Sunday, July 1, 2012


The port of Livorno is the gateway to Tuscany and, in particular, Florence our focus for today.

Tuscany is named for the ancient Etruscans who occupied the North of Italy eventually being defeated by the Romans and incorporated into their empire.

Tuscan families, some of whom had developed tremendous wealth as a result of prosperous trade (particularly with the Eastern Mediterranean), provided a critical impetus to the Renaissance.

Their sponsorship of artists and sculptors allowed them to decorate their homes and churches in new and different ways. In the same way as artists were given support and impetus to break boundaries, so too were thinkers in social, political and scientific arenas and explorers to expand understanding of the larger world.
Livorno was developed as a port by the Medicis in 1571 to support trade and their wealth and provide the outlet for this exploration.

Today Livorno remains a busy port with both tourism (there were four or five cruise ships in port today) and commerce. Around the port you could see the range of products from acres of cars and trucks awaiting transport inside Italy and across Europe to trucks filled with cord upon cord of firewood from Sardinia (to feed pizza ovens and bakeries).
For Aiden wanted you to see this Ferry from a company called Moby and how its decorated with famous characters observe Wily E Coyote most importantly :-)  !!!!

Florence (which means the flowering) was the center of this explosion of creativity Dante, Da Vinci, Michelangelo and Galileo an amazing constellation of giants. We have never been to Florence before so today was our chance to see something of this heritage.
The drive from Livorno to Florence through the Tuscan countryside took ~1 hour.
At first through the port environs, then through farmlands.

The fields of sunflowers were a particular delight from one direction all green, then from the other (the sun facing side) all yellow. Spectacular.

Vineyards also a common sight I have little knowledge of the wines of this part of the world (Chianti and Brunello de Montalcino), sadly need to work at it. Also olive trees aplenty (no nets unlike Sorrento).

The area obviously pays some attention to the green movement there were fields of solar panels and also of modern windmills for clean energy.

Florence, from the tourist perspective is very compact. We spent the day walking the city. In such a short time we could only really see the must see sights but again (as has so often been the case here in Italy) a longer visit would be wonderful.

A few things that stood out:
First, the Baptistry, Campanile (bell tower) and Duomo.
The doors of the Baptistry (named by Michelangelo the Gates of Paradise) are the first to get your attention. They depict scenes from the old testament sculpted in bronze and gilded.

The detail is amazing two examples were David slaying Goliath

And Moses receiving the ten commandments.

Like so many other treasures these doors were damaged by flood waters in the 1970s and what we see is replica; but the original has been restored and is on display.

The exterior of the three buildings is highly decorated and uses marble in red, white and green. It had some spiritual significance but given upcoming Euro 2012 soccer final was just another display of patriotism.

The dome of the Basilica di Santa Maria del Fiore ( the Duomo) is the model on which St Peters and St Pauls domes were subsequently modeled. People walked more than 400 narrow, spiral steps to get up to the top. I bagged that.

Then on to the Ponte Vecchio a bridge over the Arno River built in 1345 that also houses expensive goldsmiths and jewelry shops and has been doing so since 1593.

Then a short walk to the Palazzo Vecchio (Florences Town Hall) with a copy of Michelangelos statue of David in front. The original is in the Accademia up the road (the museum of fine arts)

In front of the Palazzo is the Piazza della Signoria which was roped off today. Turns out there was a rally of over 100 Ferraris in town and they set up in the piazza. Pretty cool $$$$$ on display.

We then took off some time for doing our own thing. We chose to walk the streets of central Florence and enjoyed the goodies on display Leather goods are a big deal here and are sold high end in stores 

and in the Mercato Nuovo which was much more fun

there was also a piggie whose nose you rub for good luck!! Piggie rubbing piggie

Though you have to be careful what you buy. We were introduced to the three tier concept. Made in Florence (high end); Made in Italy (mid-range); No origin labeled (made in China).
Beyond that there was get into jail product

Other goodies of interest were (again) the candies, chocs and treats.

Also, unusual and eclectic household stuff.

Then went to the food market where we bought some crystalized fruits (melon and mandarin) and gawked at the array of cheeses, olives and antipasti.

Finally, it was back to being serious and we met at the Church of Santa Croce a good place to be buried. You would be in the company of Machiavelli, Michelangelo, Galileo and Rossini. Decided against staying here not enough room so back in the bus and the return ride to our floating home

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