Sunday, August 7, 2016

Day 4 - Livorno and Pisa - August 7th

Today started out fairly frustrating, but turned into a great day.  Most of the time when Shawn and I cruise we will fly by the seat of our pants.  We rarely make plans ahead of time and simply see what kind of trouble finds us when we leave the ship.  We’ve had some pretty cool adventures, and have even found spots at different locations that we return to year after year that we consider ‘our spots’ that are not populated by people from the ship, and that are mainly known to locals.  

Pisa was different! 

I wanted to get an early start like I normally do, but Shawn wanted to take things easy.  Working as hard as he works during the week, he tries to sleep in most weekends, and vacation is no different.  So he slept in until around 9am.  We got up, got ready and headed off the ship with no plans other than we wanted to stop by the leaning tower of Pisa.  

We figured we could take a taxi or figure out public transportation, but we were a little wrong.  Some of the ports that we’ve stopped at make it virtually impossible to simply hop off the boat and have trouble find us.  At a number of the stops you aren’t able to walk off the pier, rather, you need to be with a group, a bus tour of some sort, or gather into a group of people and have a taxi take you to where you want to go.  Easy enough, but with the two of us traveling without a group it has been virtually impossible to do that.  Livorno was no different.

After exiting the ship we were confronted with a few options:  1). Rent a car – Shawn has made it abundantly clear that he does not want to rent a car in another country until we can get an international license.  2). Grab a taxi, but with just the two of us this was impossible.  Not the kind of impossible that is metaphorical, no.  It was literally impossible since we didn’t have a group of 8 people, so that was out.  3). Hop on a last minute bus that took us to Pisa to see the leaning tower which cost around twenty five Euros per person.  We chose option number 3, but only after me freaking out because we didn’t get an earlier start to the day to possible join a group.  So with tears in my eyes and frustration in my heart, off we went to Pisa.  

Thankfully this bus trip worked out because booking a bus with the cruise line cost around $80 dollars a person.  Had we paid that, we would have been pretty pissed off, so all worked out ok in the end with getting to Pisa.

Once in Pisa we followed the walking trail about a mile in order to get to the area where the leaning tower was.  It’s a great park area where three buildings exist, and the historical and engineering aspects were pretty interesting.  But the thing is, they are just buildings.  I imagine it’s the same experience going to the Eifel Tower – it’s just a tower.  Thankfully both Shawn and I had proper expectations and were not disappointed.  In fact, we went to the leaning tower because we felt like it was a requisite stop.  We can’t go to Pisa without seeing the leaning tower, so that’s what we did.

After looking around at the buildings for about 45 minutes, we headed into town – the long way.  I wanted to see what the town looked like, and pass by some shops, so that’s what we did.  We headed to one of the Piazza’s in town to see ‘what’s what’.  On our way to the Piazza we stopped by a little cafĂ© and had a cappuccino and just sat there for a while enjoying our surroundings.  Shawn had a coke, of course, since he doesn’t drink coffee.

After our respite at the coffee shop we then headed to the Piazza, passed a church with mass in service, and simply walked some back alleys of Pisa.  It was pretty cool with the cobble stone streets, restaurants, a bakery here and there, and coffee shops scattered throughout our walk.  We ended up at a local little restaurant and had some lunch.  We both ordered the menu of the day which came with an appetizer, pasta dish and coffee.  I had a plate of prosciutto and mozzarella, and Shawn had mozzarella and tomatoes.  We shared, of course.  Those were more than enough for lunch, but there was still the pasta course.  I had pesto and Shawn had the bolognese.  Both were amazing, and pasta was cooked perfectly aldente!   

My preferred way to eat pasta is aldente at home, but Shawn says it’s undercooked.  After our visit to the little restaurant, I felt vindicated.  It was perfectly cooked – chewy but soft.

While we were at the restaurant we noticed the chef come out to talk to some of the locals.  A little old couple who had to be in their 70’s came in to have lunch.   The older gentleman reminded me of my grandfather:  shorter, a little stout, and had on a white tank top with a button down shirt over it with the top maybe 4-5 buttons undone.  It made my heart happy to remember him while on vacation.  So a HUGE thank you to that older gentleman for coming in for lunch at the exact time we were there.  You took me down memory lane where I was least expecting it.

After lunch we hightailed it back to the bus with merely 2 minutes to spare and headed back to the ship.  For a merely 4 hour experience, this stop was well worth it.