To get to Florence our bus drove through the Tuscan country side in the foggy morning air. The fog cleared as the day progressed, revealing more and more the beautiful Tuscan landscape. When we reached Florence, we met up with a guide who would lead us by foot through the city. This guide turned out not to be very informative - certainly the worst guide to this point on the trip. Florence, though, was lovely. It was Saturday - and Florence was surprisingly quiet in the morning.
It would have been interesting to see what sort of an impression we would have gotten had we arrived on a weekday. With the fog completely gone now, it was shaping up to be another hot day. We began walking down some quaint narrow streets heading towards the Basilica di Santa Maria del Fiore. The basilica (also known as a Duomo in Italian) was very different than other churches that we had seen - the exterior comprised of white, red and green marble. Very colourful. The basilica is known in three parts - the Duomo (main part of the basilica), the Campanile (the tower) and the Baptistry (a separate structure across the Piazza di San Giovanni from the Duomo). The Baptistry was made famous by its sculptured bronze doors that face the Duomo - known as “The Gate of Paradise” (a name given to the doors by Michelangelo). These doors, though, are not the originals. The original doors were removed after damage caused by a flood in 1966. The restored originals now reside in the basilica’s museum. The original doors were crafted by Lorenzo Ghiberti - over a period of 27 years!
Our next stop was Santa Croce - a church with many tombs and monuments inside. Before entering the church, though, we walked around the adjacent Piazza di Santa Croce - there were many shops and street vendors selling mostly leather goods. Florence, we found out, is “known” for its leather. Someone had complained about the lack of information from our local guide - so once inside Santa Croce our guide assembled us in the pews at the centre of the church - to explain some things to us. The problem with this was that it was so hot inside the church - sitting still was very uncomfortable. Payback for the complaint, perhaps? hard to say, but we left before she was finished anyway. The tombs inside the church were very interesting, and it was good to move around. The notable tombs there were that of Michelangelo, Galileo and Machiavelli. Santa Croce was interesting, and bigger than it appeared from the outside. When we left the church we walked back through the Piazza di Santa Croce. In one corner of the piazza we passed by a shop with a white marker more than a metre above the top of the front door to show the flood level of the Arno River on November 4, 1966 - quite the flood.
We made our way to Piazza della Signoria, where a copy of Michelangelo’s David stands in front of Palazzo Vecchio - Florence’s town hall. The original was moved to the Galleria dell’Accademia in 1873 to protect it from damage. According to our guide, all copies in Florence are “exact”. Sure.
We walked through Piazzale degli Uffizi to make our way to the Arno River. From the bank of the river we could see Ponte Vecchio - Florence’s oldest surviving bridge, built in 1345 and has had shops on it since 1593. Very picturesque. From the river we walked to Hotel Astoria for lunch. The lunch was quite good - much better than yesterday’s lunch in Rome. It was a bit warm in the restaurant, though - the air-conditioning was not quite able to cool the room.
We boarded our bus after to lunch to head to Pisa. It was nice to just sit and relax for a short while - the bus was nicely cool, which made it very pleasant. When we reached Pisa we had quite a walk to the tower - the area that buses were allowed was not that close. Walking from the bus we could really feel the sun. It was early afternoon and very hot. The temperature was over 40°C and there was no breeze at all.
Once we reached the area near the church and tower we were on our own to enjoy. We didn’t move too quickly, it was just too hot and humid. People everywhere were trying to find a shady spot to stand. One of our favourite photos is that of the people sitting on the grass in the shadow of the tower. The leaning tower is actually the Campanile, or bell tower, of a Duomo within a walled area known as Campo dei Miracoli (Field of Miracles). To complete the site there is a Baptistry and Campo Santo (cemetery). It is a well persevered site - worth the visit.
We had a few minutes to spare when we made it back to the assembly point for our group. While waiting we chatted with a group of three American couples. It was when talking with these people that we found out about the story we spoke of on the Civitavecchia page. The three couples had decided to do Rome on their own - so they had taken the train into the city from Civitavecchia. Something that we had noticed in the “Celebrity Today” daily newsletter was that the train service was “extremely unreliable” - and these people experienced it first hand. On their return to the ship the train was delayed two hours and they truly believed that they were going to miss the ship’s departure time. On the train with them was a crew member from the Queen Elizabeth 2, and he was in a worse predicament - he was pretty much late for his ship prior to the delay. He had said if he didn’t make the ship’s departure then he would be fired from his job. When the train reached the station in Civitavecchia the QE2 crewman ran like the wind according to the American couples. They also said that they quick marched to the ship - even though it was hot. When they arrived they were told that the ship would have been held anyway - a tour bus was delayed - our tour bus. It was a tour arranged through the cruise line, so they wouldn’t abandon us - but the ship would have left without the train travellers. We joked around and they thanked us for our broken-down bus.
Back on Millennium, we showered and changed for dinner. We decided to skip the show this evening, opting rather to send some emails home and then enjoy cappuccinos at the Cova Cafe Milano before dinner. The dress code for dinner was casual and we both enjoyed wonderful Chateaubriand for our main course. One last thing about Livorno, Florence and Pisa - throughout the day there were many references to Leonardo da Vinci - born not far from Florence and living in Florence during a few different periods in his life. He painted the famous “Mona Lisa” while he was in Florence.
WHITEonline is the digital home of Gary & Linda White. We’ve been married since 1980 and live just outside Toronto in Ontario, Canada. Linda was born and raised in Toronto while Gary was born in London, England and moved to Canada at the age of 11. We enjoy travelling and taking photos while we travel. WHITEonline provides the opportunity to share some of our photos & experiences.