John & Connie Europe 2013 travel blog

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Today we arrived in the port of Livorno, Italy; this is the main port that serves the Tuscan area as well as the city of Florence, Italy. Our shore excursion was to start at 6:45 am so we were up early 5:00 am. The shore excursion we chose for this port was “Best of Florence” and consisted of a 90 minute bus ride to and from Livorno to Florence. We departed on time with a very polite young Italian lady by the name of Arianna.

Arianna gave us a lot of information during the 90 minute drive to Florence. Around 5000 cruise ships arrive in the Port City of Livorno which is also a major shipping port so the stacks of containers were numerous in the port area. Livorno was completely destroyed during World War II but has been completely rebuilt. It is also the site of a major oil refinery.

The numerous statues found in Florence were created from the white marble found in found in the mountain caves between Livorno and Florence. The Tuscan countryside is also made up of rolling hills covered by small irrigated fields and vineyards. Some of the crops were wheat and sunflowers. One of the movies that features this area is “Beneath the Tuscan Sun”. During our drive to Florence we saw some hot air balloons up for a scenic tour which I’m sure would have been beautiful.

When we arrived in Florence, we picked up Ricardo, our guide for this tour. Our first stop on the walking tour was at the Academia, the art museum with many beautiful works of art, including the original marble statue of David created by Michelangelo. Ricardo did an excellent job of explaining the anatomical excellence found in the statue and how Michelangelo achieved this by dissecting corpses on the sly while he lived with the Medici family in his late teens. Someone interested in art history could have enjoyed many hours there but we only had an hour.

From the Academia, our walking tour wove through the narrow streets of Florence, dodging traffic and other tourist to the Cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore (Duomo) which is incredible, the 4th Century Baptistery and the striking Campanile Bell tower. From there we passed the Piazza della Signoria overlooking the Palazzo Vecchio which is adorned by major art works or reproductions by other major Italian artists. We were taken to a viewpoint to see the 14th century Ponte Vecchio bridge, the only bridge over the Arno River in Florence not destroyed in World War II. The bridge is lined with shops selling gold and silver so Ricardo saved our husbands by not taking us over it.

We were taken to a nice Italian Restaurant for lunch near the Piazza Santa Croce and then we were given 2 hours to wander the shops to check out the Italian leather purses & shoes and the more economical souvenir scarves and T-shirts. As we were leaving downtown Florence, we had to make a quick stop when our bus was sideswiped by a car. The lady driving the car was quite sure it wasn’t her fault and with the way the traffic was zooming everywhere who really knows. The bus was also having problems getting the air conditioning but thankfully after restarting the bus it did kick in. Otherwise it would have meant a very uncomfortable hour and a half trip back to the ship. Arianna did an excellent job entertaining us during the trip back. She was an excellent ambassador for this area.



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