on my camera. The highlights were the Duomo Catherdral and Baptistry, the Palazzo Vechio and the Signoia Square, which likely means nothing to you without a tour guide. Let’s just say we saw beautiful churches and cathedrals (naturally); countless beautiful sculptures; Michealangelo’s birthplace, his room and a copy of his most famous sculpture; palaces; examples of Roman and Gothic architecture; and square after charming square. Rome was remarkable for its treasures that I’d seen in pictures all my life but Florence seemed simultaneously more accessible and more elegant. It is my favorite tour so far.
After lunch at a local restaurant, we boarded the bus again for the hour and ten minute drive to Pisa. The Tower was both a pleasant surprise and a disappointment. Let’s do the disappointment first to end on a positive note. The entire scene is a circus, from vendors selling every sort of junk, from miniature Towers to knock-off Prada purses, and approximately 62% of the tourists seem to be less interested in the beauty of the ground than in staging I’m-pushing-over-the-Tower photos. OK, enough from my Inner Curmudgeon. Yes, the tower is a curiosity that seems to inspire silly photos, but it … and the Cathedral and Baptistry in Miracle Square with which are incredibly beautiful, and unlike many of the beautiful sights in Rome and Florence which are surrounded by other building, the Tower, Cathedral and Baptistry are surrounded by an expansive space that allows one stand far enough back to take in the entire structure. And that is enough to make the drive and the walk through the Tchotke Mercantile worthwhile.
I took some great pictures in both Florence and Pisa but without a SD card to USB adapter, I can’t upload them, so the pictures I’ve included are stock photos. Hopefully a week or two down the road, I’ll share some of mine. Tonight we sail to Cannes, France. I’ll tell you about it as the days go by as time and internet availability allow. Ciao.