Livorno, Italy - Cruise 1

Trip Start Jun 12, 2008
Trip End Aug 25, 2008

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Flag of Italy  , Tuscany,
Monday, June 23, 2008

Last night 2 crew girls and myself decided to get off the ship at 7 AM and catch a shuttle in to the city and take the train to Pisa and "Firenze" (Florence).  Pisa of course is home to the infamous Leaning tower (which was constructed as a bell tower to the neighboring cathedral on the grounds) which I learned today could be structurally corrected now in this time period.  The engineers have figured out why it leans and how to right it, though that will never happen (except of course reinforcements have taken place over the years) because honestly who would go to Pisa to see the "Tower of Pisa".  The "Leaning Tower of Pisa" is the tourist draw.  Though once there I really enjoyed wandering the streets of the town and opted to not go to Florence this cruise.  I worked today at 2 PM in the Kids Club, so I couldn't be late.  Lazily wandering through the streets I saw interesting architecture, I came upon the local University of Pisa and college students during finals looked just as crazed as my friends and I did a few weeks ago.  Eventually I made my way back to the train station and back to Livorno Central.  The adventure begins...

I had not taken the shuttle in this morning to the city, we finally managed to convince a cab driver (who didn't speak English) to take us the short distance from the cruise dock to the train station.  They all were lined up waiting for fares to Florence and Pisa and wanted to take 300 Euros (1.5X's for USD) for 3 passengers and refused the shorter fare to Livorno.  Finally a couple approached them as well and the cab coordinator conceded to allowing the five of us to bum a ride with their oldest driver - definitely 80's at the youngest who also didn't speak any English and wanted to tell us all about what we should do in Pisa and Florence.  One of my friends speaks some Italian and translated the gist of the conversation.  Because we took the cab directly to the station I now had no idea for the return trip how to catch the free shuttle to the ship.  

It is now 12:30 PM and I am still at the Livorno train station and I still have to work at 2 PM.  I overhead a Scottish couple talking about a bus ticket and walked right up to them and asked if they were heading into Livorno and how would I go about walking there.  They promptly informed me that the train station is a long way out from the city itself and I needed to hop on the number 2 bus that was leaving in 3 minutes.  I ran into the tobacco store (only place that sold bus tickets) and bought a ticket for 1 Euro, ran out to the bus stop and hopped on the bus with the Scottish couple.  All I know is that I have to get to a main Piazza or square in Livorno to catch the shuttle.  The couple told me when to get off and so I did.

I am now standing in the middle of a piazza that looks like a scene from Paris where there is a giant plaza with pigeons flying around and cobble stones and few people strolling.  This piazza though is also a round about  (a GIANT one) and so there is traffic on all sides and no sign of a shuttle stop.  I finally manage to locate a sign after about 5 minutes and it was for a piazza that was definitely NOT on my tourist map given by the ship - I discovered later I was still too far away from the main downtown for it to show up.

I walk over to one corner and considered my options at this point and overhead another conversation in English and once again approached the couple and asked if they were from a ship.  They were from the Queen Mary 2 ship and headed me in the direction of the waterfront.  I thought at this point that maybe I'd be able to simply just walk back to the ship and so I headed out in the right direction at a fast clip (thankfully I have a good sense of direction as this town hasn't heard of the grid system of street layout).  I made it to a market district and still seemed no closer to water and the time was now almost 1 PM.  

Thankfully at the market I ran into another young couple speaking English and asked if they knew where the Piazza Grande was and they were actually trying to head there themselves, but unlike me had come from there originally so had a better sense of how to return.  I mentioned the big McDonald's and they said yes that was in this piazza for sure.  Well thankfully they managed to steer me right and we made it there shortly.  Once I left their company I spotted a family from the ship that had 7 year old twins in kids club and approached them to ask which spot the shuttle would pick up at and the girls hugged me but the dad didn't recognize me in street clothes.  I quickly explained who I was and then he relaxed and told me where to catch the shuttle.  I jumped in when the next one arrived, made it back to the ship by 1:45 and quickly changed clothes and ran upstairs to work.  It was close, but I did it and am so glad that I didn't decide to go along to Florence with the rest of the group or I never would have made it on time.

Today reminded me of how blessed I am when just the right people happen along at just the right times.  Take time to say thanks in these moments and if you see a frantic foreigner looking with bewilderment at a map and their watch help them as I was helped - it will make the world a better place to visit.

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