Spending only one day in Florence, or Firenze, as it is called in Italy, is almost overwhelming. Florence is one of the most beautiful, fascinating, and popular cities in Europe for travelers. Because of this popularity, many cruise ships sailing the Mediterranean include Livorno, the nearest port to Florence, as a stopover. Even very small cruise ships cannot sail up the Arno River to Florence, so after docking in Livorno, you will need to ride a bus the 1-1/2 hours into Florence for a full day shore excursion.
Florence is located in the north central Tuscany region of Italy. The Renaissance was born in Florence, and the city has long been famous for its museums, universities, and architecture. The powerful Medici family exerted their influence over the arts and the politics of the city during the 15th century. Some of the most talented of the Italian artists of the Renaissance lived and worked in Florence at one time or another - Michelangelo, Leonardo da Vinci, Raffaello, Donatello, and Brunelleschi - and all left their mark on the city. Florence has had its share of tragedy along with its artistic glory. During World War II, the Germans blew up every bridge over the Arno except the famous Ponte Vecchio. In 1966, the Arno flooded the city, and Florentines found themselves under 15 feet of mud, and with many of their art treasures damaged or destroyed.
Cruise ships port in Livorno, and usually offer day trips to Pisa or Lucca in addition to Florence. You will pass by both of these on the drive to Florence. My last time in Florence, our bus left the ship early for the drive through the Tuscany country side. Unfortunately for us, it was a foggy, rainy day, and the clouds poured rain as we motored into the city. Fortunately for us, by the time we started walking the city, the rain disappeared and we didn't need our umbrellas. Our local guide was one of the best I've ever seen-she really made the art work and city come alive for me. Her love of Florence and its past was very evident in all she told us.
We stopped first at a park overlooking the city where I made the photo at the above right. When you look at a map, most of the "must see" sites are within easy walking distance of each other. This is important, because Florence doesn't allow busses into the city center. However, the walking is slow and easy, although some of the streets are somewhat rough. One lady in a wheelchair navigated the tour just fine, although she did need someone to push her chair.
Let's do a short walking tour of Florence.
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