Florence, Pisa & the Tuscan Countryside

If you are on a Mediterranean cruise and have only one day in the port of Livorno, here's what that worked well for us.


We arrived by sea through the port of Livorno aboard Holland America's NOORDAM. We were met on the dock by our guide and driver Paolo Bonetti of Unforgettable Tuscany Tours with whom we had pre-booked on the internet. Once in the comfortable van we were on our way to our first stop, Pisa and The Campo dei Miracoli which includes the famous Leaning Tower.

Left-Click on any of the smaller pictures to see the full size version.

The Campo dei Miracoli is a huge grassy campus enclosed by walls and building fronts. The three main structures within the campus are The Baptistry, The Duomo and The Campanile (bell tower), which is "The Leaning Tower of Pisa".

The Baptistry, the circular building was begun in 1152 and completed a century later. The Duomo was begun in 1064 and completed in 1302.

An impressive feature of the Duomo are the bronze doors decorated with relief casts by Bonanno Pisanno in 1180. Bonanno Pisanno was the original architect of the Leaning Tower which was begun in 1173. The tower started to tilt by the time the third story was complete in 1274. But despite this pesky problem, construction continued and the tower was completed in 1350.

Before we continued the tour, our driver/guide, Paolo, offers us an option: To continue directly to Florence or to detour somewhat through the countryside. This was an easy choice. We opted for the less traveled road through the hills of Tuscany. So, after a few miles on the freeway, we turned off and into world of breathtaking scenery.

Paolo stopped at narrow road intersection and asked if we would like to tour a castle. Of course, we did!
It was the Castello Montegufoni and we explored all the grounds and public rooms. It's been converted to a destination inn with detached villas and apartments in the main building.


The Piazzale Michelangelo is a plaza on the South side of the Arno River. It's located on high ground and affords an excellent overview of Florence.

Rising above the heart of the city is the largest and the most popular attraction in Florence, the Duomo along with it's Campanile and Baptistry.

Paolo had secured advanced tickets for us to the Galleria dell'Accademia and to the Uffizi Art Gallery, but first we spent some time in the Piazza della Signoria. The Piazza is popular promenade for visitors and Florentines. The statuary commemorates many of the city's major historical events. Two of the more important statues here are The Rape of the Sabine Women by Giambologna and Perseus Slaying Medusa by Cellini.

Although the Galleria dell'Accademia has a number of rooms full of art and
artifacts, the only real attraction is Michelangelo's "David". It's always crowded
and it's difficult to get a good view of the statue. It's best to arrive as early as possible.

Note the out-of-scale proportion of David's right hand. There are several versions of why Michelangelo did this. The one that seems likely is he found that the marble block that became David was flawed in the area of the right hand and if he made the hand smaller to proper scale it would probably fracture and ruin the entire statue. So, he made the hand large enough to cover the flaws.

Of the six bridges in Florence which cross the Arno River, the Ponte Vecchio is the oldest and it crosses at the river's narrowest point. It was built sometime during the period of the Roman Republic. The first mention of it was in a document dated in 996. It was destroyed at least once by flood before it was rebuilt on it's present piers in 1345.

Since Medieval times the bridge has been lined on both sides with shops and stores. It is said that the concept of bankruptcy began on the bridge. When a shopkeeper could not pay his debts, the table (banko) on which the shopkeeper displayed his wares was broken (rotto). Hence the term "bankorotto", broken table. Or it seems more likely the term came from banka (bank), hence, "bankarotto" or broken bank.

In August, 1944, the Germans, during their Italian retreat, destroyed all the bridges in Florence except for the Ponte Vecchio.

The photo above was taken from a window in the Uffizi Gallery. No Photography of any kind is permitted inside the Uffizi.

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