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Old 06-11-2013, 02:55 PM   #31
kikids
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La Spezia

The plan: Take the train to Pisa as early as possible, get the obligatory 'holding up the tower' picture. Get back to the train station ASAP to spend as much time as possible in Lucca.

The outcome: This is another tendering port and it takes much longer than Villefranche since the tenders hold 325 people and they take forever to fill. We must have waited 30 minutes from the time we were told a tender was available to the time we were on our way to shore (plus 15 min waiting in the theatre). So rather than walk to the train station, we followed the sign to the cab stand, which had pleny of cabs (in spite of a guide book which said 'few cabs' were available). The cost was told ahead of time - 15 euros. It was worth it! The walk to the train station in La Spezia is not direct, and very much uphill!

The trains run on time! Exactly according to the online schedules. And they are easy to print and bring with you.

Again we tried the automated ticket machines at La Spezia train station but our card was rejected. The nice man at the counter spoke very little english and set us up to get to Pisa but I didn't want to confuse him with my elaborate plan to go Pisa to Lucca and then Lucca to La Spezia. So off we went. The ride was not bad at all - very scenic, the train was not crowded. Got off at Pisa Rossore, no problem.
Here it gets tricky, I had a map from tomsportguide that showed taking a left right off the train to get to the Pisa area. But the crowd was going straight and wasn't sure what to do. To be safe, we followed the crowd which walked past Pisa University (most of the train riders were students). Then we took the left turn to Pisa. It wasn't direct but I felt safer. Pisa was awesome, I'm glad we went. The vendors were even fun to stop at. (TIP: If you are participating in the FE exchange and don't want to haul stuff overseas, consider buying some of the many 2-3 euro trinkets at the Pisa booths to give away!)
We spent maybe an hour at Pisa, having gelato and waiting in the super long restroom line. Then we walked back taking the tomsportguide path. Yikes!!! I do not recommend that route at all! A few non sanctioned vendors sell all sorts of random stuff along the sidewalk on this route back to the train station, knowing tourists come this way, and they are pushy and the neighborhood is not good. No one else was around and we did feel uncomfortable, wishing we'd taken the Pisa University route instead.
The San Rossore station did not have an attendant so I believe we used cash to buy a ticket to Lucca since it wouldn't take our card. There is no indoors at the San Rossore station, no restrooms, no officials around, it almost seemed deserted except for a handful of passengers.
The train to Lucca was quick, maybe 3 stops and there we were. You can see the walls of Lucca in front of you when you exit the station. You have two choices, either enter the side entrance straight ahead, or take a left and go a few blocks and go in the main gate. If you like. We rented bikes and biked the wide path around the city, against the walls. They had a little kids pink flower bike for my 11 yr old. It was so peaceful and beautiful. Kind of like the Sound of Music scene where they are riding the bikes! There were walkers and joggers to dodge but it wasn't bad. Many quiant picture taking spots along the way.
Thanks my DH's download of 'offline maps' map of Lucca, we found our way through the twisty alleys to the Piazza where we ate pizza and gelato and drank lemoncello. (There are many more roads than the guide book maps illustrate.) Then we biked to the Guingi tower and went up the long climb - since we did not do the Pisa climb. This was much shorter, cheaper, and less crowded than the Pisa tower. I knew when my DD complained at about the 100th stair that we'd made the right choice not to climb Pisa!

We went back to the rampart and biked the rest of the 2.5 miles around the town. I regret that we did not have enough time to explore any of Lucca's museums or churches, but what can you do? Bike rental was 24 euros for 4 bikes for maybe 2-3 hrs. We had to catch a 4pm train back to La Spezia since it was a 1.5 hr train ride due to a train change in Viagreggio (no direct train from Lucca to La Spezia). And I wanted to make sure we made it back to the tender by 6. Otherwise I could have biked that rampart all dayy! (Side note: If you enjoy biking Lucca, check out Mackinac Island, Michigan someday.)
Lucca is an attended station with a tiny cafe and the bathrooms shown in my post. We easily bought a ticket to La Spezia and the guy was great about telling me how to switch trains in Viagreggio.
Switching trains in Viareggio was tricky as a train to Florence was on our track when we got there and we almost got on! I asked another passenger "La Spezia"? And she was like "No, No No, Firenze!"
Ok, you may be sick of my potty reviews but I've got to tell you one more about the bathrooms at Viareggio station. There is a line of what looks like 4 elevator shafts. When you deposit 50 cents the metal doors open and you and walk in like an elevator, with the door slamming you in. A sign said you had 5 minutes to 'do your business' at which point the doors automatically opened so you better not have your pants down! LOL. Also note that the station in Viagreggio has a kickin newsstand with Italian Glamour and Italian Vogue magazines.
We taxi'd again from La Spezia station to the port (plenty of taxis!) for another 15 euro and got in the long tender line back to the ship. Arriving at the ship at 630 for our 600 dinner seating, the staff at the ship telling everyone "If you have early dining you must be seated by 645 or they cannot serve you, go go go!" So we went do dinner, all sweaty and tired but happy to have had such a wonderful day.

If I could go back and do it again: Other than bringing a train map print out, I would not have done anything any other way. I talked to others who paid hundreds to take the Dis tour to Pisa and Lucca. I'm sure they had fun but we were able to travel at our pace, experience the Italian railway and spent less than 20 euros per person on train tickets. As lovely as I hear Cinque Terre is, I have to say, I'd go back to Lucca in a heartbeat.
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Last edited by kikids; 06-11-2013 at 04:07 PM.
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Old 06-11-2013, 04:03 PM   #32
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kikids - we are on the July 13th cruise. This is so helpful. Can you please confirm there is a train from Pisa to Lucca. From my reading I thought it was only a bus.
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Old 06-11-2013, 04:11 PM   #33
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JimmyJackJunior - yes, there is a train from Pisa San Rossore to Lucca. You can see the route on the map debsters linked to. Probably from Pisa Centrale as well.
I read that the bus is an option and picks up from right outside Pisa square but we opted for train since it's a short walk to the San Rossore station and we had felt comfortable with the train system by then. Took us maybe 20 min from Pisa to Lucca. If you can't find the trenitalia site which lists the times, let me know, I'll get you to it. The trains are very irregular. There we some in the morning that ran to Lucca every 20 min and then a 2 hr gap until the next one so it's good to have the schedule.
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Old 06-11-2013, 04:54 PM   #34
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Thanks, I assume you caught the 9:19 train out of La Spezia. I thought we had some extra time to catch this one but sounds like not so much.

I also was planning on doing it backwards to you(Lucca first) because I didn't want to screw up the train connection late in the day.
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Old 06-11-2013, 05:31 PM   #35
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Quote:
Originally Posted by kikids View Post
debsters - so glad you found that map, it's perfect.

The potty talk is cracking me up. Yes, If i said 50 euros I meant 50 cents. I did not run in to any that were 1 euro much less 50! Sorry!
I did think maybe that was a typo! We have spent quite a lot of time in Paris and I have to say that some of the facilities we have come across there would make a person think twice about staying hydrated! Sorry - no more potty talk from me!
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Old 06-11-2013, 05:53 PM   #36
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Originally Posted by JimmyJackJunior View Post
Thanks, I assume you caught the 9:19 train out of La Spezia. I thought we had some extra time to catch this one but sounds like not so much.

I also was planning on doing it backwards to you(Lucca first) because I didn't want to screw up the train connection late in the day.
Yeah, I can see that. I considered that too. I can tell you that the later it got at Pisa the more crowded it became, by a lot. Maybe it thins out again later in the afternoon. We did Pisa first partly b/c then it was done and we could relax the rest of the day in Lucca, and also b/c I have always been told to go to the further location first and work your way back. Not that Pisa is that much further than Lucca, but, that was my thought process. Either way would work well.

yes, I think we were on the 9:19.
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Old 06-11-2013, 07:53 PM   #37
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Civitavecchia

The plan: I arranged a 10 am private tour of Ancient Rome and hoped to see the coliseum and just basically walk around seeing some of the highlights.
Background info: I had researched the train options from Civit to Rome and was ready to go. Then, about 6 weeks precruise I read tomsportguide which forewarned about how crowded the trains can get when many ships are in port. He advised looking online at the port info for the number of passengers in port. On our day it was like a million (okay, a few less than that). I freaked out at the notion of not getting on a train b/c it was too full and missing the ship, or not getting to Rome at all. So I took the chickenís way out and booked Disneyís Rome on Your Own. The concept: they drive you via bus to Rome (approx 90 min), drop you off, give you 6+ hrs in Rome, and take you back. The cruise director even said before the show the night prior that the trains would be busy so I was convinced I made the right decision. And herein begins my only regret of the cruise:

********************************
Disneyís Rome on Your Own excursion review: Disney promises to take you to Rome in approx 75-90 minutes, give you at least 6 hrs in Rome and return you to the ship. What they donít tell you is that the drop off point is the Vatican. (I could swear I read that it was previously the Spanish Steps on past Dis cruises.) We booked a 745 time slot, got to Rockin Bar D at 735. The room packed with 150+ people checking in to 3 buses full of Rome on Your Own passengers. We left at about 810. And the Italian tour guide on the bus spoke at length about how we should all do the HOHO bus he was promoting. Oh, and the bus had no bathrooms. Now, because it was Wednesday, the Pope was expected to make an appearance and people were flocking in droves to the Vatican to see him. So I ask you this: why oh why would Disney hire a company to take people to the Vatican, as a general Rome drop off point, when the Pope is speaking? It took 145 minutes hours to get to the Vatican Ė about 110 minutes to get to the square itself and 35 to get to the bus parking station b/c buses have to pull through this drop off garage and basically drop off one or two buses at a time from dozens of tours. Then, the driver doesnít just let you go, oh no, he makes you walk with him to a meeting point to know where to find him later, no later than 3:40. At this point it was after 10:30 and we had about 5 hours before we had to be back (not 6). We tried in vain to find a cab as cabs were forced to hang back, away from the Vatican until the Pope was done. And filling with thousands of people, the square was a loud madhouse. We walked as quick as possible, maybe Ĺ mile in the other direction til we found a cab willing to take us to the coliseum area. Unfortunately I had paid 300 euros for private tour that went 10am-1 and we didnít get there til 11. I did speak to the excursion desk afterwards and they were pleasant but offered no indication that they would change anything in the future. They were like, ĎWell, we donít control traffic, the Pope is a popular guy, weíve always dropped off at the Vatican and thatís how it always will be.'
********************************
I had purchased coliseum tickets online and somehow found the fast pass lane so that was good. I canít recall if it was Rick or Tomís guide that advised this but it worked great.
We walked around the coliseum which we all really enjoyed, and more or less just walked around for a while and saw some neat architecture and the jewish ghetto. But we didnít make it further than that before it was 3 pm and my husband was worried about making it back to our meeting place. On the plus side we spent some time in the Vatican gift shop. Pope everything; even a Pope snow globe for 5 euros.

Then a 1 3/4 hr ride back to port.

Later that night I was in the hot tub and got to talking to the guy next to me who said he íslept iní had a leisurely breakfast at 9 am, went to the train station, was in Rome by 10 and had a lovely day, coming back on a crowded but decent train at 5:00 with no problem at all! He paid less than 20 euros to get there. I paid 400 euros.

Civitavecchia was my least favorite port, maybe because of the debacle or maybe because Rome was just more crowded and fast paced than the other laid back relaxing stops.

If I could go back and do it again: Clearly Iíd either arrange private transportation or try the train. And Iíd try to see more of the piazzas, maybe do Rick Steveís walking tour and see the Panthenon instead of the coliseum. Although the coliseum was impressive and Gladiator was playing on the airplane entertainment system on the way home! The movie had new meaning to me, how cool and coincidental is that?

So slight disclaimer, I hope no one jumps on me for slamming the Disney excursion, they do subcontract out the bus and guide and itís true they donít control traffic or the Popeís schedule. And that Disney guarantee that the ship wonít leave without you is reassuring, too true. So I get it, I was just disappointed that Iíd made the wrong choice for our family. Still, we did have fun and made the best of the time we had.
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Old 06-11-2013, 08:25 PM   #38
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This was in the evening. Previously, all bus spots were full.


Vatican crowds


Many shops along the square, including gelato - pricey at 4 euros per scoop.


Seriously, the Coliseum is impressive; photos can't do it justice.

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Old 06-11-2013, 09:48 PM   #39
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I love your report so far!! It's so interesting to have been on the same cruise and to read about your experiences. And I love the bathroom updates. We only used public restrooms twice. Once at Burger King in Barcelona and the ones in Positano and the BK one was free!
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Old 06-12-2013, 07:43 AM   #40
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Positano Pictures


Coming in to Positano




In front of a Positano shop


Cute covered archway in Positano with friendly vendors selling clothes, jewelry, art, etc.


View of the church from the bottom on the main street. Several cafes, gelato, and restrooms here.


Public beach access, very pleasant. Wish we'd brought bathing suits!!
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Old 06-12-2013, 08:18 AM   #41
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Positano Sorrento


My DD's and friend hunted for sea glass on the Positano Beach.


Heading for Sorrento


Excellent, affordable restaurant in the middle of Sorrento.


The many stores in Sorrento were more cheesy, less upscale than Positano but fun! Shops on the side streets looked fancier but we ran out of time.


Come to Italy for your 'sexy ties'. You can see scarves in the background. There were many, many scarf sellers, although we bought 3 and the tags say 'made in china'. Oh well! Maybe should have gotten a sexy tie instead.


You can have a 3 euro shot of Lemoncello in just about any shop in Sorrento.


DH and friend tracer00 check out the Lemoncello bottles. Many are handpainted, just so pretty.


So much gelato in Sorrento! So many choices! You can almost see my DD with her hands on her head trying to decide.


Learn to say Chocolate Chip (Stracciatella) in Italian! It's sooo good!


Or try a meringue the size of your head.
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Old 06-12-2013, 10:24 AM   #42
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Following along, great TR so far. So nice to see all the med TR's started, thanks for taking the time.
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Old 06-12-2013, 12:35 PM   #43
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I had no idea you can do this with Disney!!! I will have to learn more!!!
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Old 06-12-2013, 04:22 PM   #44
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Quote:
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I showed the squatty potty pic to my daughter and she said "Oh no! I thought we left all of those in China!" (We did ABD China last summer and will do the med cruise in August)
Ha, ha! I was going to forward that photo to my daughter, too!

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Old 06-12-2013, 05:43 PM   #45
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Pompeii photos


This one is the view from our starboard side verandah.


This is Pompeii.
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