The historical and cultural and fashion epicenter of Florence is a highlight on any Western Mediterranean itinerary! It is the capital city of the Italian region of Tuscany, a UNESCO World Heritage site since 1982, and of course, the birthplace of the Renaissance. The challenge for travelers arriving by cruise ship is to devise a one-day itinerary from the area’s beguiling array of offerings.
Cruise ships actually dock in the port city of Livorno, which is about 2 ½ hours away from Florence. Cruise passengers have the option of taking a ship’s excursion, getting there by train, or, if they’re really brave, renting a car. There are other worthwhile cities closer by, such as Lucca or Pisa, but Florence is most definitely the jewel of the Tuscan Tiara!
Keeping in mind that Florence was a part of the mini Grand Tour I shared with my (then) husband several years ago, I found myself retracing my steps at every turn.
Visiting Florence as a ‘day trip’ barely scratches the surface of this incomparable old town. As the repository of some of the world’s oldest and greatest works of art and architecture, trying to cram too many of the city’s sights into a short visit will leave you exhausted and desensitized. I wrote this visit off as one to be spent visiting the gold and leather merchants represented in the shopping program. I also gave myself ample time to stroll the stalls of the flea market located about a block from the Duomo. Although most of the venders carry textiles, especially leather, there are a few kiosks that sell miniature reproductions of famous sculptures (in varying degrees of anatomical accuracy)…which reminds me of a story…
While visiting Florence with my Ex several years back, we devoted the better portion of a day at the Galleria dell’Accademia, where, housed among prominent works of art, is Michelangelo’s David. To create this enormous statue, Michelangelo reused a marble block left unfinished about 40 years before – ‘scrap marble’, if you will. It has continued to serve as the prime statement of the Renaissance ideal of perfect humanity, and visitors are regularly dumbstruck by the humanity and sensuality of this masterpiece. Of COURSE I was enamored!
After our visit to the Academy, I mentioned to my Ex that before we flew home I wanted to pick up a miniature reproduction of my new friend David. A huge argument ensued, my husband claiming that miniature statues are tacky, like the tourists who buy little Statues of Liberty in New York, said I was ‘oddly obsessed’ with David…’we’re not getting one’…’bla bla bla’…I accused him of being jealous of 6 tons of marble (is anyone still wondering why we’re not married anymore?). In the end we did not purchase a miniature David, which left me a tad miffed.
Fast forward…2011, back at the stalls – I found the best 3 Euro David EVER, and brought him home with me, where he stands proudly amidst my David menagerie! Yes, friends who know this story have brought me little Davids from their travels and I now have enough of them to cast a vest-pocket production of O Calcutta!
By the way, I’m not dissing my Ex here, as in spite of a few heated moments we had a really fun vacation. And in the years that followed, he too has been a generous donor to my collection of naked icons.
Here is a great resource for walking tours of Florence: http://travel.nationalgeographic.com/travel/city-guides/florence-walking-tour-1/
The list of museums is endless. For a comprehensive overview, visit: http://www.visitflorence.com/florence-museums/
If you have experienced Florence and want to visit nearby Pisa or Lucca or your own, Livorno tourism has lots of information and resources: