Travel Thoughts By Kim
Let’s go on an adventure together…to Tuscany
This is the fourth in a series of articles from a Mediterranean Adventure I took in August. This post will focus on the second port of the Mediterranean cruise portion of the trip – The Tuscan Region of Italy.
I have wanted to visit Tuscany in Italy for as long as I could remember. Then, along came the movie “Under The Tuscan Sun” and it became an obsession…a major life goal…one of my top bucket list items! So, our second port on the cruise was the one I was most looking forward to and it did not disappoint!
The second port on our cruise was Livorno – a port city on the Tyrrhenian Sea on the western coast of Tuscany, Italy. The main areas of focus for shore excursions were Pisa and Florence – a few others, but most of the excursions involved one or the other, both, or in some combination with other stops. The excursion I chose was a 10 hour tour called “Florence and Pisa on Your Own”. For those that read my post about Pompeii, you’re thinking – wait, she said “on your own” tours weren’t always the best way to go. Well, I did three of them on this trip and, yes – you definitely need to do your research to make sure you know what you’re getting and how long you’ll have to explore! The Pisa and Florence excursion was ten hours and gave us plenty of time at both stops to leisurely see all we wanted to see – a great choice. The only downfall that I wish I had been aware of was that busses are not allowed anywhere near the main attractions. It was more than a 20 minute walk both ways at both stops. However, the guide noticed there were five of us ladies of a certain age that struggled with the walk in Pisa and ordered us a taxi that was waiting for us when we arrived in Florence. We had to pay for it, but for three euros a piece, we were driven to the primary spot in Florence and another three euros a piece took us back to the bus. What a wonderful thing that was…the guide was our hero and we all tipped her very well! Hahaha Things always work out the way they should!!!
Our first stop was Pisa to see the famous Leaning Tower. From photos I’d seen, it looked like it was a stand-alone tower. But, as part of the Piazza del Duomo, it is actually the bell tower (campanile) of a medieval cathedral (Duomo) constructed in 1064 in the distinctive Pisan Romanesque style of architecture. The other main structure in the piazza is the Baptistery – a round Romanesque style building built in the mid-12th century and dedicated to St. John the Baptist. The Baptistery is separate from the cathedral because at the time the buildings were constructed, people had to be baptized before they could enter the cathedral. It is the largest baptistery in Italy and stands a few centimeters taller than the cathedral’s bell tower (the leaning tower). The piazza had other buildings, as well, but I took my time gazing at the three main ones – all incredible examples of Italian architecture.
We spent the bulk of our day in Florence – the capital of the Tuscan region. We were taken to a central location and given a map of how to get to some of the more common places to visit. I was interested in seeing Michelangelo’s original David, but we were told that the museum requires advance reservations to get in. Since I didn’t have one, there was no reason to go there. So, I decided to spend my time shopping, wandering around, sitting in the sun, and enjoying lunch and a gelato. It was the most perfect day and such a thrill to just relax and be there in Tuscany. And, of course, I loved just knowing I was sitting “under the Tuscan sun”.
While in Florence, I had the BEST MEAL of my LIFE!!! It sounded so simple – and it was – the appetizer was bruschetta and the entrée was rigatoni with sausage! But, the flavor created an experience in my mouth that I will never forget and will likely never duplicate! And, I don’t know if it was just because it was so very hot and the water was so icy cold, but everywhere I went in Italy, I especially loved the bottled still mineral water — it tasted so much better than any bottled water I’ve ever had! Amazing! Later I stopped for a gelato – nut cream flavor that tasted like hazelnut with swirls of chocolate and bit of nuts – awesome!
The group returned to the bus right on time, so the guide and driver treated us to some bonus sights as they had time to take us on a little detour going back to the ship. We got to see views overlooking Florence from a high end neighborhood and a lot more of the beautiful Tuscan countryside. So gorgeous!
I am so glad I chose to do the “on your own” excursion. I couldn’t have enjoyed the day any more than I did…it was PERFECT! If I ever get back to the Tuscan region, I will do more of the same over several days – just leisurely experiencing the essence of Tuscany.
For more info and photos about my day in Tuscany, check out my Blog Post: here!