Friday, August 9, 2013

On the way to Florence! Tuesday, June 18th

Before I go onto our next day, Florence...I want to go into a bit of what I call..."The Plan"! It's at this point in the trip where some of you, and myself at times may be wondering just why the heck we took a train from Civitavecchia all the way to Venice for just under two days, and now are apparently taking a train to Florence for just under 24 hours before apparently heading BACK to Civitavecchia for yet another cruise??? Why didn't we spend another night in Venice? Why go to Venice at all? Why not just stay closer to Civitavecchia or plan different cruises - say one that began or ended in Venice?

Well, in the beginning we really had no intentions of going to Venice. We were going to do one long Mediterranean cruise, but as I mentioned we couldn't fine one that really fit everyone's needs. Then the more we discussed the ports my parents wanted to see, Greece (Athens in particular) kept popping up as a must see. That's how the semi-back to back cruise came about. Also, it seemed important to me to have a ship that was kid friendly. To have kid activities, not necessarily the kid or teen clubs, because in the past my kids have not really been big participants in those, but to have things for them to do. Like the slides on the Epic, the rock walls, the ice rink - things like that.

We'd be doing some HEAVY sightseeing that no matter how much it seems interesting and great at the planning stage, when you do it day in and day out, it's hard on adults, let alone kids. They needed to be able to have some time to be kids. To get away from the standing and listening all day.

And then, somehow Venice was thrown into the mixture and when we found out we had three days between cruises we became quite adventurous! Sure - we can fit that in, why not? This is a trip of a lifetime, let's go for it...all! 

Our original plan was to rent a car after the first cruise and DRIVE from Civitavecchia to Venice, stopping along the way in Fallo, which is in the Abruzzo region - to find my mother's family's homeland! Sure - this was a great idea! Drive through the mountains, in some of the most non-English speaking areas, and just wander into a town and say "hi!" But that was our plan. I had mapped out the route, planned some stops on the way for breaks. And we'd spend the night on the Adriatic coast. Then get up early, head to Venice and have our two days there. I knew the drive to Venice would be long, so I even included a stop in Verona to break up the drive.

But then, I stumbled upon a guide who would actually TAKE us to Fallo! This was huge! We wouldn't have to just drive into a town you likely couldn't even drive into anyway! A translator as well! We booked them, and everything changed! How would that guide work out? Well, that's day 20 of the trip! 

But, now we had 2 days booked in Venice and a "free" day for on the way back to Civitavecchia.  We felt we should be a bit closer to the port than Venice on the day the cruise left, so where to spend it? Well, it seemed the obvious choice would be Florence! Even though we'd have a port day of Livorno (this is the stop where most people see Florence and Pisa) on the next cruise, the Epic - we decided to spend one day and one night, basically 24 hours in Florence. This was more than we'd get in the port day, especially once you take out travel time from the ship! And then our port day? Well, of course a wine tour in the Chianti Region! Just wait until you hear about this day! This was our way of having our cake and eating it too, so to speak! The only thing I felt like we would be missing was Pisa....would we get there? 

Well, we did have to travel to the ship....could we do it, could we fit that leaning tower into our itinerary?????  Stay tuned!

Ok - now that you know why we threw this whirlwind tour of Florence into the mix....back to the trip!

We were up early to meet our water taxi at the water entrance of our hotel. Our pick up time was 7:00 am!  We had done our official paperwork to check out of the hotel last night. Apparently there is no one there to handle the money transactions this early in the morning. The taxi showed up right on time.

We were at the train station by 7:15 for our 7:55 am train to Florence.

This time we were taking the new Italo train. Since we didn’t have breakfast before leaving the hotel, we were able to find something at the train station, and again they had a really nice cafĂ©. For those of us who are into the whole European pastry for breakfast thing, this worked out well! I had a chocolate filled brioche, which was super fresh tasting and served nice and warm and cappuccino. I just can not get over the quality of train station food here! Megan ordered a latte, not listening to my warning that she wouldn’t like it and was quite disappointed to get a cup of just hot milk and not a “Starbucks” type latte! Live and learn!  She gave that to G-Pop and got a frozen cappuccino instead!

If you're wondering about how much luggage we had for three weeks, this is pretty much it. The red suitcase is my moms. Keith and I each had those green rolling duffle type suitcases. They are light and fit A LOT! Guess who had the zebra suitcase? That would be Megan of course! But everything we had was right there. Luggage and carry on's for the six of us. 

Our train was easy to find and quite nice! The ride was very smooth and this time all six of us were on the same car and seated near one another. I took the time on board to catch up on my journal writing! I was a couple days behind! And I also took a much needed nap. I knew our day in Florence was going to be a busy one.

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