Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Florence and Pisa

We got an early start this morning: off the ship by 7 a.m. and a quick cab ride to Liverno's train station. We were lucky all day: we never waited more than a few minutes for any train, as we rode the line all the way out to Florence, and then back to Pisa around 1 p.m., before returning to Liverno and the ship around 5 p.m.

We were a bit smug about our exploits today as we talked to people on the train and in the jacuzzi, but the truth is that I'm proud of what we accomplished on our own today. It cost people $99 each to book the Florence excursion, which basically just got them there. We got there for €13 each, plus a €20 cab fare, and then had time for a separate 'excursion' to the leaning tower of Pisa, which would've cost cruisers even more -- $188 per person for both.

And the best part was that we saw these tour guides holding up Royal Caribbean paddles throughout the day at various points; we had an equivalent experience for a fraction of the cost, and, more importantly, at our own pace.

Florence was so beautiful, and the San Lorenzo market was very impressive -- particularly the covered food market, with such eye-catching selections as octopuses, truffles and what I thought of as pig's face, but, after a quick google, what may be called careta (or Spanish for mask, I believe). The stuff of Fear Factor, either way, that last one.

Pisa's tower and cathedral were even more impressive than we'd expected -- Stephen was really taken with the tower, I think -- particularly when contrasted with the city's tough exterior of excessive graffiti [which turned out to be a reoccurring theme through most of Italy and Greece, incidentally] and heavy construction.

I'd expected Tuscany to be beautiful, but here again, as the train rolled on, the countryside really captivated me. Tea's talked about renting a villa there for a good amount of time, and I couldn't be more excited about the prospect now.

We met some great people today: our first taxi driver in Liverno was really fantastic: he had some great stories, and was very reassuring when it came to our plans for the day; he even came into the train station to explain the boards and show us where to buy tickets.

Then we shared a cab back to the ship with a group (family?) of Australians who'd left Spain when they were children. They spoke English with an Australian accent, and Spanish with a southern one. One of the guys was talking about how they taught the locals to eat and dress; that many of the staples of the Australian diet, and their styles, came directly from the Spanish immigrants of the middle of the last century. (And directly from this guy and his dad, the modest gentleman seemed to imply.)

Good times!

Up next: Roma

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