Wow, what a day. I am really pooped right now. We woke up early (6:00 a.m.) for a 7:00 a.m. departure. The ship was late getting in so we left late and then one of the passengers announced at the first rest stop that they were not feeling well enough to continue with the tour. This necessitated a thirty minute delay as we waited for a cab (which never came) to pick him up. Obviously, we were then late getting to Florence which is already a two hour drive from Livorno. Buses are not allowed in the city center of Florence which is an idea I wholeheartedly support (not that anyone asked me) but it does mean rather a long walk from the bus drop-off point to the Duomo. On our walk to the Duomo, one of our group fell. She didn't get hurt but it was another delay and so by the time we finally got to the Duomo I really felt that we had accomplished something.
Our "local" guide was very good and she used one of those speaker/headphone systems which made it so much easier to hear what she had to say. We stopped at the Baptistery for a look at the famous (but only a reproduction) "Gates of Paradise" after which we headed off down a side street to our next stop. Wait, hold on. Aren't we going to go inside the Duomo? Apparently not. Well, okay -- shifting gears now. So this is going to be a walking tour primarily. Got it. Message received. To be fair, I am sure it said something about viewing the Duomo exterior and not that we would be going inside. They are very precise when they write up these tour descriptions and you have to really read them closely which I obviously failed to do in this instance.
Your mission? The Duomo.
So, we are on a walking tour now. Heading toward the City Hall which was the Medici family's in-town palace. Not that we were going inside it. No time for that. Oh and by the way -- it's time for another bathroom break because one of our group simply cannot wait. Since there are no public restrooms we go into a gelato place, buy a four euro Coke (that's over five dollars for a soda people) and use their facilities. Others followed our lead buying sodas or gelato. The place probably made thirty euros on our little group's need for a bathroom break. Not a bad scam.
Anywho, the group eventually re-gathers and we listen to the guide talk about the outdoor art gallery all around us which includes a life-size replica of Michelangelo's David which, if you ask me (which again no one did), has some pretty goofy proportions.
Our next stop is a viewing point for the Ponte Vechio. Once again we didn't actually go on the bridge. We just looked at it. From a distance. Which was good enough for me as I understand the bridge is filled with stores selling gold jewelry. No thanks.
Another long walk takes us to Santa Croce Church. This time we were able to go inside; it was free. The place is less a church and more of an indoor cemetery for Florence's (and Italy's) rich and famous. It includes the remains of Michelangelo (despite his expressed wish that he be buried in Rome), Machiavelli, Galileo, Rossini (the opera composer) as well as a monument to but no remains of Dante. Not a bad neighborhood. Just ignore the fact that most of them were rejected by or rejected Florence during their lives.
We broke for shopping and free time now. R and I hadn't really seen any shopping that we absolutely had to go back for so we choose to buy a soda and hang out in the square people-watching.
Lunch at first didn't seem likely to please as we were brought to a small banquet room outfitted with a high ceiling, frescoes and a chandelier. "This isn't even a restaurant", I thought to myself. "We're getting hotel banquet fare for lunch!" But hey if your hotel serves food that good in their banquet rooms then sign me up. We had pasta with tomato sauce, eggplant parmigiana, spinach, roasted potatoes and tiramisu. It was all lovely even though we had to share our table with this jerky closeted (he thinks) gay guy who has a real chip on his shoulder when it comes to Russell despite the fact that neither Russell nor I can remember doing anything to warrant the active disdain of this person. Only two weeks more and I'll never have to see him again. There are a few people on board that I am using that mantra with -- two weeks and then never again!
After lunch it was another long walk back to the bus followed by a long drive to Pisa (1 1/2 hours). Once again Pisa does not allow buses downtown so we had to park and hoof it. We were given one hour (and no tickets) to see all the buildings on the "Miracle Square". This was news to me, this whole "Miracle Square" thing. I thought: a.) that the leaning tower was by itself and b) that it was more integrated into the fabric of the city than it is. The "Miracle Square" is an open air, grassy space that accommodates the Cathedral of Pisa, the Baptistery (apparently it's a thing here) and the leaning tower plus a museum and something else (involving fourteenth century frescoes I think). We chose to purchase tickets to the Baptistery and the Cathedral. Neither were particularly gripping and they were both undergoing extensive renovation but still it was something to do and I am glad we did it. We saw lots of people posing for stupid pictures of themselves holding up the tower or lifting the dome off the Baptistery (there's that word again). Fortunately both R and I were of the same mind on this one and refrained from emulating them, satisfying ourselves with an old school selfie instead.
We arrived at our meeting point early but thankfully found a seat as my feet were beginning to bother me; it was a lot of walking for one day. Then, the hawkers descended. Bags, watches, sunglasses. And people bought. Including Mr. Jerk (no surprise there). Amazing. Never ceases to surprise me when I can be so wrong about something. I mean I suppose these guys wouldn't be out there unless somebody bought what they were selling. Right? (You see, I still just can't quite believe it).
The drive back to the boat was only thirty minutes. We are chugging along right now toward our next port of call (Monaco) and I am feeling tired and sore and fat. Was very bad today and noshed my way through the whole day. And you should have seen me at lunch. I mean you would have thought I hadn't eaten in thirty days not thirty minutes. But I had an excuse. The woman next to me took a picture of me and Russell and in it I looked fat and dumpy. So what do I do? Eat some more so I can get fatter and dumper. Honestly, not too smart. Let's hope I do better tomorrow.