There’s no question that Tuscany is as beautiful as it gets. Typically, however, cruise ships dock for only one day in Livorno, limiting the options available to cruise passengers. With a half dozen or more shore excursions from which to choose, the cruise passenger visiting Livorno will need to choose a single shore excursion — often at the expense of other experiences that could have been equally as enriching. Here’s a little help in deciding what may be the best choice for you.
Florence is like a Tuscan jewel with its beautiful domed cathedrals and its colorful inner city, with its wide piazzas that are perfect for play and for framing the icons of Florentine beauty. Be sure to see Michelangelo’s David, the most famous of sculptures here in the birthplace of the Italian Renaissance.
The historic center, with its gorgeous cathedrals, is recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. See the sights while walking the city and test your will when confronted with miniature mountains of creamy gelato. Florence frames beauty at every turn. Stroll along the streets to admire the city’s stunning architecture, past buildings that date back to even before the time when Florence was the capital of the Kingdom of Italy. The jewel of Tuscany will impress and astound you.
The iconic Medieval stone-enclosed bridge crossing the Arno River is known as Ponte Vecchio.
The bridge is pedestrian friendly, and you’ll definitely want to walk across it. You’ll find the bridge to be as interesting on the inside as it is on the outside.
Butchers were the original occupants of the shops lining both sides of the bridge, but today you’re not likely to find prime cuts of beef.
What you will find are souvenir shops and jewelry shops. In fact, you could spend a fair amount of time window shopping as you stroll this prime stretch of real estate crossing the river between the neighborhoods of Ponte Santa Trinita and Ponte alle Grazie.
Cast your gaze upon the heavens and what you’ll see will amaze you. The towering masterpiece in front of and above you is the Florence Cathedral. With its stunning pink, green and white facade, the cathedral is a monument to both art and religion.
Officially known as the Basilica di Santa Maria del Fiore, the church is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and also the iconic center of Florence. It’s also a must-see when you are visiting this beautiful city. The name of the cathedral translates to the Basilica of Saint Mary of the Flower. Sounds beautiful, and it certainly is. The structure was completed in 1496, when it was crowned by its magnificent dome.
Underneath the Florence Cathedral, you’ll see a grand mosaic that paved the floor of a basilica that predated the Florence Cathedral. The crypt of Santa Reparata features fascinating artifacts that provide tangible evidence of early Christianity in Florence. Among the crypt’s most significant features is a peacock symbolizing immortality, which amazingly survived centuries completely intact.
I climbed the nearly 500 steps to the top of the Florence Cathedral dome, where I stepped outside for spectacular views of Florence. It was well worth the effort to stand above this gorgeous city. Buildings with red-tiled roofs seemed to stretch forever — and on the horizon the rolling green hills of beautiful Tuscany.
Lucca is a charming medieval town that’s enclosed by massive brick walls that are among the best preserved defense structures of Renaissance Europe. The walls seem to isolate Lucca from the hectic pace of the modern world and they give Lucca its special character.
Inside the walls, you’ll find a city of monuments and medieval houses, such as those at the Piazza Mercato, situated on the site of an ancient Roman theater. Houses were built against the walls of the theater, and the piazza’s distinct oval shape reflects the theater’s outline. I enjoyed walking Lucca’s medieval streets and admiring its interesting architecture some of which soared to great heights. Take time to stroll along Via Fililungo, Lucca’s version of the Via Veneto in Rome and a great way to end your time in this charming Italian city.
The rolling hills of Chianti are adorned by leafy vineyards and stately cypresses, all breath-taking to admire. Equally as stunning are the stone castles that watch over many of the vineyards. This is a region that produces some of the world’s most famous wines. You don’t need to love wine to appreciate the beautiful countryside, however. You could simply admire the Tuscan landscape and you’d be happy enough.
If you do enjoy wine, though, you’re in luck. I made my way to Castle Vicchiomaggio, where I enjoyed tasting the vineyard’s select Chianti Classicos, They were perhaps even more tasty than they might have been elsewhere because of the beautiful setting.
Siena’s age-old buildings mix with open-air cafes and narrow winding streets. The ancient city sits on a hill and its entire historic center is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Some of Siena’s well-preserved medieval buildings were homes for the city’s aristocratic families.
The shell-shaped Piazza del Campo, home to Siena’s famous medieval horse race, Il Palio, features original 13th century palaces and a 300-foot-tall bell tower. If climbing the tower is not your thing, head to the Piazza del Duomo. Situated on Siena’s highest hilltop, the Cathedral of Saint Mary of the Assumption is built in stunning black and white marble.
Siena is best seen on foot so prepare to do a lot of walking in order to fully absorb the wonderful character of this ancient hilltop city.
No trip to Tuscany would be complete without visiting the leaning tower of Pisa. Building began here in 1173 and continued despite the tower’s tilt. Today the imperfect icon attracts thousands of visitors daily. It’s the perfect place to snap your own iconic photograph.
Pisa is also the perfect place to begin or end any journey to Tuscany. Our journey ended here, an appropriate stopping point to a wonderful trip available to cruise passengers calling on Livorno.
Livorno is the gateway port to cypress-studded landscapes, rolling hills draped in vineyards and cities crowned by some of the world’s greatest masterpieces. I enjoyed my time in Tuscany. We spent only four days in the region, capturing wonderful sunsets, lush landscapes and charm cities such as Siena and San Gimignano. We enjoyed an afternoon of strolling through lovely Lucca and a whole day in Florence itself. The region is as rich as it gets for cruise passengers.