by Erin Foster
MEDITERRANEAN MAGIC DAY 3, FLORENCE
Our docking at La Spezia, Italy, was another tender day and another day in which our Adventures by Disney group was first off the Magic.
We were up and out early, so most of the Adventurers chose to nap on the hour-and-a-half bus ride to Florence. Guides James and Dusty periodically walked through the bus with an omnipresent basket of snacks and sweets.
Our guide in Florence was Samuelle, an excellent storyteller, but as we would come to find out later, also a savvy negotiation assistant.
Toward the end of the bus ride, we stopped at the Italian equivalent of a highway rest stop, chosen by AbD as a place with modern, clean bathrooms. I’ve travelled in Europe before and had hit-or-miss luck with the comfort of the facilities. Disney clearly had taken great care to make sure we were provided with the best conveniences possible. It was a little detail that made a big difference in the trip.
The rest stop included a small market and coffee bar. I think many of the children in the group found this stop to be equally, if not more, interesting than some of the museums and cultural sites. Harry Potter in Italian! Smurf-shaped marshmallows! Wine in a machine-gun-shaped bottle!
Part of our morning was spent walking through the main thoroughfares of Florence. We passed both modern shops and a bazaar of local leather dealers. My personal favorite sight was the Florence Disney Store!
During the guided portion of our morning, Samuelle, took us around the exterior of the Duomo cathedral, explaining details about the architecture and history of the building. We also toured the cathedral museum and Ponte Vecchio, with a side visit to the Grom gelateria. The Junior Adventurers got to participate in making a batch of hazelnut gelato and we all got to have an ample tasting of three delicious flavors. The overall favorite was blueberry.
We also visited a special statue on the streets of Florence, a boar that, if you rub his nose, will ensure that you return to Florence in the future. Another charming tidbit we learned was that Florence was the birthplace of the Pinocchio story. Several shops sold Pinocchio marionettes as souvenirs.
Lunch was of bruschetta, pizza, and beef and potatoes in a simple local restaurant. Then, onto the afternoon’s activity: shopping! Florence is world-renowned for its wonderful gold jewelry and leather goods. My husband was in the market for a leather jacket. Local guide Samuelle pointed him to the best shop in town and his advice allowed us to save more than 30% on the jacket. Nice!
Back on the Magic in the evening, we ate at Lumiere’s and enjoyed the Twice Charmed stage show in the Walt Disney theater.
MEDITERRANEAN MAGIC DAY 4, ROME
We docked at Civitavecchia (fun to say, try it) and took a nearly two-hour bus ride to Rome. This was by far the busiest day of the trip. Guides James and Dusty called it our “Amazing Race” day because we moved at breakneck speed trying to cover all the highlights of Rome in a single day. Obviously that’s not possible, but we came pretty close. Luckily James and Dusty kept us supplied with water bottles and snacks throughout our tour.
The local guide today was Valentina. She was my favorite of all the local experts. In addition to being a trained archeologist with extensive knowledge of the historical sites, she was also a young mother able to share with us many stories about family life in Rome. Plus, I loved her chic haircut.
The first stop was Vatican City where we toured the grounds, the museum, the Sistine Chapel, and the Basilica. In order to enter the Basilica, we were required to have both our shoulders and knees covered. My girls balked at this because the temperature that day was a sweltering 102 degrees Fahrenheit. We compromised by bringing arm-covering scarves and having them wear sundresses with an under-layer of leggings. Once we were done with the Basilica, the scarves and leggings were quickly removed and stowed in a backpack.
At the Vatican, Dusty gave us all pre-stamped Vatican postcards. We could write a message and send it home to ourselves or to a friend. Our card arrived a few days ago with an official Vatican postmark. Neat!
We walked through Rome and stopped briefly at the Spanish Steps and the Trevi Fountain, periodically taking water breaks at Rome’s public water fountains. At the Trevi Fountain, guide James explained the tradition of tossing a coin in the fountain to make a wish. Before we even had a chance to start rummaging in our pockets for loose change, he produced a shiny penny for everyone in the group. So thoughtful. My wish is sure to come true.
Another nice touch was when guide Dusty made sure to point out to me the restaurant Alfredo’s, which was the model for the former flagship restaurant in the Italy pavilion at Epcot. He truly tried to personalize the tour for this obvious Disney geek.
Following a brief lunch of lasagna and tiramisu at a private club, we were off again to see the Forum and Coliseum. At the Coliseum, we were joined by another specialist guide who took the Junior Adventurers on an interactive mission for some hands-on learning about this historic site.
Dinner was back on the Magic at Animator’s Palate, followed by a deep, deep sleep.
MEDITERRANEAN MAGIC DAY 5, NAPLES
After speeding through the heat in Rome, we had a much more relaxing day on the outskirts of Naples.
Our tour bus passed by the ruins of Pompeii and we learned quite a bit about the history of that ill-fated town on the way to our morning visit, Agriturismo La Galatea, a family-run farm.
At the farm, we took it easy, eating house-made bread and salami, learning the craft of mozzarella-making, bonding with the farm animals, making and eating pizza, and generally keeping out of the sun. This was a refreshing intermission after the frenetic pace of our Roman holiday.
A memorable event for the Junior Adventurers was when guide James encouraged them to get into a playful flour fight with guide Dusty. Our group took the fight VERY seriously and Dusty become more than a little, well, dusty. The kids caked over his entire face. Dusty was incredibly gracious about this attack. He laughed, poked fun at himself, and generally made everyone feel at ease, even though I’m sure none of this could have been pleasant. Dusty was a big hero in the eyes of the kids.
After the farm, we changed into bathing suits and made our way via hydrofoil to the nearby island of Capri. From Capri we boarded a smaller, private craft to do a bit of swimming in the Mediterranean. Swimming. Off a private boat. In the Mediterranean Sea. Need I say more?
We wrapped up the day back on the Magic with a pirate dinner at Parrot Cay. We absolutely had to take the obligatory family pirate photo. I think the kids will kill me if I make this the Christmas card.