Monday, May 22, 2023

May 6, 2023 – La Spezia, Italy – Partly Cloudy, 72F

The last time we were in La Spezia was in 2018, Constellation was supposed to go to Livorno but weather conditions were so bad, the ship diverted to La Spezia.  We tendered to shore - in the rain - from the Constellation but when it came time to leave for Civitavecchia, the ship could not because of the deteriorating local weather.  In fact, at one point, Constellation broke its moorings and had to be guided back to the pier by tugs.  A really bizarre day.

But not today.  It is forecast to be a beautiful in Tuscany and we have an all-day tour to Firenze (Florence).  It’s an early day since our meeting time 9:00 AM but that wasn't going to be a problem since I was up very early (before sunrise and while the moon was still in the sky).

Because many of the tours left early. the Oceanview Cafe opened earlier so I still had time to run up and get my wonderful standard breakfast and watch a beautiful sunrise,

and bring Ellen her breakfast of choice. We watched the docking process from our cabin.

We gathered at the Celebrity Theater at 9:00 AM and our group was called just a few minutes later.  It was a short walk to the tour busses, and we made our way there quickly so we could get good seats.  The seats were in a good location, but the seat pitch was a little tight - I had to sit slightly sideways.  We departed on time for our two-hour ride to Firenze.  Fortunately, there was a stop midway or who knows where that morning coffee would have gone.  The ride was nice – lots of rolling green hills and mountains (some of which had white sections composed of travertine marble).  Our guide was nice, but she explained very little about the country and the region.

Once in Firenze, the bus parked several blocks away from our first stop and near the River Arno.

Our eventual meeting point would be the iconic Piazza San Croce.  

We have been here a few times and it continues to be an amazing place.  The Basilica di Santa Croce

with its sixteen chapels, is the largest Franciscan Church in the world. Construction was initiated in 1294 but it does look newer than that. The Basilica is the burial place of such varied Italians as Michelangelo and Marconi.  

The piazza is not as crowded as I remembered it when we arrived, but it will become so as the day goes on.  The piazza is lined with shops and gelato shop - there are also artists and artisans selling their wares.  

The plan would be that we would have an hour on our own (I originally thought that it would be three hours on our own) and meet back at the Jewelry Store.  Once assembled, one half of the group would go on a 40 minute ride on a gondola on the Arno River followed by another hour of free time and then meet back at the designated Jewelry Store at San Croce.  The boat ride and free time were combined and would alternate for each half of our contingent – one half would have free time and then go on the boat and vice versa for the other half.  Confusing enough?

We started off walking from San Croce to the Piazza Della Signore.  

This large square is home to the 14th Century Pallazzo Vecchio, the town hall of the cityI couldn't get a picture of the huge tower because there was no place in the square from which I could get the whole structure in the picture.  The Piazza played a major role in the formation of the Florentine Republic and was the political center of the city. From this square you can access the Piazza De Duomo and the Uffizi Gallery.

On one side of the Pallazzo Vecchio is the Loggia die Lanzie, an open-air section containing a statue garden marked by arches.  There are numerous statues in the Loggia and the guides there direct tourist in a specific direction so that the flow of people is maintained.  I've done some research on some of the statues and have listed them below. 

The Fountain of Neptune

Menelaus Holding the Body of Patroclus (Patroclus was Achille's friend killed in battle)

Hercules and Nessus (Nessus was a Centaur whose blood killed Hercules)

Abduction of a Sabine Woman
Rape of Polyxena (Rape = "carried off")

Just outside the Loggia, stands the replica of the statue of Michelangelo's David.  

It is very popular, and it is difficult to get a good picture of the masterpiece.  The Piazza was loaded with tourists and locals, but I was still able to get some good photos including one without any tourists in the field. 

We wanted to get a picture of Il Duomo as we made our way back to Piazza San Croce.  I used Google Maps to get us there, but we were running short on time so all we could do was get a picture of the Dome from a couple of streets over.

We found our way back to San Croce and up next was the boat ride. 

Earlier, our guide had divided the group in two.  Our group would go on the boat ride now.  The boat launch site would require some more walking - it was located down a hill from the street and behind a gate, which was unlocked for us.  Probably a safety thing.

I had some concerns about getting on the boat, but the boat had metal railings that you could hang onto and that made climbing aboard very easy.  

The boat ride was in a small boat with no shade and a gondolier pushing the ship.  The Arno is a muddy river crossed by several bridges.  

Of course, the most interesting bridge was the Ponte Vecchio, the oldest bridge.  

Not as crowded today but there are still plenty of folks checking out the stores and shops.  We also saw the outsides of the famous Uffizi Gallery and Galileo Museum.

The river also sports apartments and restaurants along its shores.  The boat went under the Ponte Vecchio 

and almost to the next bridge before turning around and heading back (or floating back) to the pier. We disembarked our canoe and headed up the hill to street level and started our free time.  

We now had time for lunch – we wound up at Berbere, a cute little pizzeria on the way to San Croce.  The seats weren't very comfortable, but it was outside and safe.  

We ordered a Margherita Pizza, a glass of Brooklyn Brewery Pale Indian Ale and an Italian version of Coke Zero (Mole Cola).  

The pizza was OK – not the best (not a lot of sauce and a little skimpy on the tomatoes, but it was made with sourdough crust, which was really good).  We hung out at the pizza place (and I people-watched) until it was time to meet the group again. The street we were on was crawling with young people, maybe students on a field trip.

We found our way back to Piazza San Croce.

We waited a bit for everyone to come back to the store (I used the time to use the facilities and to try some Gelato from a store next door (very good Coffee gelato for 3.50 Euros for a small cup).  Then, we were off for another long walk to the bus.  Once on the bus, I thought we were headed home but instead we stopped off at a leather store for some last-minute shopping.  We didn’t go into the store and instead sat out in a covered area.  Ellen bought a bottle of water but unfortunately it was carbonated (I wound up drinking it). The facilities there would be the last for the next two hours.

The guide was quiet on the way home and many of the passengers were tired from the long day.  On thing I noticed as we were driving was what good condition the roads were in.  The drivers around us were pretty safe and polite.  

Back on the ship, we cleaned up after the long day and had a nice meal in the Oceanview Café.  Maybe because it was the last meal of the cruise, but the place was full of people and there were many more items on the buffet (lots of different kinds of focaccias and desserts, for example).  There were two pasta chefs working the station and there was additional self-serve pasta available as well.  The last hurrah of food.

Tonight’s Showtime was variety show time.  

Performing were Branden and James who sang "Unchained Melody" in Italian (wonderful), 

Matt Johnson, who used body language "tells" to guess what people were thinking,

Savannah Smith (who joined Brandon and James) in a wonderful version of "The Prayer",

and then sang Tina Turner's "Rag Doll" in hyper decibel mode,

Julian the saxophonist, and Uptown.

Missing was Sabrina, who must have disembarked in La Spezia.  It was an OK show overall.  Before the show, there was a video summary of the cruise and all of the entertainment and Celebrity activities with the exception of the Beyond the Podium Speakers.  It would have been nice, considering the level of attendance, to show a brief clip of each of the speakers at work.  I’ve seen it on other ships but not here.  Maybe, next time.

Ellen had been packing the last few days, so the final pack was a bit easier.  I put the bags out well before 10 PM.  We are in Group 34 – transport to Rome Central – and don’t have to be at our meeting point until 9:00 AM (however, we need to be out of our room by 7:30 PM).

Smooth sailing and no time changes.

Quite a day for the feet – 

12271steps, 605 calories, and 5.24 miles.

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