Date: * 21st May 2016
- Weather: *Clear blue skies all day 24c
- Latitude: * 43 degs 33.5 mins N* Longitude: * 10 degs 17.8 mins E
Livorno as a port is situated in the region of Tuscany and is used mainly as means to get to Florence and Pisa. But it is a large industrial port as well, other fine places which can be visited from this port, are the cities of Sienna, Luca ( the birth place of Puccini ) and of course the beautiful Tuscan countryside. For us it was a visit to Florence, and we did an excursion from the ship “ Florence on your own” where you are taken to Florence by coach with a guide, supplied with maps and advice, taken to a drop off point, given a return time, then you do your own thing.
Our journey time was approximately 1 ½ hours, and soon after leaving the port with the clear visibility we could see the southern edge of the Italian alps. And it was pointed out to us that the white patches on some of these mountains was not snow but white marble which is quarried there. I`d always associated Tuscany with big rolling hills with scattered villages and poplar trees on the sky line, but the first part of our journey it was largely flat plains. It wasn`t until we got further on that the rolling hills and wooded hillside came into view.
We were taken to the Piazza Santa Croce which was our dropping off point and also our pickup point later, this square has a fine marble fronted church with many historical links to some of the famous Florentines such as Michelangelo, Galileo, Dante and Machiavelli. We hadn`t gone far, and in a shaded street when we had an ice-cream, it was just the thing as temperatures were on the rise. It was soon apparent that Florence was the home of leather craft, with a massive choice in every colour of coats, belts, purses and of course handbags but they were all *very* expensive.
You cannot go very far wrong with Florence, the choice of sights to see were endless, provided you have a good street map and you have plenty of stamina to keep walking, as it`s all flat. Our planned route took us first to the main square, the Piazza Della Signora, this is one of the busiest places in Florence, historically, and today, it is the political heart of the city. Situated in it there are some very fine statues, one of which is the copy of Michelangelo`s David, the original is in the Accademia gallery. Also off the Piazza is the Uffizi gallery which houses some of the world`s most famous works of art. We then moved on to the Duomo , this place dominates the skyline of Florence with its massive dome but the outside of the cathedral is a pleasure to see with all the different colour marbles, it all looks so clean and fresh. You can go inside and it is possible to climb the dome to view the city, this cathedral has a capacity of 20,000 people! Opposite the Duomo lies the baptistery a 12th century building believed to be the oldest in Florence it is famed for its 3 sets of Bronze gilded doors one of which is “ The Gates of Paradise”, inside are some beautiful mosaics .
With all this history, and more to see we moved on into the “Piazza della Repubblica” where there is a massive arch, and the associated buildings with it take up one side of this big square, but still a fine sight.
With the heat of the day taking its toll, we decided to look for a shaded restaurant for lunch, and that we did. We had some pasta, salad and pizza all washed down with a cold drink, we went for the Italian method of time, long and slow.
The last time we were here we did an organised excursion, and you don`t get to see everything in your time here, so we never got to visit the Ponte Vecchio bridge, only saw it from a distance. So that was our next port of call, we were both surprised with its layout we knew about the jewellery shops being on it but we expected a bit more rise to centre of the bridge, it just seemed like a flat road, but it did not disappoint us! While we were across the bridge we continued along until we came to Palazzo Pitti, a giant of a building, apparently built by Luca Pitti a Florentine merchant as a symbol of his wealth, to try and outdo one of his rivals the Medici family. Returning along our route we stopped for a break on one of the pavement cafes, after which we walked along the banks of the river Arno, crossing at another bridge making our way slowly back to our pickup point.
We came on holiday to see these places and to get some sun, but in cities such as Florence they are very tiring, so we were glad to get back to the pickup point, where we waited for our guide in the shade, and with no one missing from our group we had a restful journey in the coach back to our ship in Livorno, so a good day was had.
We have a short overnight trip to our next port Civitavecchia for our trip to Rome.