I am so excited for today! Florence is going to be my best day, I just know it!
We wake and eat breakfast in the buffet again, this is fun and quick and efficient. We fill our water bottles, although there is a sign saying not to, everyone is doing it. As we disembark with the extended family, I can’t help but notice this port is different, there’s plenty of decorations and information kiosks, as well as places to just lounge around. Happily, my dear father-in-law had prearranged drivers with Italy Limo for our family, and they are holding up signs with our name.
I had pre-booked our museum reservations online ahead of time, knowing we will have minimum time in this beautiful city. Surprisingly, and yet not surprisingly, none of the other family members want to go to the museums. We are separated into two cars, as our party of nine is too big for one vehicle. We are all going to Pisa, first. I’m kind of hoping for just a quick stop, click, and go, but our friendly Italian driver will have none of that. We enjoy the drive from the port of Livorno to Pisa, alongside numerous beauteous fields of golden yellow sunflowers. There is traffic heading back toward the port, so our driver asks again what time our museum reservations are.
Pisa is charming, and we take many of the prerequisite photos of the leaning tower. The church is beautiful, old, and sweet. It is already getting hot. After choosing cool shirts for the kids at the street vendors, we head back to the cars. Our driver is friendly and funny, his English is pretty good, and we communicate well. As we leave Pisa, Andrea sings “ time to… say goodbye…” and I am delighted, as I love that song and Andrea Bocelli. Our conversation is about Andrea Bocelli, Elvis, rock music, and the movie Airplane! I am asking him who the patron saint of Florence is, but he says “I do not understand this- patron?” I say, you know, how Rosalie is the patron saint of Palermo- he says, “Ah! Pa-TRONE!” I am reminded how you have to sing the Italian words, or else they are not understood. Entering the walled city fascinates me. We don’t have walked cities in San Francisco Bay Area.
Our next stop is the wonderful lookout that is Piazza del Michelangelo. This is a fantastic vantage point over the city of Florence/ Firenze. The city with its terra cotta rooftops and the Duomo is just fascinating. I am delighted to take some photos of the Ponte Trinita, where my brother–in-law proposed to my sister, more than a few years ago. There are street vendors and gelato stands, we enjoy some gelato before we separate into our two cars: my family in one. The whole morning I am trying to plan lunch but everyone else keeps telling me not to worry, and when I should go to lunch. SO annoying. Andrea drops us off near our first museum, the Accademia, where Michelangelo’s David is housed.
Turns out there is a long queue to redeem my reservation confirmation and obtain actual museum entrance tickets. I have to provide all of our passports at the ticket window, as well. The kids have found a delightful bookstore adjacent.
Down the rabbit hole
How I long to spend time in there, myself, but, Andiamo!
The Accademia begins with a corridor of other impressive sculptures that are just itching to leap from their respective stones. This passage really increases ones appreciation for the art genre of sculpture. The David is magnificent, lording at the end of this corridor in his own duomo. It really is amazing to think that this is the great work of Michelangelo, and here we are right in front of him. He is majestic, and his hands and feet and head are over enormous. I take photos from all angles and the children huddle in the corner bench as I complete my circle. I return to them, finding them all statuesque, themselves, like this:
There are more paintings to discover, and they remind me of the Greek Orthodox Byzantine style: religious content trimmed in gold, irregular shapes. And a bonus, for this music lover, there is a corridor of ancient musical instruments on display. It is always wonderful to see the pianoforte and harpischoird-type instruments that are precursors to what we now know as the piano. There are also percussion instruments, including circles of bells and pre-tympanis. We are only there about an hour when it is time to leave.
We now have only a small window for lunch, so instead of looking for anyplace famous, we duck into a street bar playing fun dance music, where we enjoy pizza, calzone, and cannoli. There’s a lovely square with a carousel, but all we have time for is snapping a pic of my daughter smiling in front of it. We walk amid the streets toward the Uffizi. There’s another line for redeeming my reservation confirmations, but I got this. The family gets in the entrance line whilst I redeem tickets. Had we not made reservations online, the wait would be around the block and half a day.
I had already decided which halls and exhibits I wanted to see, and my husband lets me lead, that is, after he leads us up seemingly endless flights of stairs in this heat. I’m studying the map and I know where I want to go. The rooms are clearly numbered and we begin in the Italian section, very unfortunately the math/cartography room is closed, but one of the Italian rooms has been relocated to another room on the other end of this U. I am delighted seeing Boticelli’s Birth of Venus, she is spectacular in all her glory (and behind plexiglass). Hubby takes a pic of me with Venus, doing the pose, but he takes it landscape. Ah, well. At one end of the U-shaped corridor I take photos of the city, and of the bridges. Ponte Trinita lies just behind the more famous Ponte Vecchio. Sadly this is the closest I will get to it.
During our tour of Italian art and before our tour of the French room, my dear daughter asks us what the other family members are doing. I say truthfully, I do not know exactly, but I imagine they had a long, fancy lunch and maybe a winery tour. She says to me in all of her sweetness: ‘I’m glad I am with you, Mommy, even though it’s a teeny, tiny bit boring.”
Downstairs are the French rooms, and one sweet portrait of a young girl dressed in a lovely silver, lacey dress. This is the only painting that the seven year old has asked about and commented upon all day. We take photos of her beside the young girl.
We hardly saw a fraction of the Uffizi, but I loved every minute of it. We exit trough the gift store, and although they are out of the Dress-Up David magnet, we pick up Boticelli’s Venus magnet, complete with traditional Renaissance garb and Wonder Woman attire. We stroll through street vendors, picking up postcards and another shirt for hubby. We admire the chalk masterpieces replicated on the street, including the Girl with the Pearl Earring and Mona Lisa. We meet Andrea at the designated meeting point and he hurries us to meet the rest of the family. The drivers are not willing to take us to my bridge, for fear of the traffic observed this morning. The family seems annoyed with us for even asking. Apparently they did nothing special after lunch and gelato, wineries were too far and so they just waited for us. The head driver says he will concede to drive us via the adjacent bridge, and I can take photos from the moving car. Forget, it, I say. We all know the cruise ship won’t wait for us, and our drivers do not want to drive us to our next port of Genoa.
We head back to the Port of Livorno, dear hubby sleeps in the back seat while the kids entertain each other by whispering and hushed giggles. Finally at our port, Andrea says, “ I am remembering the Minions, they are saying BOTTOM! Eet ees funny!” We all LOL.
We are too tired for fancy dining tonight, my in-law’s opt for casual dining and we opt for the buffet again. There is some basketball challenge, in which my fifteen year old godson challenges my dear husband. Hubby returns to the stateroom, and he looks like he’s dying. I am tempted to remind him that he’s thirty plus years older, but I bite my tongue. He says: I don’t even know where to put my sweaty shirt! I say: OUTSIDE! And it stinks on the balcony. He showers as the rest of us head up to the buffet. It’s our first time going to the buffet for dinner, and it’s okay. Somehow I did think it would be better, but it did not knock our socks off. We toodle around the ship afterwards, and catch a absolutely fantastic performance in the grand atrium: two acrobats performing to Moulin Rouge’s “Roxanne” outstanding, eye-popping feats of balance. This really did knock my socks off. I urge the rest of the family to catch the encore performance at 9pm.
And it’s another evening of bedtime routines. Tomorrow will be the Cinque Terre excursion from the Port of Genoa, and another Formal Night on the Emerald Princess.