Pisa, Tuscany and Florence, Italy
5/25/2012, Friday (Port: Livorno, Italy)
Livorno, Italy: Had room service breakfast on the balcony again (if you did not know, this is FREE on cruises!). We really love the extended room service menu you get with Concierge Class on Celebrity cruises. Once we again, we ordered more than we could eat. Side note: the first few days we ate WAY more than we should have! It started to level off around day 5 or 6 when we realized the same french toast was offered every day ;-) However, on my end, the desserts never leveled off I still ate several desserts every day... when else do you get this chance? Livorno is a port town. This port is used for visiting Pisa, Tuscany, and the Florence areas.
Today we have our first of three "Rome in Limo" (RIL) tours. RIL was worth EVERY penny; I could go on and on about how amazing RIL was. I will try to touch on some of the highlights as we go along. My parents, mainly Dad, were a little skeptical at first of booking an excursion outside the cruise line. However, by the time we returned from our 2nd RIL tour, my dad said the drivers were the highlight of our whole entire vacation! He wishes we could have them everywhere. What he found most impressive was their authentic love for their cities. And the love they have for their jobs, showing off their beautiful cities! All the guides and drivers are born and raised in their respective cities.
We will be meeting our RIL driver at 7:30 am. There was a chance of rain today so we debated on bringing the umbrellas. Ultimately we decided not to, but no worries! 1.) it did not rain and 2.) Sabrina (our driver) had cold waters and umbrellas for us! As soon as we walked off the ramp we saw our driver, Sabrina, with our name sign. Sabrina greeted us with her warm Italian smile and instantly made us feel comfortable. The tour was just for our family. The agenda was a quick peek at the leaning tower in Pisa and off to Florence. Like all of the RIL tours, we had a nice, clean, cool, Mercedes van.
On our way to Pisa:
Pisa: Since we got an early start to the day, the leaning tower area was not crowded with flocks of tourists sticking their arms up in the air. We took the required pictures at the leaning tower of Pisa and bought some silly souvenirs. If you ever want to play a prank on someone buy the leaning beer mugs, shot glasses… good times. We had some fun tricking people once we got home who did not take the time to look at the glass at first when we handed it to them. Try it!
Dad being an engineer was quite impressed with the Leaning Tower! Sabrina showed us 3 more leaning towers on our way to Florence.
Tuscany: Sabrina waited for us while we took pictures and informed us we had a lengthy ride to Florence. She had a big colorful, elementary school-style, map of Italy for us to look at as we drove along through the Tuscany region. She asked if we were wine drinkers, I am the only one, but we do like cooking! So she called up her friends who own a family-owned olive oil factory, Laudemio.
After calling her friends they said it was ok for us to come by. Sabrina, who by the way, pronounces her name Sa-BRI-NAaaa, which we had fun with the rest of the trip talking like Sa-BRI-NAaaa. Side story: We would play pranks calling each others rooms acting like we were Solstice staff looking for someone talking with the undulating Italian accent Sabrina had, good times.
She explained to us how the farm is all-organic; as we drove past the rows of olive trees (bushes?) she explained how they control the bugs without pesticides. This is how I remember it: at the end of each olive row, a special kind of rose bush is planted. Pests are first attracted to the rose bush. Therefore, if the rose bush is damaged than there is a good chance the olives are infected too! Pretty neat, huh?
We pull up. The owners graciously welcome us in and start explaining why their olives are so amazing. To be honest I don’t really remember why, it involved acid and pressing, that is all I know. What I do know is that I wanted to drink the Extra Virgin Olive Oil straight from the bottle! Back home I just bought grocery-store olive oil, you know Publix brand. We had no clue how AMAZING olive oil could be! (same with mozzarella as you will see on our Naples port day).
The nice lady brought out bread pieces and the fresh, new bottle of oil. She started soaking the break with olive oil, we all exchanged a look “ummm ok, guess we are having bread with our olive oil then!” Well, let me tell you, what an experience. Before eating the samples we treated it like fine wine, spinning, sniffing, etc. SOLD! I’ll take 100 bottles please! No, we can’t, I don’t think Delta would approve. So we left with 5 bottles between the 5 of us, some will be gifts.
We were also given strict instructions to keep the oil in its box as light will damage the olive oil? Ok whatever you say olive oil lady, you sure know a lot more about this than us! We were paranoid about the bottles breaking in luggage. We made it just fine.
This is jumping ahead a little bit but since we have been home we have “Europe Night” once a month and we only eat the olive oil on Europe Night, trying to savor it as long as we can! Now a year past our trip, Tyler and I still have "Europe Night" once a month :)
Florence: Back on the winding road we go. Next stop Florence! Sabrina first brings us to a high viewing spot to get a spectacular view of Florence.
We did most of the usual stuff: leather market, Duomo, Uffizi, churches (do not have many pics here) etc. Tried taking artsy photos to no avail. I do like the colors in this picture.
I touched the pig/boar/something snout by the leather marker for good luck, I sat and touched the snout the same way I did in 2004… you know…. last time I touched it, I came back! So if history repeats itself, I should be going back! (I am extremely sentimental and took several photographs standing/sitting in the same position from when I went in 2004; I am also a border-line hoarder)
Me in 2004 at the same spot:
Checked out all the "David" statues around the city
ate "Porchetta" street side for lunch
One last thing on our Florence bucket list was to have the best possible Gelato in Florence! Sabrina new just the place, Perche No! Which translates to “why not?” I suggest you go there RIGHT NOW, yes RIGHT NOW, why not? (ha!)! Ok well that may be hard to do for most of us but we can dream right?. In my head I am sitting on some steps that "may or may not be dirty" eating gelato instead of my uncomfortable computer chair. If you are lucky enough to be going to Florence soon and want the best Gelato go have a scoop, or 2, for my family!
Solstice that night: I made it to the gym finally! And did P90X in the cabin… still gained 9 pounds… hmm for some reason I don’t think ordering 3 desserts every night was the reason? No, maybe 5 desserts but certainly not 3! Yes, I managed to gain 9 pounds in something like a week! We still have 2 weeks left on this vacation, yikes! Ok, time to slow down on the sugar. To be fair, cruise food is very salty so I am assuming some of this is caused by that? Hopefully...
Tyler and I celebrated our birthdays tonight at dinner.
And we all went to bed early because Rome was waiting for us in the morning!
p.s. next time we go to Florence, Tyler and I will be shipping an entire case of that olive oil home next time… I don’t even care how much it will cost! Here is the link to the Laudemio website: http://www.laudemio.it/home.page
I ended this journal entry by writing “ Great day! We Love Sabina” I think that about sums it up!
Other stops on our trip:
Barcelona Day 1 (exploring on foot)
Barcelona Day 2 (hop on/hop off bus)
Cote d'Azur and Monte Carlo, Monaco
Florence, Tuscany, & Pisa
Naples, Pompeii, Amalfi Coast, Sorrento, Positano
1st Sea Day
Venice, Italy Day 1
Venice, Italy Day 2