—30 April 2012—
We actually set an alarm for 6:30 so we wouldn’t miss the 8:00 AM muster for our shore excursion to Pisa and Florence. As it happens, we were awake by 6:00. We were dressed and had a hearty buffet breakfast in good time.
On this day – and days after – the muster was in the theater. There were issues with the process, but we were soon on our bus (#11) and our college student, Giulia, was a pleasant guide. Due to a slightly later-than-planned departure we jjad 40 minutes in Pisa to take photos and wander around. It was sunny and warm. Both Pisa and Florence were teeming with people, as it was a 4-day weekend for Italians (labor holiday).
The bus ride from Pisa to Florence was about an hour. It turned cloudy during that interval, but the rain held off. The bus dropped us and Giulia led us to a rendezvous point near the Santa Croce Church which happened to be a leather store which kindly allowed us the use of their toilets. Crazy like a fox. Jerry bought a golden brown leather jacket. 🙂 From there, we were on our own to wander for 4 hours. We toured and took picures, and then found a spot at an outside cafe on a piazza for lunch. We split a pizza with a lovely thin crust and a bottle of local chianti as well as a bottle of mineral water (“with gas”), while chatting with a lovely English girl who was collecting art for her new on-line art gallery. We had our first sprinkles as we sat there.
The Accademia, which houses Michelangelo’s David, was closed for the labor holiday. The Uffizi Gallery, normally closed on Mondays, was open, but the lines were so long we opted not to use our precious time waiting in line. We continued to the Duomo and the famous Ghiberti “Gates of Paradise” bronze doors in the baptistery directly across from the basilica.
Now in search of the Ponte Vecchio, we made a wrong turn, found ourselves at the train station, and had to back-track. Rain started in earnest as we got our bearings and headed for the “Old Bridge.” It rained steadily, but not hard, for the rest of our tour (the hour back to the bus via the leather shop). Of course, we brought two umbrellas and two rain jackets with us from San Diego and had none with us! We were not alone in that.
We arrived back at the ship just before 6:30, dead tired and with aching feet. We headed straight for dinner in Windows (the main dining room), where we sat with two sisters from Philadelphia and a couple from Toronto. We had fun exchanging stories about getting here and shore excursions, and hearing about their other cruise experiences. We finished the evening in the Jacuzzi, which really helped the feet, and crashed about 10:00 PM.