Date of Trip: July 2009
Thursday, July 9: Livorno, Italy
Got up before 6:00am; we were already docked in Livorno. Breakfast, ordered for delivery between 6 & 6:30, was late. Got off the boat at about 7:10. We found another couple to share a taxi to the train station for €20, and so paid €10 + €1 tip. Heard there may be a problem getting a taxi, but since we were off the boat early, the taxis had time to make an early drive and return to pick up other passengers.
Train tickets into Florence were €13.20 each, (€39.60 total) round trip. We were given 2 tickets each, one for each way. We remembered to validate the tickets at the yellow box at the station.
A young man who got on the train at Lucca recommended a regional dish similar to trippa (tripe) with spices. We were going to try it at the market in Florence. Cate slept.
Outside the Florence station, we took the D bus to Ponte Vecchio. We had to buy the tickets beforehand (€1.20 each) at a booth. A validation box is on the bus.
We got off and walked along the bridge. We found a nice paper store where Cate bought a lined journal that she liked (€25) & a leather bookmark (€3). They put the journal in a gray flannel bag with the store’s name. There were nice calligraphy sets there, also.
We did not have a tour planned on this one day here in Florence; we wanted to just walk the city and experience its ambiance, so we walked around the Uffizi and the Piazza. Saw lots of statues of unclothed men; no women. A copy of the David statue is here. Every souvenir stand in Florence has partial photos of his likeness silk-screened on barbecue aprons & boxer shorts, but I’m not sure any man would actually wear these if his wife/girlfriend bought one for him!
Venetian masks are also sold here, with prices ranging from €18 for small masks to €60 for elaborate half-face masks with feathers. Lots of Pinocchio souvenirs — marionettes, pencils, keychains. The Fleur-de-lis is the emblem of Florence, so that can be found almost everywhere, also.
Walked around the Duomo. Cate wanted to go up the Campanile — Bell Tower. Well, we certainly weren’t going to climb the 463 steps! With no elevator! In this heat! So we gave our 13 year old the camera & €6 and waited across the piazza at a cafe, where we ordered tea and lemon soda. Tip: For great view shots, always take a teenage photographer with you to climb hills & towers. When she descended several minutes later she was seriously out of breath, saying that her legs felt “twitchy,” as they almost collapsed in continuous anticipation of the bottom step, and she admitted that the camera once dropped out of her hot & slippery hands. So we got her a soda, of course, and congratulated her on the accomplishment. We walked past the Duomo toward San Lorenzo Market, passing long lines of people and many tour groups waiting to get into the church. We were glad we were not one of them, this time around. Bought 2 pashminas for €5 each, 70% cashmere & made here in Firenze. Should have bought more.
In the market, we went to Nerbone, where the young man on the train said we should go. The sign says “since 1872.” It’s a popular sandwich shop, where they have large pans of meats and stacks of sandwich rolls. We ordered the recommended regional dish, lampredotto, (“the fourth stomach of a cow!”) and a roast beef sandwich — so we could eat something familiar! Two sandwiches: €7. (I discovered that the Florentine dish even has its own facebook page- Panino co i lampredotto!!) Also used the bathroom — 50 cents & not that great, but it did have soap and TP. Saw a woman market worker with a white apron use & leave the restroom without washing up — “Poppie’s” sister?
We were all offered a taste of Limoncello at a stall by a young woman from Oregon — she has been in Florence 3 ½ months. We thought — Would this ever happen in the US? A sample taste of an alcoholic beverage in a farmer’s market? Ingredients: 32% alcohol, sugar, water, lemon zest. Did you know there’s lots of info on making it at home? – In case you forget to pick some up in Italy!
Walked back to the train station, caught the D bus back to Ponte Vecchio, and resumed our walking tour on the opposite side of the river. Saw the Pitti Palace – Palazzo Pitti – with construction scaffolding and a painted false front covering the area — these are common in Europe, & look nicer than scaffolding alone. Also saw a large Converse shoe sign — Jim said that they probably paid for the covering.
Stopped at a gelateria — Yes! Pay first at the cashier in the back, and then take the slip to the counter to order. Double scoop in a dish – €2 — great price!
More walking. Found a small market where we bought a large (1.5L) water for 40 cents. Walked by Santa Maria Novella church & back to the train station. Lots of graffiti everywhere! — Hey, think about it, graffiti is an Italian word! Lots of cigarette butts, also, between the cracks of the old stone streets at the station. Here people smoke often and almost everywhere.
Took the 3:37 train (left earlier than we planned, because it was hot and we were done.) As it turned out, it was a good idea. The next train, 4:47, had problems near Pisa and I think everyone had to change trains! We met a couple that almost missed the departure! One “gangplank”, gangway, was already up when they arrived at 7:30 – or later. Three hours to return from Florence to Livorno! Unusual, but it does sometimes happen. And then one has to take a taxi from the Livorno station to the port.
Outside the train station, we looked for a ride to share. A lady shouted for anyone from the Oosterdam and several raised their hands. But the taxi driver, with a van that seated 7-8 people, refused to allow more than four to board. The lady insisted, he resisted. She moved to help others get in; he forcibly blocked the way. She tried to logically argue; he was immovable. So the lady suggested everyone to get out of the van, which they did, and we all took another van — with a reasonable driver. The charge was still €20 for the ride, but we had seven passengers. We paid €10 again, because there were 3 of us & all the passengers wanted to reward the driver for taking us. So the driver got €24 total.