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Today was Florence, and we were booked on an all-day excursion, ‘Exclusive Florence’. Starting at 8:30 we drove to Florence in a small (25-seat) coach, arriving at the edge of the city around 9:45 or so. We had a busy program. It started with a visit to San Miniato al Monte, an 11th century basilica just to the south of the city; and then we moved on to Piazzale Michelangelo, again on the ‘wrong’ side of the river, but giving good views of the city across the river. Then we drove to the edge of the ancient city and got to walk into it across the Ponte Vecchio. Our first call in the city itself was at Palazzo Davanzati, which is a medieval building (not renaissance), and which gave an impression as to how Florentines (well, the richer sort) lived in the centuries before the Medicis arrived. After that came an odd interlude: we were taken to a gold wholesaler on the second floor of a building, with a retail premises inside their building. We had also been told that this was where we could use restrooms (i.e. toilets) even though the sharper-eyed among us had noticed some of these at Piazzale Michelangelo, and possibly also at Palazzo Davanzati. This was a strange and rather embarrassing few moments: we had no real interest in looking at or buying expensive gold jewellery (we saw at least one item priced at €1,400, or example) – everyone just wanted to use the loos and get on with our visit to Florence. So we made our apologies and scuttled out, and enjoyed about 25 minutes or so of free time. (Val has pointed out that many people may well have followed the ship’s advice and left their credit cards on the ship, so they wouldn’t have had the means to buy anyway.)

After we were collected it was time to visit the Uffizi Gallery. This turned out to be a bit long and labourious, even though the art we were looking at was stunning. It was also not helped by the fact that our guide obviously knew a great deal about the art, but had problems putting it into english. It was also very warm in the gallery. But the paintings were stunning – we were looking at many early renaissance works on religious themes, especially the Virgin and Child – and there’s no doubt it is sobering to look at a beautiful object and realise that it was created five or six hundred years ago. We even saw Botticello’s Venus. Unfortunately there was only time to glance very briefly at an exhibition of works by Caravaggio and painters like him. I’d have preferred more time for this; “too many Virgins”, I concluded….

By this time it was after 1:30 and we were all very ready for lunch, and this was indeed the next event on the schedule. We went to an upper-floor restaurant in a very good hotel near the Duomo to take this, and we had excellent views of the Duomo during what was an excellent mal. It took perhaps an hour, and then we were back on our feet for a walk alongside the Baptistry, Duomo and Campanile. We’d have liked to spend more time there exploring and possibly going into the Duomo but that wasn’t in the plan, so it was back into the little coach for our last stop of the day, Santa Croce. At the end of another talk that was rather hard to understand we had a little bit of free time, and we were able to find a gelateria artiginiale where we bought gelatos. Funny how it’s the physical pleasures that win out over higher matters! Then we were back on the coach at about 4:20, and arrived back at the quayside by 5:30 or just after.

All in all, while there were many things about the excursion that we enjoyed, we also felt frustrated about certain things. We would have been perfectly happy to finish the excursion near the Duomo – we didn’t feel that we learned anything extra from calling at Piazza Santa Croce, and there wasn’t anything especially interesting near by for the tiny bit of free time that we had. Whereas if we could have finished at the Duomo and had perhaps 45 minutes free time there, that would have been much more satisfying. And the visit to the gold wholesalers was simply embarrassing. Interestingly, this wasn’t in the published programme for this excursion.

Now for a couple of Livorno practicalities that might interest readers. First, there was no free shuttle bus. There was a shuttle bus into town, but there was a charge for it: €5 per person, for the day. So I suppose you could shuttle back and forwards a few times, all for €5. Then taxis: I counted what looked like about 25 taxis, of all sizes – some of them were mini-bus-size, in fact – parked at the end of the quay when we berthed. The 30 coaches that were being used for excursions were parked right alongside the ship, on the quayside, and there was a board on the quayside, roughly amidships, saying that that was where the shuttle bus would stop. However, because we were off the ship so early, and back just before ‘all aboard’, I didn’s see the shuttle bus in action nor do I know how people got on with the taxis.

One Response to “Ventura 2010 – Livorno”

  1. […] content. We’ve already been to Pisa (did this on our own some years ago) and Florence (an excursion, in 2010) so this time we’ve decided to go somewhere else and this one looks […]

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